Uncut Gems – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
A strange adrenalin pushes the movie Uncut Gems – but then its anti-hero Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is compelled by a very strange adrenalin: For him it’s less about winning than it is not completely losing. In his gambler’s mind if he doesn’t lose completely then he lives to play again. To be in the game at all is his form of winning even if he’s robbing from Peter to payback Peter before Paul shoots first.
The intensity of the film is helped along in its way by the score from Daniel Lopatin. Lopatin records under a few aliases (including Dania Shapes) but most prominently as Oneohtrix Point Never. As Oneohtrix he has been making what feels like imaginary soundtracks or real-enough scores to imagined films. He also created the amazing soundtrack to the Safdie Brothers’ earlier minor masterpiece, Good Time.
Now releasing work under his birth name – presumably this is to be his Film Composer’s Name and Oneohtrix will continue on for non-film work? – Lopatin has released one of his finest sets of music. Period. It just also happens to be an important character in the movie; never just background and atmospheric soundscapes (though it offers that component too). In Uncut Gems the music is at times nearly uncomfortably mixed forward and up – it’s right there. We can’t escape it. Just as we can’t escape Howard Ratner’s double-dipping stupidity. Just as he can’t escape himself.
But divorced from the film – as an album in its own right (even with a couple of bits of film banter, No Vacation, Powerade) this tells its own story. The touchstone of Tangerine Dream remains. Vangelis too. Chuck in some Eno oscillations and bits and pieces of what made so many of John Carpenter’s movie scores so wonderful and you get the basic idea. But where some of those artist were somewhat clinical in their movie music Lopatin can’t help but imbue his film scores with the same heart that abounds in his Oneohtrix albums – that amazing way he has – from R Plus Seven through to Age Of and all marks and moments in-between – of simultaneously building music that resonates with a machine-like brain and a human heart, or, you know, oscillates and modulates, to present the very feeling human mind and the steely grey pulse of a techno-buzzing heart.
When it comes down to it there are so very few film scores that work out on their own, if you listen to them away from the film it’s often as a reminder of the movie, or due simply to a deep love of that particular film – and fair enough. But I started off listening to Uncut Gems ahead of seeing the film. The movie blew me away (and as I’ve said already in both this review and in that link to my review of the film, the music was a super important part of that) but hearing the music in the film and away from the moving images it was created for offers two distinct experiences. That’s a real skill. That’s the true craft of Lopatin. That and the fact that for any moments of Blade Runner or Tron or anything of that ilk you might think is being recalled (the 90-second cue, The Blade, here feels like a medley of famous 80s synth patches from various horror, sci-fi and brooding action flicks you know and love) this is all the original work and own voice of Lopatin. He was superb in his Oneohtrix albums and will continue to be – but here he’s on his way to being remembered, already, as one of the new greats in film composing. I say all of this and I probably would have stayed in love with this music without even seeing the film. Again, that’s the magic of his work as a music composer.
But since seeing the movie I am also using the score to play daily as my own wee reminder of that innovative filmmaking and its intriguing story too.
A multi-faceted masterpiece.
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