The Knick: OST Review
Music Rating 4.5/5
Review by Lora Dimitrova
Production Company: Anonymous
Composer: Cliff Martinez (Drive, Traffic, Contagion)
Set in the beginning of the 20th century, The Knick follows the lives and work of the staff at a New York hospital led by Dr. John Thackery, a brilliant surgeon with a forward-looking mind and an unshakable drug addiction. Steven Soderbergh’s cinematic achievement is spectacular in every respect, the soundtrack provided by long-time collaborator Cliff Martinez included.
At first glance, Martinez’s sparse and largely synth-based sound palette, more readily associated with a sci-fi domain, may seem misplaced and anachronistic against a lush early 1900’s setting. It quickly becomes clear, however, that the music of The Knick helps open up a new dimension to the viewer/listener and, a few episodes in, it is established as an integral part of the show’s unique feel. Relying on an array of ambient textures, percussive elements and arpeggiated themes, the score is more of a reflection of the characters’ inner worlds, rather than a sonic backdrop to the story. The Cristal Baschet, an acoustic version of a synthesizer and a go-to instrument for Martinez, lends its mesmerizing tones to add a level of eeriness to the soundscape.
On occasion, Martinez’s minimalistic approach makes the score cross over to space normally occupied by sound design, which helps it blend so seamlessly with the visuals it is hardly noticeable. This is a great quality for music written for film, but may backfire if you decide to listen to some of the more stripped down pieces on their own, as they may struggle to keep you interested.
It could be argued that in parts The Knick’s soundtrack is too similar to some of the composer’s previous works - Placental Repair is discernibly reminiscent of Rubber Head from the Drive OST. Take a listen to the two tracks below.
This may be the result of direction from Soderbergh, who had initially put together a rough cut of the show using snippets from scores Martinez had done for other movies, including Drive, as reference. It is possible that he did not want to veer too far away from the temporary track for some scenes. In the end, any resemblances can be easily overlooked, given the differences in how the pieces are used contextually.
Much like its main character, The Knick’s score is bold, intriguing and ahead of its time. And while it may be too radical to instil adoration within every member of its audience, it is guaranteed to leave a long-lasting impression.