Starred Up: Film Music Reworked (4 stars)

Starred Up: Film Music Reworked

David Mackenzie’s Starred Up soundtrack is an unsettling but satisfying listen

Buoyed by the success of his return to critical celebration with hard-hitting, Jack O’Connell-starring 2013 prison flick Starred Up – following a couple of lukewarm outings headed by T in the Park-set rock comedy You Instead (2011) – Scottish film director David Mackenzie appears to have designs on the ground occupied by John Carpenter; that of director turned soundtrack auteur. This expanded, vinyl-only version of the soundtrack to the former film feels very much like Carpenter’s work, dense with urgently foreboding electronica, and its existence is hard to impeach and easy to welcome. It’s an unsettling but satisfying listen which stands comfortably in its own right.

It also fits into Mackenzie’s career much more comfortably than You Instead, given that he’s previous soundtracked his films with the work of The Pastels (The Last Great Wilderness), Talking Heads (Young Adam) and the combined output of Domino Records (Hallam Foe). Here the director is the prime mover, with assistance from Mogwai producer Tony Doogan and contributions from Belle & Sebastian keyboard player Chris Geddes, actor/musician Ewan Bremner and Reid School of Music head and Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra co-founder Professor Raymond MacDonald.

The tone is unflinching and rarely changing, but highly evocative. The tracks have names which match their mood, and naturally those called ‘Preparing for War’, ‘Abandonment’ and ‘Violence’ are the most sinister, a blend of thundering, sustained electronic bass notes and menacingly alien synthesiser lines. Yet there are welcome changes of mood here and there – the loose bongo-led funk of ‘Dunking’, for example, or the calming ambience of ‘Respite Paradise’. ‘Between These Walls’’ funereal tone is punctuated by crunching, Mogwaiesque guitars, and even the lighter closing one-two of ‘Credit’ and ‘Cell Thief’ possess a mood of institutional distance. It’s an imagination-grabbing selection which sets out a scene beautifully, and hopefully not the last time Mackenzie puts together his own soundtrack.

Starred Up: Film Music Reworked is released by Good Grace on Fri 6 Nov.

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