The Hollywood film soundtrack has become an overwrought medium, with intrusive, heavy-handed orchestral cues leaving little room for the listener's imagination. Occasionally, one like Cliff Martinez's retro synth-pop score for Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive comes along and reminds us that movie music can be subtle, surprising and even stand on its own.
Symmetry, a darkly ambient instrumental project by Glass Candy and Chromatics man Johnny Jewel (who contributed songs to Drive) and Nat Walker, falls into that category. Music for an "imaginary film," it's an absorbing, two-hour-plus synth epic awash in a narcotic haze and icy abstraction.
Although Jewel has said he composed a score for Drive that ultimately wasn't used, this is not that music, though it sure sounds like could be. Its throbbing, urgent keyboards dip in and out of sad, romantic atmospheres punctured by police sirens and other film noir effects. The musical motifs get a bit redundant, but its stylish minimalism brims with drama.
Top track: Blood Sport