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Soundtrack review: Black mirror: Arkangel (Mark Isham – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Black mirror: Arkangel (Mark Isham – 2017)

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“Black Mirror” is a British science fiction anthology television series created by Charlie Brooker, with Brooker and Annabel Jones serving as the programme’s showrunners. It centres on dark and satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone works, usually set in an alternative present or the near future. The fourth season episode “Arkangel” focuses on a mother who, after nearly losing her daughter, invests in a new technology that allows her to keep track of her.

The scores for “Black mirror” episodes have been brilliant and just from this season we have “USS Callister”, “Hanf the DJ” and “Black museum” which I all enjoyed tremendously. It’s time for Mark Isham to have a go and he’s been one of my most listened to composers for a lot of years and I am happy that his recent scores like “The accountant” or “A family man” have seen him return to his usual level of brilliance.

The score opens with “A day at the park”, a different take on the usual Isham sound, with a slightly electronized piano theme that brings the tech element into the score right from the start before taking a turn for the dark as if a pretty picture suddenly got torn. As the score progresses I think again of how this composer has managed to be so successful for over 30 year with his mostly quiet, laid back sound that rarely riles me up or gets epic; there’s something in the way he writes, in the depth he gives his cues, that keeps on giving.

His “Black mirror” contribution is once again a step forward in the development of this sound with the pulsating electronic rhythms and the subtle sound effects that make me think of nature, of sun, of spring, like the peaceful and dreamy opening of “Arkangel”, a cue that forays into the ambient genre. I enjoy these soft piano musings a lot, harmless and playful as they are. “Hide and seek” is another one of these simple, catchy tunes. The music relies on mystery, on question marks, on loneliness and as the cues go on I feel like I am listening to a drama score, not a sci-fi one.

“Black mirror: Arkangel” is a quiet, minimalistic composition that might make you think of Rob Simonsen scores with how sensitive and comfortable it is and maybe even of Thomas Newman. Quite often soft piano pieces like these are all I need to regroup, to relax, to just quiet down the world around me. Mark Isham continues to deliver and to be one of the safest bets in film music.

Cue rating: 74 / 100

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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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