Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon Bring Electronic Moods to Netflix's Stranger Things.
Written by John Diliberto with Johanna Baumann on July 18th, 2016
Television music scores tend to be pretty generic. For every Twin Peaks, X-Files, Thirtysomething or Battlestar Galactica (V2), there are countless forgettable scores by junior John Williams composers. But lately, some interesting and very electronic scores have been popping up. First was Cliff Martinez‘s score for The Knick; brilliant not only in execution but in using a very analog electronic score for a series set in 1901 New York City. Then ex-Tangerine Dream member Paul Haslinger came up with a surprisingly subtle score for the zombie tale, Fear the Walking Dead. That spinoff isn’t as good as the original, but Haslinger’s score is even more effective than Bear McCreary‘s. And now Netflix has launched a sci-fi series set in 1983 called Stranger Things starring Winona Ryder and David Harbour and directed by the Duffer Brothers. In a small American town, a child disappears under suspicious and supernatural circumstances. His mother, the Police Chief, three friends and a telekinetic girl work against the dangerous and invisible evil to recover the boy. The series draws from classic 80s sci-fi thrillers and the soundtrack is no different. Composers Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon of the Austin-based electronic group SURVIVE take inspiration from the synth-filled horror soundtracks by the likes of John Carpenter (Halloween), Wendy Carlos (A Clockwork Orange), not to mention the godfathers of this sound, Tangerine Dream. You would think this kind of score would happen more often in sci-fi films and series, but it is surprisingly rare. And when it does, it’s often unsurprisingly corny. But Stein & Dixon have created a score full of mood and atmosphere and melody with some chilling juxtapositions. Their underscore for Ryder’s character stringing Christmas lights all over the house to communicate with her lost son is both joyful and menacing without playing to either extreme. Hopefully, a soundtrack album will be coming. In the meantime, Stranger Things launched on July 15 in binge-mode on Netflix. Here’s an extended version of the theme.