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Mudbound by Tamir-kali (Review)

posted Dec 19, 2017, 12:51 PM by Kaya Savas

Tamar-kali makes her film composing debut with Mudbound, the critically-acclaimed film about two men returning home from WWII to work on a farm in Mississippi where readjusting back to everyday life and racism create struggles. Tamar-kali is a Brooklyn native musician and punk rock singer/songwriter. She was featured in the 2003 documentary Afro-Punk and worked with director Dee Rees on Pariah in 2011 where she lent the use of some of her songs and actually played herself in the film. Now Dee Rees called on Tamar-kali to write an original score to this powerful drama, and for a freshman film composer she does an incredibly great job of giving Mudbound the deep emotional center it needed.

The score for Mudbound is incredibly simple and is made up of very short passages of mostly deep cellos with some higher strings to add dimension when needed. The score is only 37-minutes on the album when not counting the songs, and I can’t imagine much was left out. It’s very focused in its approach to not do too much. And by not doing too much, the music is able to create this sort of primitive underlaying tension and drama. The music actually feels like it’s coming from the mud, it feels like its crawling out of some primitive existence. Once the higher strings come in to create some of the warmer emotions in the film, we feel an organic humanity blooming out of the deep strokes on the cello.

The score is a tad rough around the edges, and not just in terms of style. With some cues only being 20 - 40 seconds, we never get a chance for the score to actually find a flow. At times it feels like an incomplete sentence, and we desperately want it completed. But the tone of the music is what keeps everything together and effective overall. The score carries a tragic undertone underneath everything, and that adds to the setting and performances of the film’s story.

Mudbound is an extremely impressive first feature score from Tamir-kali. The simple approach is very effective at creating the right tone with a touch of organic humanity blooming out of the darkness. The deep cellos create a stark murkiness and the overall approach is not unlike something Nick Cave and Warren Ellis would do. While the short cues don’t allow the score to find better pacing, it still manages to add a great amount of depth to the narrative.