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Soundtrack review: Kings (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Kings (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – 2018)



“Kings” is a 2017 English-language romance film written and directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, was released in 2017. The film stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig. It tells The life of a foster family in South Central Los Angeles, a few weeks before the city erupts in violence following the verdict of the Rodney King trial. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis wrote the score.

As a film music fan very few names get me as excited about a score as Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. For 10 years already now they have created a unique sound that very rarely gets a less than perfect score for me; something about the sparse, lonely melodies they craft strikes a special chord inside me and subdues me almost instantly. Be it string or piano or even small electronic inserts, their sound speaks to me and the emotions they evoke resonates with me. I like their quiet and moody musings that more often than none are fit for the vast and empty Western settings. This time it’s a story set in an environment that’s anything but vast and empty and it was a challenge for these two musicians to make their sound fit it. Gone are the melodies and in are the suspenseful, almost uncomfortable textures that make the tension almost palpable. Being in the middle of a riot craze must be one of the most terrifying and tough situations to be in and Cave and Ellis make sure even the casual listener feels that without seeing the movie.

Then there are moments like “Bake” which feel as if a dear old friend visits; it’s a sweet little flute based melody that warms up the atmosphere and introduces the human soul in the sound. The reflective tones continue with the poignant piano in “Saying goodbye” and this is the kind of cue where I recognise the most expansive way of evoking emotion that a Cave / Ellis score can bring. What I appreciate more in their music is the ability to create spacious crevasses in which I voluntarily fall and get lost; a cue like “School argument” with its simply perfect melodic piano arrangement is what I would use to advertise their music to newcomers.

The way Nick Cave and Warren Ellis create music for piano is one of the best things in film music, or in music in general as a matter of fact. It’s an endless sound, a place where boundaries disappear and any sensation of being boxed in my life in general melts away. If you know their music, you know what to expect here. The biggest surprise for me though was “Police cars”, a most unexpected gift, a synth based piece that took me back to one of my holy grails, Giorgio Moroder’s “Scarface”; yes, the synth work is that good, it’s perfect and something that I yearn for all the time. It is surely a cue I will revisit for my end of the year best of list. The echoes of “The world is yours” made me double check to see if the likes of Moroder or Jan Hammer were not involved in writing this cue.

“Kings” is yet another evocative masterpiece from two musicians who continue to build on their film music legacy, a legacy that will probably soon equal the one they left in alternative music. More varied and nostalgic than usual this score will please existing fans and gain new ones.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Saying Goodbye
School Argument
Waking Up
Police Cars
Where Are The Boys?
Death of William
Lamp Post

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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  1. FaresTdkr 19th April 2018

    Nice Review thanks. I really loved this score.


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