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Soundtrack review: Westworld (season 2) (Ramin Djawadi – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Westworld (season 2) (Ramin Djawadi – 2018)

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“Westworld” is an American science fiction western television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Produced by HBO, it is based on the 1973 film of the same name (written and directed by Michael Crichton) and to a lesser extent its 1976 sequel, Futureworld. The story takes place in Westworld, a fictional, technologically advanced Wild-West-themed amusement park populated by android “hosts”. The park caters to high-paying “guests” who may indulge their wildest fantasies within the park without fear of retaliation from the hosts, who are prevented by their programming from harming humans. The first season is subtitled “The door”. Ramin Djawadi wrote the score.

Once again there are some piano covers of well known songs, not as many as on the first score though and a new, different version of Rolling Stones’ “Paint it black” which plays again over a very intense fight scene just like in the first season. This time the Jagger composition has shed even more of its original coil to be replaced by Ramin’s vision, with an Asian twist. The main theme which opens the score is slightly tweaked to match the different opening credit sequence. The tone of the show changed in the second season as the story is darker and more unforgiving. In the context of the show I noticed this change in the music as well as there was constant sense of peril and doom. “Journey into the night” gives us a taste of that darkness. “Myself” also evokes the more serious tone of this season but with a more melodic, emotional touch. “Is this now” is a fragmented, minimalistic cue that I noticed in the context of the show as well, sneaky and dark, making me feel uneasy.

This season also expands the world from Western to Indian and Samurai settings and the music subtly brings this as well, first time in a strange sitar based version of “Seven nation army” and then in “The raj”, for the Indian world. As usual I prefer the dramatic pieces, cues like “Les Écorchés” and the spectacular and piercing instrumental version of Nirvana’s “Heart shaped box”. The Japanese arc produces one of my favourite cues from this second season, the heartbreaking “Akane no mai”, reminiscent of one of the most emotional scenes from this season, even if it didn’t have an impact in the bigger picture. This is the equivalent of “Dr. Ford” from the first season, that emotional cue without boundaries, that moment of divine inspiration from Ramin Djawadi, a cue that reminds me of the best emotionally intense passages from “Game of thrones”.

The cues that depict the real world and the gray reality are more present in this score as the line that separated it from fantasy has been blurred to the point of oblivion. Now everyone is aware and questioning everything and Ramin Djawadi goes deeper with his music. “A new voice” is another pivotal cue that stuck with me since I saw the Maeve scene it refers to; the quiet determination, played with soft, Asian strings, the searing way in which those strings are played, it’s another piece that shows how much care the composer had for Maeve and her arc in this season. Plus the Japanese sound, so dear to me from scores like “The last samurai”, written by someone close to Hans Zimmer, is a winner. Then there’s the emotion just caresses me with the softest of touches in “Kiksuya”, one of the more special episodes from the season.

There is place for dense music as well on this album, as “I remember you” takes a hammer to that sensitivity with a dramatic sound that reminds me more of “Game of thrones” and the emotional impact those scores have on me. “Take my heart when you go” is another cue that shows the wide musical range Ramin Djawadi has and how he can write a story himself with his music, taking us through all sorts of places and evoking emotions with various degrees of intensity. I like how here as well, just like in GoT, sometimes he suddenly dissolves and breaks his melodies into sharp, abrasive pieces like “Virus”.

There is no clear theme for Maeve in either season but for me “My favourite” counts, since it reminds me of Maeve scenes and the motif appears in the show often when she does. This particular cue for me symbolises the best thing about the ‘Westworld” music as it sits right at the edge between slow burning and normal paced, as if always taking an extra second to think, to question, to wonder and this is the essence of “Westworld” for me. The ever present shadow of doubt and conviction that there will be no happy ending.

“I promise” is one of the most fascinating cues from the second season. The strings chop away as the music builds up in mystery and doubt. “Westworld” is another amazing track, melancholic and empty in a way, more evocative than anything else. I count these two as my favourite pieces from the album, next to “Akane no mai”.

Just like watching the show, listening to the score for “Westworld” is a commitment. The scores are long, this one clocks in at 99 minutes, and dense. This is not meant for background listening as Ramin Djawadi too created a complex and layered tapestry with his music. Just like the first album, this one too matches the unique feel of the TV show. As this one contained more original music than the first, I enjoyed it even more.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Highlights:
Main Title Theme – Westworld
Myself
The Entertainer
Seven Nation Army
Les Écorchés
Heart-Shaped Box  (Orchestral)
Akane no Mai
Paint It, Black
A New Voice
Kiksuya
I Remember You
Heart-Shaped Box (Piano)
Take My Heart When You Go
My Favorite
Vanishing Point
I Promise
Westworld
Codex
We’ll Meet Again

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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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