Tag Archives: science fiction

Soundtrack Review: Altered Carbon (2018)


Based on the classic cyberpunk noir novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon is an intriguing story of murder, love, sex, and betrayal, set more than 300 years in the future. In Netflix’s Altered Carbon, Society has been transformed by new technology: consciousness can be digitized; human bodies are interchangeable; death is no longer permanent.

Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is the lone surviving soldier in a group of elite interstellar warriors who were defeated in an uprising against the new world order. His mind was imprisoned – on ice – for centuries until Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), an impossibly wealthy, long-lived man, offers Kovacs the chance to live again. In exchange, Kovacs has to solve a murder … that of Bancroft himself.


The soundtrack is composed by Jeff Russo, who has also composed music for Star Trek: Discovery and Fargo. For the latter, Russo earned a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special in 2017. Russo began his music career in 1990, after founding his rock band TONIC. The group quickly achieved great success and in 2003, received two Grammy nominations, one for “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” for “Take Me As I Am,” and one for “Best Rock Album.” The band was a great showcase for Russo’s guitar work and songwriting that allowed him to branch out and begin his solo career in producing and composing.


I’d heard that the soundtrack for Altered Carbon was unusual for a story in the cyberpunk genre, and now that I’ve listened to the soundtrack album I can definitely attest that this is true. As a general rule, the music in any show or film set in the future (and particularly in a cyberpunk future like Altered Carbon) has an “edgy futuristic” feel to it. Notable examples of this practice include: Blade Runner and its sequel; Automata; The Machine and Forbidden Planet. These films have soundtracks with weird electronic noises, guitar riffs and descents into heavy rock beats during action sequences.

But the soundtrack for Altered Carbon doesn’t do this. Instead, the music, beginning with the “Main Title” has a mysterious quality to it. There are long, held-out string drones that combine with soft vocals (that are half muttering, half singing) and a cello solo. The opening title has the slightest touch of a drum beat, but it only lasts for a short time and doesn’t dominate the track.


Most of the album: “Consciousness,” “Bancroft Shows Kovacs,” “Her Daughter,” and “Attacked by Troopers” are all variations on the same musical arrangement: strings with a prominent solo cello, combined with female vocalizations and an on-again/off-again background of electronic music. This is not a bad thing: In fact it shows that the world of Altered Carbon has a consistent musical background (and consistency is never a bad thing in film and television music). It’s actually refreshing to listen to a science fiction soundtrack that doesn’t include heavy rock music. Jeff Russo has composed a beautiful soundtrack for an amazing show. If you haven’t watched it yet, the first season is currently available on Netflix. The soundtrack became digitally available from Lakeshore Records as of February 9th, 2018.

Let me know your thoughts on Altered Carbon and its soundtrack in the comments below! My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review.

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"Ride of the Firemares" by James Horner

Krull is one of the first films to feature a score by James Horner and is personally one of my favorite pieces of film music period. The movie was a combination of science-fiction and high fantasy and attempted to cash in on the popularity of sci-fi after the debut of Star Wars in 1977. The plot centers on Prince Colwyn gathering allies to rescue his betrothed, Princess Lyssa, from the clutches of the extraterrestrial Beast, who wants to marry her himself. “Ride of the Firemares” is set in the latter part of the film when the heroes are riding to the rescue of the princess on “firemares”; horses that can travel incredibly fast and leave trails of fire in their wake. They have to arrive quickly because the fortress Lyssa is being held in changes location every 24 hours, and firemares are the only way to reach the fortress’s location in time.

Krull “Ride of the Firemares”

The heroes on firemares

In truth the “firemares” were large draft horses with fake fur attached to their legs, but the scene is enjoyable nonetheless. I especially enjoy the little detail where the horses move so fast that they can actually run on the air (essentially they can fly). If you like quirky science-fiction/fantasy from the early 1980s, this is definitely the movie for you. Is the plot perfect? No. It’s blatantly obvious in some points that the film is borrowing from Star Wars, but if you take the film as it is, it’s very enjoyable.

Colwyn and Lyssa
For more live-action soundtracks, see also: Live Action Soundtracks F-Z

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