Channel 4 really went straight for the spoon when it came to Utopia‘s fate, didn’t they?
Skipping the chilli or bleach, they just scooped Dennis Kelly’s dark dystopian drama right out of the future schedules, never to be seen again. Some torturers have no finesse.
So while we don’t have a third season to look forward to, there’s some consolation in having another soundtrack. Actually it’s quite a big consolation. No kidding, no messing, and no need to reach for the spoon in order to tell the truth: Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s score for Utopia 2 really is the best TV soundtrack of the year. Quite amazing really, given that the real 2014 has managed the rare feat of globally out-miserying the dystopian show.
I felt like I should have been hooked up to electrodes and sat in front of a one-way mirror while listening to this. The Utopia 2 soundtrack is a brave and unrelenting audio brain-hack, but to call it experimental would wrongly imply some degree of uncertainty about the outcome. It’s clear that Cristobal Tapia de Veer knows precisely what he’s doing and exactly the effect it will produce.
Having ditched the eclectic orchestra of human femur, rhino turd, and Chilean horse intestine trumpet that comprised much of the first season’s soundtrack, Cristobal matches the mood and settings of Season 2 with analogue synthesisers, church organs, and strings to create a new, unsettling tonal landscape lit by firework-like explosions of sound.
The familiar hallmarks of his previous Utopia work are still present – the haunting choral moans and dialogue sampling – but nothing ever feels like it’s on an equilibrium. Just as you accustom yourself to one pattern of sound, another bizarre wave will slice through. It never settles. It is enticing, invigorating, terrifying, and beautiful. It’s audio construction so brazen it borders on the synaesthetic.
Everything here feels subversive, as though the album is coded to be a secret, hidden between your ears. But that’s the best way to remember Utopia as a piece of TV: something mad that a few of us were all in on. And the greatest praise to give Utopia 2 is that it’s a stunning sonic eulogy for the show.
And as usual, we took our Russian flu vaccine, ate a big bowl of quinoa, and picked our 5 favourite tracks…
You take a stroll down the golden sands of your subconscious. In the background a deranged samba of the damned plays. But suddenly you take a wrong turn. A church organ hollers menacingly from afar. Waves of choral pulses pummel you. There’s an overwhelming beat against your head. And just as you drown in it, isolated and terrified, it ends. Track 1, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Utopia 2.
‘The Monarch’s Pyramid’
If ever you take your car out for a spin late at night and cruise through the empty streets and along the sodium-orange tinged tarmac, the cool, almost Daft Punk-ish electronica of ‘The Monarch’s Pyramid’ will be required listening to soundtrack your jaunt. Especially if you’re off to reunite with/try to kill your crazy, estranged, scientist father.
Imagine Utopia was a NES video game. Imagine you were allowed to play that game in between the electro-shock therapy and that paper cup of pills. ‘8-Bit Trauma’ is the sound you’d hear as you mashed the A-button and watched a pixellated Arby blow a translator’s brains out, or cheered as the coins spilled from the body of the 8-bit psychiatrist Jessica successfully strangled using The Bible. [CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WON! RELEASE JANUS VIRUS? >Y/N]
‘To All You Kids Will Come (Metamorphosis Complete)’
A crazed odyssey that moves from the rapturous electro-ecumenical howls of organ and choir, before diving into a natural audio wilderness, and emerging, giggling, into the exuberance of the grand ‘Utopia Overture’. Don’t try to understand it. Let it flow into you. Maybe even switch on your favourite 24 hour news channel and watch the dystopian images dance in front of you to the tune of anarchy.
A sexy, sweaty, retro disco beat, soaked in gasps and coital moans. Or maybe it’s pain rather than pleasure. It’s hard to tell in this Technicolor orgy of Euro sound. Don’t worry about it. Just let your brain marinade in its insanity. Then cook it on Gas Mark ‘WTF?!’ until the juices run clear.
Released on Monday 8 December 2014 by Silva Screen.
What was your favourite moment in Season 2? Let us know below…