MP3: American Ultra (2015)

October 15, 2015 | By


AmericanUltraScore: Very Good

LabelVarese Sarabande

Released:  September 25, 2015


Tracks / Album Length:  22 tracks / (41:09)

Composer: Marcelo Zarvos, Paul Hartnoll (additional music)

Special Notes:  n/a




Marcelo Zarvos teams with Orbital’s Pal Hartnoll in this fluid balance of electronics and acoustics, and while the main theme is fairly minimal, consisting mostly of alternating tones, it’s well-suited for keyboard-heavy- tracks, or forming the core components of a recurring stalking rhythm.

As an album, the score has one big flaw that’s due to its filmic design – most cues hover between 1-2 minutes, making the album feel like fast, decisive moods rearing up and fading out fast & slick – but the variety of moods, many quiteb tongue-in cheek, make this a zippy listening experience.

Zarvos’ governing orchestrations and blending of various sensibilities tone down the dance-beat (and sometimes daffy) style that dominated Hartnoll’s Pusher (2012), so in longer tracks like “Sheriff Attack” there’s a natural building from quiet to clamorous, with rippling percussion, electric guitar, and assorted tones processed backwards & forwards & back again.

Flanging percussion that’s neither fully electronic nor acoustic dominates “Toughguy vs. Wiseman,” and the lengthy “Ravine” is one slow crescendo edging up towards distortion, as grungy bass tones are overwhelmed by guitar and modest feedback. “Hammer and Smoke” moves from taps to flanging effects, and feedback for a gradual if not subdued finale.

The album wraps up with the ditsy “Apollo Ape,” which feels more Hartnollish, as most sounds are derived from electrified tones, airy synth chords, and tweaking pulses and watery backbeats.

Varese’s mastering is first-rate, and American Ultra is certainly a score designed to be played loud, preferably through a warm analogue system to maximize the tones and pulses which make it so fun.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



Additional Links:
Editor’s Blog — Composers on IMDB: Zarvos / Hartnoll  —  Composer Filmographies:  Zarvos / Hartnoll —  Soundtrack Album

Select Merchants: — BSX — Intrada — Screen Archives Entertainment

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Category: Soundtrack Reviews

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