Nightdriving in LA: The Soundtrack to Drive

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s icy hot minimalist gangster, neo-noir, love story; Drive. The film stars Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, and a phenomenal soundtrack that given the film’s release on Friday, shot up to No.5 on iTunes charts on Monday on the strength of comments and twitter buzz.

With a moody ambient score composed by frequent Steven Soderbergh collaborator Cliff Martinez, a handful of italo-vibed synthpop tracks, and a stunning baroque love song off Italian film composer’s Riz Ortlani score for a 1971 film called Addio Zio Tom, the soundtrack is fit to sit in collections alongside classics like Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting.

Martinez, whose scores for The Limey and Solaris are modern classics, creates a perfectly tense satin-sheeted bed (reminiscent of Tangerine Dream’s work for Michael Mann’s Thief) on which the gorgeously selected tracks by Kavinsky, Chromatics, Desire, and College toss and turn.

Based on his use of Glass Candy’s “Digital Versicolorin his previous film Bronson, director Winding Refn called on Glass Candy/Desire’s Johnny Jewel to assist in the selections and mixing of the album, consequently for everyone’s great benefit (Jewel, Refn, the audience) there is a very Italians Do It Better feel to the tone of the film.

But the biggest revelation turns out to be College, whose “A Real Hero” features (the cheekily named) Electric Youth on vocals and serves as excellently an epic love theme as has been featured in a movie since Berlin’s Take My Breath Away.”

Despite or perhaps because of it’s remarkably literal lyrics and the track’s steady heartbeat tempo, “A Real Hero” strikes a geniune romantic chord and creates a sense of longing so deep, it makes you want to see the film again upon hearing it. It’s a perfect thing.

College feat. Electric Youth – A Real Hero [music from the Motion Picture, Drive] by Electric Youth (Official)

Interestingly, people are talking about College as if they’ve come out of nowhere, but this blog darling has been a sleeper just waiting to explode for the last few years. College is the lynchpin of the Valarie & Friends collective based in Nantes, France. They’ve been self-releasing similarly toned, 80s film inspired tracks by Anoraak, Minitel Rose, & The Outrunners. All well worth checking out. All great for nightdriving in LA.

Mario Cotto

Editor’s Note: This afternoon, KCRW’s The Treatment (hosted by Elvis Mitchell) will feature an in-depth conversation with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn regarding the process of making this astonishing film and the role music played in the making. Stream the conversation here.