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Composer Rollo Raphael unearths music from the world of film and video.


Nicolas Winding Refn’s ice-cold surrealist thriller Neon Demon follows Jesse (Elle Fanning) as she arrives in Los Angeles shortly after her 16th birthday to pursue a career in fashion. The film flickers through interactions with antipathy before descending into a nihilistic spiral of bizarre horror pastiche. A comment on the vapid nature of the fashion industry and its exploitation of young women, both the film’s message and vivid aesthetic leave the viewer cold yet enthralled. 

Key to the tone of the film is the fantastic soundtrack composed by Cliff Martinez. Punk rocker turned electronic twiddler, Martinez played drums for the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (1983-1986) and Captain Beefheart, only later turning his attention to film scoring working prolifically with Steven Soderbergh. His diverse film back catalog includes The Limey (1999), Contagion (2011), Drive (2011) and many more.

When composing for Neon Demon, Martinez used a minimal set-up of a midi keyboard and Ableton to create a stark otherworldly sound. Glistening yet harsh and cold, the synth pads melt over morphing bass lines and ominous arpeggiators. The resulting atmosphere perfectly underpins the films sense of grotesque beauty.

Watch to the end for a great scene involving an eye ball!

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