Is there such a thing as melancholic electronica? ‘Melanctonica’?
If there isn’t already then Cristobal Tapia de Veer just invented it with the soundtrack to Channel 4’s huge summer hit, Humans (ahh, remember when we were all sweating Pimms and wondering what Colin Morgan’s character Leo was?).
And if you watched the show or were a fan of his previous work on Utopia, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Or rather you’ll know that your ears will have no idea what to expect.
After all, this is a man who, in the past, has used dried rhino turd and human bones to create… well, just calling it music doesn’t quite cover the experience. His work on Channel 4’s Utopia was as close to an aurally-administered psychotropic as you’re ever likely to get, with moments on his Season 2 soundtrack where, listening through headphones, you could almost taste the music.
And with the soundtrack to the first season of Humans that hasn’t changed. It’s a 3D soundscape. A beautiful, unsettling, pupil-dilating topography of electronica. Not a single rhino turd to be heard (as far as we know).
It’s not as experimental or intimidating as his Utopia work, and as consequence it never hits the same mind-bending heights. But then Humans wasn’t the head-fuck Utopia was, so why should its music be?
The sensation here, across 22 tracks on 2 discs (if you still use CDs – nothing wrong with that, I bet Dr. Millican used CDs), is that you’re plugged into an android’s dream. Electronic sounds sweep from the smooth and serene to the ragged and nervous, creating an experience that is sometimes wistful, sometimes terrifying, sometimes exhilarating. But always shifting, always mysterious.
‘Creeping Robots’ is a horror tone-poem, a hard drive’s lament. ’18’ feels like a lullaby for an android infant in the crib. The electro-ecumenical choral of ‘If I die it means I’ve lived’ reverberates round the inside of your head and tugs at the heart strings, like their weirdest body hack ever. Never thought I’d make up the term ‘electro-ecumenical’ but here we are, propelled by a brain-hacking score, into this terrifying future.
Best of all is ‘Synthetic Humans – Genesis’, which incorporates the show’s title theme. Stripped from the rest of the show it sounds sterile, dystopian, and exactly the kind of background mood-setter you’d hear at a product launch for the next big thing you’d need to run your life around.
Sometimes with TV soundtracks, you feel like you’re listening to a fragment of a creation: something that was made specifically to be part of something else. But Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s work always feels like its own entity; as if it would have sprung up anyway, even if the show hadn’t. Back in the summer it complemented the show’s sci-fi and suburban themes without a wrinkle. Listening to it now, it feels like an entirely new experience.
As with much of Cristobal’s work, this is not something to put on while you relax and cook dinner. In truth, I don’t know when you’d listen to the Humans soundtrack. Maybe on a commute. Maybe while doing some coding. Maybe while cheating on your spouse with a robot. Or maybe while doing none of those things.
The Humans OST is a strange, sonic experience. It’s best to just power down and experience it.
Released on CD and download on Friday 4 December 2015 by Silva Screen.
What’s your favourite track on the album? Let us know below…