I think the Safdie Brothers have found the perfect musical partner in Daniel Lopatin. His anxiety-driven score for their 2017 film Good Time was the perfect mix of trippy electronics and caffeinated jams. It felt perfectly tuned for the high anxieties Robert Pattinson dealt with during one long night in New York City. The working relationship between the film auteur siblings and Daniel Lopatin, who releases music as Oneohtrix Point Never, worked so well that Lopatin came back for the Safdies’ Uncut Gems. The film, which stars Adam Sandler in a dramatic turn, tells the tale of jeweler and gambling addict Howard Ratner and his need to find that one big score. If you’re at all familiar with Benny and Josh Safdie’s cinematic world, you know it’s loud, fast, and filled with people on the edge.
With Uncut Gems, Daniel Lopatin builds a sonic world filled with both the chaotic and the transcendent, turning Howard Ratner’s descent into one dangerous bet after another all the more dramatic and engrossing. Lopatin transcends his work as Oneohtrix Point Never as well, making one of his most accessible records yet.
Daniel Lopatin has built a score with three main themes, which are surrounded by smaller, ornate pieces. Inspired by both traditional 19th and early 20th century composers as well as the electronic composer Vangelis, the soundtrack is much more subtle than previous work. “The Ballad of Howie Bling”, “School Play”, and “Uncut Gems” are the three long pieces that give us a sense of the world of Uncut Gems. The contemplative and new age-y “Howie Bling” builds up to the chaotic “School Play”, which leads to the reflective “Uncut Gems”.
But in-between these, Lopatin gives us baroque beauty, 8-bit vibes, and even moments of classic OPN synth drifts. “The Bet Hits” has an almost library music sound, eliciting nostalgia and longing with what sounds like mellotron and synth, while “Fuck You Howard” sounds like Hayden through the mind of Wendy Carlos. There’s a sense that Daniel Lopatin has truly locked into the story here, as his music shows a confidence and ease of emotion that hasn’t been this present before. But he uses juxtaposition to push and pull us, giving quieter, new age-y pieces for moments of tension, while turning up the sonic chaos for quieter moments on the screen.
Daniel Lopatin’s score elicits both the dramatic highs and lows experienced by Sandler’s Howard Ratner. The sound of Uncut Gems is an overwhelming sonic stage, guiding us through elation, desperation, and the thrill of getting away with something we really shouldn’t have.
The musical world of Daniel Lopatin is a lot like a Safdie Brothers film. The ebb and flow is one of jarring shifts in mood and emotion. It can go from serene to chaos with the snap of a finger, which is a lot like life. It’s unpredictable, which is why I love his albums so much. As a composer he’s lost none of that unpredictability, he’s merely honed it to fit a narrative. Uncut Gems is another brilliant turn for Daniel Lopatin.
8.2 out of 10