Soundtrack review: A.X.L (Ian Hultquist – 2018)
“A.X.L.” is a top-secret, robotic dog created by the military to help protect tomorrow’s soldiers. Code named by the scientists who created him, A.X.L. stands for Attack, Exploration, Logistics, and embodies the most advanced, next-generation artificial intelligence. After an experiment gone wrong, A.X.L. is discovered hiding alone in the desert by a kind-hearted outsider named Miles (Alex Neustaedter), who finds a way to connect with him after activating his owner-pairing technology. Together, the two develop a special friendship based on trust, loyalty and compassion. Helping Miles gain the confidence he’s been lacking, A.X.L. will go to any length to protect his new companion, including facing off against the scientists who created him and who will do anything to get him back. Knowing what is at stake if A.X.L. is captured, Miles teams up with a smart, resourceful ally named Sara (Becky G) to protect his new best friend on a timeless, epic adventure for the whole family. Ian Hultquist wrote the score, and this is a name that guarantees quality for me.
The previous Ian Hultquist score I head was the excellent “The gospel according to Andre” but I don’t have time to gather my thoughts and make comparisons because the composer opens this score with a retro electronic gem in “Lucky charm”, a loud, electric piece that makes me connect instantly with the score since you know I live this genre. I also think of another robot dog movie from a couple of years ago, “Chappie” where Hans Zimmer and Andrew Kawczinsky wrote a similarly dense electronic score. This is not the dreamy, reflective synth music of the early days but a fast paced, dark soundscape that makes me think of a combination between “The terminator” and “Tron: legacy”. Of course, even a desolate future world needs a bit of warmth and the first signs of it come in the more mellow interlude “Stranded”.
The experience of listening to a score like this is very special to me and it also, ironically, makes it harder to review the music; I am a huge fan of this genre, retro synth music is my favourite so whenever I immerse myself in such an atmospheric soundscape, whenever a composer just nails this sound that brings me so much nostalgia, a sound that echoes back to the my earliest days of listening to music, I am simply hypnotised and just enjoy it. There are so many beautiful moments in this album, so many cues where I just feel the need to close my eyes and experience whatever sensations and images the music evokes. When it’s loud, when it’s quiet, when it’s fast paced or when it moves slower, “A.X.L.” just takes me on a dark exploratory journey of discovery in a fascinating world.
Ian Hultquist knows how to write synth music and I hope he will get the chance to complete more stories like this one. “A.X.L” gave me my electronic nostalgia fix and if you like the genre, you have a winner here.
Cue rating: 79 / 100
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