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Soundtrack Listening: ‘The Neon Demon’

Original Music Composed By: Cliff Martinez

Nicolas Winding Refn has built a reputation as a cinematic mood stylist. Some cineasts even call him a visionary. With titles like Bronson (2008) Valhalla Rising (2009), Drive (2011) and (the massively underrated) Only God Forgives (2013) to his credit, it’s easy to see why. Nothing looks or feels quite like a Nicolas Winging Refn film. Whether you enjoy his hyper-stylized approach to cinema or not, you cannot deny his vision. For fans and naysayers alike, the arrival of a new Nicolas Winding Refn film has become a bit of an event. His latest offering, The Neon Demon, glams its way into cinemas this week. With the new film, Refn turns his meditative gaze on the beauty-obsessed LA fashion scene. If the trailer is any indication, we’re in for a doom-fueled rumination on the nature of beauty and the high cost of fame. I know. It sounds amazing. And it all comes with a trippy, horror movie vibe. This movie cannot get to theaters fast enough for me.

As with all of Refn’s films, music will play a major role in The Neon Demon‘s overall vibe. Providing much of that vibe is Refn’s Drive and Only God Forgives composer, Cliff Martinez. And Martinez has crafted another electrifying mosaic of sound to back Refn’s glistening look at LA’s carnivorous culture of image.

Of course, that culture is driven by style. And Martinez’s Neon Demon compositions have style to burn. But those of you familiar with the composer’s chilling, ethereal music will find more than a few surprises in his Neon Demon work. That begins with the album’s opening track ‘Neon Demon’ – a song born from Martinez’s signature atmospheric approach. For about a minute and a half, that signature sound is exactly what the composer delivers. But dreamy layers of chimes and throbbing pulses build throughout that 90 seconds. Then Martinez goes big. As ‘Neon Demon’ erupts into an orgy of beats and synthesizers, it’s difficult to decipher whether you’re listening to film music or a Fashion Week runway epic. And that’s ok. It’s such a killer groove, you won’t care. Like that, we’re off on the wild ride that is The Neon Demon Soundtrack.

And it is one hell of a fun ride. A ride that sees Martinez run the gambit from atmospheric gems like ‘Take Off Your Shoes’ to the John Carpenteresque ‘Real Lolita Rides Again’ and groovy synth jams like ‘Runaway’. You’ll notice an undeniable grandiosity to the music throughout. Again, that will come as a surprise to many. After all, much of what’s made Martinez such a successful film composer is his ability to fit his music into a film’s overall sound design. He’s long been a believer that best film music is felt as much as it is heard. While the music that drives The Neon Demon often sounds like vintage Martinez, it just as often sounds like nothing the composer has ever done. Many of the soundtrack’s best moments come when Martinez takes his music over the top. The sprawling electronic opus ‘Messenger Walks Among Us’ is the sort of song that can take over an entire film. And when you factor in the Sweet Tempest’s sludge-pop stunner ‘Mine’ and the power-pop ecstasy of Sia’s ‘Waving Goodbye’, there’s a playful mix of sex and doom at play. As the soundtrack drifts in and out of spaced-out electro grooves and gloriously gloomy horror movie undertones, you may find yourself creeped out, turned on and wildly energized in the same moment. In the realm of cinema, that’s often the most exciting place to be.

The Neon Demon Soundtrack is a must listen for any fan of Cliff Martinez … and any fan of film composition for that matter. It’s the sort of music that you can actually see. And feel. It’s the sort of music you’ll want to listen to over and over again. And you should. Much like a great movie, you will experience something different every time through. That’s as much ask you can as for from an album – let alone a soundtrack.

The Neon Demon arrives in theaters this Friday (June 24). The amazing folks at Milan Records will release the Original Soundtrack digitally and on CD the same day. Vinyl junkies – mark July 8 down on your calendars. That’s the day that Milan will release The Neon Demon‘s Original Soundtrack on wax. Double disc. Colored vinyl. The music of Cliff Martinez. It’s going to be epic. And you need this one in your vinyl collection. DO NOT MISS OUT.



01. Neon Demon

02. Mine – Sweet Tempest

03. The Demon Dance – Julian Winding

04 What Are You?

05. Don’t Forget Me When You’re Famous

06. Gold Paint Shoot

07. Take Off Your Shoes

08. Ruby At The Morgue

09. Jesse Sneaks Into Her Room

10. Real Lolita Rides Again

11. Messenger Walks Among Us

12. Runway

13. Take Her To Measurements

14. Who Wants Sour Milk

15. I Would Never Say You’re Fat

16. Thank God You’re Awake Remix

17. Kinky

18. Ruby’s Close Up

19. Lipstick Drawing

20. Something’s In My Room

21. Are We Having A Party

22. Get Her Out Of Me

23. Waving Goodbye – Sia


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Patrick Phillips is a Staff Writer for CutPrintFilm, looper.com and geekinsider.com. He reads a lot, drinks too much coffee, buys too many records and loves writing about movies. Find him on Twitter at @savagedetectiv. Follow his movie tastes right here - https://www.taste.io/users/patphiltaste/ratings.