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Taboo by Max Richter (Review)

posted Oct 18, 2017, 8:43 PM by Koray Savas   [ updated Oct 18, 2017, 8:44 PM ]

Taboo is an FX original event series that aired earlier this year. Created by Tom Hardy, among others, and produced by Ridley Scott through Scott Free, the show chronicles James Keziah Delaney as he returns to London from an African expedition to discover his inherited shipping empire is under deadly threat by the East India Trading Company. The series is steeped in gorgeous atmospheric cinematography and art direction. There’s a weight and dampness to the filmic qualities of the show that firmly place it in TV’s Golden Age, and a contributing factor to this is Max Richter’s brooding score.

The heaviness and swagger on screen is accented by a wonderfully dark musical tapestry. Richter, primarily known for his classical compositions, truly nails the aesthetic and heart of this narrative with an unexpectedly macabre score. His textural underscore goes against the grain of his typical melancholic minimalism and provides a rich and dense backdrop that really sucks the air out of the room. The album here is succinct in its presentation, hitting hard out of the gate and slowly trickling down to a more somber mood as it progresses. “A Lamenting Song” is where one’s expectations of Richter’s musical style comes into play, with solo piano. However, the tone here carries a stronger sense of emotion than usual. It’s heard in the performance and the recording, with a gentle touch of delicacy that carries through the score as a recurring motif (hear: “Lamentation For A Lost Life”). Furthermore, Zilpha, Delaney’s love interest, represents the heart of the score, and her musical counterpart is featured the most on album, with tracks "Zilpha," "Zilpha (Recollection)," and "Zilpha Alone." Her theme is heavy yet yearning, and blends seamlessly with the rest of the musical template of the score.

Max Richter has really grown in the film and TV industry these past few years, and Taboo is a genuine highlight amongst his vast discography. It features the delicate heartbreaking emotion found in his classical oeuvre, but also an incredibly bleak overtone that sifts through to the rest of the melodies and underscore, creating an unique experience worth delving into.