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Artwork copyright (c) 2004 USA Cable Entertainment LLC; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Chill out with Jeff


Who says television executives are bereft of original ideas?  Here we have a television series inspired by a film which was inspired by a television series.  That can't have happened too often.  Starring Elias Koteas and others, Traffic: The Miniseries takes its lead from Steven Soderburgh's great film and is based on the drug trafficking industry around the world, filmed in the currently-trendy documentary style (even though it is drama).  Also taking its lead from the movie is the music, by Jeff Rona, who was credited with additional music for the feature.  Unfortunately, Cliff Martinez's godawful 1985 era digital watch-style music was by far the movie's weakest element, seriously detracting from its many qualities, but fortunately Rona has taken Martinez's basic concepts and done far more interesting things with them.

Rona's fundamental objective is to provide atmosphere.  He does this with a relentlessly bleak electronic soundscape over which he lays a few acoustic elements, all designed for maximum atmospheric effect, with featured solo parts for balalaika, duduk, electric cello and sitar among others.  Particularly effective are the vocal solos, first heard in the lengthy "The Bus Home", which add considerably to the desired effect.  Needless to say, with Rona being so effective at creating an uncomfortable and even nauseating soundscape, this doesn't make for particularly easy listening.  It is certainly not unpleasant, but then it's not the sort of music you're likely to put on while eating your dinner either.  Unless you're particularly strange.  "Adam in America" is arguably the strongest track, featuring the rare appearance of a melody and some particularly strong dramatic writing.

This music is quite compelling and is certainly entirely appropriate for the series, and lightyears ahead of Martinez's score for the feature film.  Whether it's the type of album that people will pick up and listen to all that often I'm not too sure, particularly given its almost sadistic length, but even so it contains enough quality to come recommended.

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  1. Traffic (1:58)
  2. Journey (3:46)
  3. The Illegals (3:14)
  4. Into the Dock (2:13)
  5. Above the Hills (1:40)
  6. The Bus Home / The Cave (6:06)
  7. Foot Chase (1:35)
  8. Adam in America (6:46)
  9. Ben Tells All (3:16)
  10. Cityscape (1:34)
  11. Bugging (3:00)
  12. Hospital / Russian Story (5:27)
  13. Angie (1:34)
  14. Rushing to Get Out (5:24)
  15. The Moments Before (4:54)
  16. Through the Pass (1:47)
  17. Run Like Hell (6:11)
  18. Finding the Buzz (2:14)
  19. The Conversation (1:51)
  20. I'm Just a Middle Man (1:29)
  21. Top of the Mountain (3:58)