Clark - The Last Panthers

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  • The Last Panthers is a six-episode mini-series loosely based on a real-life network of Slavic thieves, nicknamed "Pink Panthers" by Interpol, who were notorious from the '90s onwards for their audacious crimes. They're said to have perpetrated "some of the most glamorous heists in criminal history," with one criminologist having called their work a form of artistry. It's all so ripe for the screen that it's no wonder the story recently became a TV show. Aired late last year on Sky Atlantic in the UK and Canal+ in France (SundanceTV brings it to the US in April), The Last Panthers has a look and tone that's grown all too common in the crime-thriller genre, complete with handheld camerawork, desaturated color, morally ambiguous protagonists, bedraggled backdrops and a moody atmosphere. (The opening credits look ripped straight from True Detective.) But the show has its more noteworthy qualities, too. The cast includes Samantha Morton, John Hurt and A Prophet's Tahar Rahim, and the soundtrack is a bespoke score by Warp artist Chris Clark. This is the first time Clark has written music for TV, and like the story of the Pink Panthers, it seems crazy to have taken this long getting him on screen. Nevermind the "cinematic" qualities of albums like Body Riddle and Clark, it's the Berlin-based producer's versatility with emotion, texture and instrumentation that makes him ideal. The 19 cues culled from The Last Panthers' OST, ranging between 57 seconds and five-plus minutes, use choral singing, piano, strings, live drums, guitar, glockenspiel, modular synths and other electronics—common tools harnessed here to sound unreal and severe. If not for song titles like "Strangled To Death In A Public Toilet" and the general lack of beats, it could be easy to confuse The Last Panthers for an actual Clark album. The sequencing is what does it: from "Back To Belgrade" on through the third part of "Hide On The Treads," a seamless narrative is outlined by a wide yet controlled palette. Because the show's characters are largely brooding and conflicted, it falls on the music to magnify their internal feelings. This makes for an intense record, full of tension, despair and fleeting moments of joy. "Naomi Pleen," the piano theme for our ethically upright lead, played by Samantha Morton, is both hopeful and discordant. "Dead Eyes For Zvlatko / Heaven Theme" blends industrial ambience into euphoric synth pads. Those kinds of rich contrasts are hallmarks of Clark's best work. For most of The Last Panthers, Clark invigorates his usual techniques with new instruments or unique sound design; it sounds entirely possible that "Open Foe" and "Actual Jewels" reprise ideas from Body Riddle. There are some exceptions—"Brother Killer" might owe its disquieting tones to Aphex Twin's drukqs, "Cryogenic" sounds unusually indebted to Brian Eno—but such stylistic variations are to be expected on a soundtrack. As composer Ólafur Arnalds shared in our recent feature on electronic music in film and television, "The perfect movie soundtrack is one that accommodates the picture perfectly but works without it." The Last Panthers goes further, illustrating a picture of its own.
  • Tracklist
      01. Back To Belgrade 02. Hiero-Bosch For Khalil 03. Diamonds Aren't Forever 04. Panthers Bass Plock 05. Chloroform Sauna 06. Serbian Daffodil 07. Naomi Pleen 08. Open Foe 09. Strangled To Death In A Public Toilet 10. Cryogenic 11. Brother Killer 12. Omni Vignette 13. Actual Jewels 14. Dead Eyes For Zvlatko / Heaven Theme 15. Diamonds Aren't Forever II 16. Upward Evaporation 17. Hide On The Treads 1 18. Hide On The Treads 2 19. Hide On The Treads 3