I love Tangerine Dream. I think they’re responsible for some of the best non-orchestral film scores ever made. Paul Haslinger (our interview) joined Tangerine Dream in 1985, recording 15 albums with the group. Some of those albums were great soundtracks, like the one for Near Dark (a fantastic vampire movie you need to see).
But unlike what he did with Tangerine Dream, Paul Haslinger’s solo soundtrack work never really resonated with me. But AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, the 80’s-set show about the cutthroat days of the PC revolution, changed that. From the opening credits (Trentemøller’s “Still on Fire”) I knew the show would have some good music. But Paul Haslinger’s score for Halt and Catch Fire isn’t just good — it’s perfectly suited for the material.
Now, after two seasons full of great music, Lakeshore Records finally brings us a soundtrack album for Halt and Catch Fire. It’s available right now on digital platforms (the CD arrives on September 16). To celebrate its release, here’s a list of five must-hear tracks from the album!
The meatiest track on the whole album, “It Speaks” is classic Tangerine Dream. Recalling songs like “Love on a Real Train,” this song’s main repeating motif is supported by a bed of arpeggiated loops and little embellishments. Those details, the tiny moments that don’t repeat throughout the track, are what give it such character. It makes the music feel responsive as if it were reacting to the characters on screen. That’s often not the case with electronic scores — many of them are not composed to fit the final edited picture.
This energetic track is the perfect mix of Trent Reznor, Cliff Martinez, and Tangerine Dream. The track builds layer upon layer of synth lines, eventually leading into a driving rock section. A punchy kick drum and crisp hi-hat drive the track relentlessly forward, accented by silky synth chimes and chugging bass. I could listen to this cue on repeat for hours.
This track has attitude for days. Haslinger starts with a quiet, sinister groove that wouldn’t sound out of place in TRON: Legacy. Halfway through the track, a drum machine slices through. The drums lend some additional structure and hard-edged cool, allowing the song’s chord progression to drift to unpredictable places. All that on a track that’s only a minute and 36 seconds long!
“Gordon Steals a Cabbage Patch”
This track is some real Blade Runner-y stuff. You’d think this would accompany the reveal of a smoky, neon cityscape. But this expansive synthscape is all about emotion, accompanying one of Gordon’s best scenes from the first season. The epic opening of this track eventually gives way to a fragile, crystalline end that is just as beautiful as the start.
The final track on the album, this encapsulates the tone of Halt and Catch Fire perfectly. Cerebral, sexy, and moody. This track plays to Haslinger’s strengths, letting him construct the cue around a glowing arpeggiated riff. There are digital and organic qualities in this music, linking the characters, their analytical minds, and the computers they make.
Though I’ve highlighted my five favorite tracks from the album here, this is one to listen to all the way through. Don’t skip! Despite having 23 tracks, the whole thing is only 39 minutes long. My only complaint the original soundtrack from Halt and Catch Fire is that I wish we got more of it. I eagerly await Volume 2, should it ever happen.
Season three of Halt and Catch Fire premieres Tuesday, Aug. 23. at 9 p.m. (EST) on AMC.