Score Reviews‎ > ‎

The Knick by Cliff Martinez (Review)

posted Oct 1, 2014, 6:36 PM by Koray Savas

The Knick is a new Cinemax original series spearheaded by Steven Soderbergh. Though he did not create it, the show is a full-on Soderbergh production, with him executive producing, directing, editing, and lighting the first season's 10 episodes. The filmmaker's openness about his distaste with the current Hollywood state has been covered greatly over the past few years, with Soderbergh often saying he will soon retire altogether. His last film, Behind The Candelabra, could not find financing in Hollywood due to the characters' sexual orientation, so it ended up as an HBO film. Though he does not seem to be slowing down, he is taking his talents to new, more expressive avenues. In The Knick's case, premium television.

The show centers around the medical staff of the Knickerbocker hospital in New York, during the early 20th century. Long-time Soderbergh collaborator Cliff Martinez scores the series with cold precision, and is fully responsible for the tone and atmosphere of this period drama. The approach and style of the music, however, is like a double edged sword. On one hand, Martinez' emotionless electronic rhythms and percussion absolutely nail the clinical and sterile nature of the setting. On the other, it never really meshes with the visual aesthetic and characters, creating a rift between the audio and the visual, instead of layering them together. Think about Soderbergh and Martinez' last film, Contagion, and you will have a very strong sense of what to expect with The Knick. Except that with Contagion, and later with Soderbergh's Side Effects, that uneasy and prickly mood felt warranted for those respective projects. It worked; and though it works to an extent now, a slightly different approach could have better suited the narrative.

Cliff Martinez achieves something special here, but the music and its detailed intricacies work to create a bigger picture that stands on its own from the show. The album is an absolute technical delight for fans of this style of electronic writing, rife with tension and trauma that suits the aura of The Knick, while not necessarily servicing the immediate needs of the story. There is truly nothing else being written like this, at the moment, so dive into the textural realm of The Knick and enjoy something unique.