Jessica Hyde (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) is a blast in Utopia

There are plenty of things to admire in Channel 4’s slick new drama Utopia written by Dennis Kelly. I won’t attempt a plot summary; suffice to say it involves a ‘MacGuffin‘ of global proportions and plenty of fuel for conspiracy theorists everywhere.

Episode 1 opened with two cold-blooded killers in a comic shop and closed with a gruesome torture scene. This level of brutality will put off the squeamish but this is really nothing we haven’t seen in any Tarantino movie or in The Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men. I don’t really see what all the fuss it about. It’s shocking, of course, but that’s the nature of violence whether on or off-screen. If it’s right for the story, and it is here, then it is justified.

The first two episodes crack along at such a pace that you wonder if it can maintain this level of energy for six episodes (and perhaps beyond that).

Cristobal Tapia de Veer

Cristobal Tapia de Veer

The Guardian blog already shows that it is dividing audiences between those who think it’s highly entertaining and those who think it’s highly irritating. I place myself squarely with the former group – it’s sharply scripted, stylishly filmed, brilliantly acted and I really like the way the dystopia is tinged with black comedy.

With all the exaggerated focus on the killings and cruelty, it would be easy to overlook another vital aspect of the series –Cristobal “Cristo” Tapia de Veer‘s squelchy ambient soundtrack. This Chilean born, classically trained, Montreal-based musician helps add a lively, surreal quality to the series yet also ensures that the drama maintains a sinister edge.

His music has elements that remind me of Walter/Wendy Carlos’ moog makeover of Bach in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, another movie notorious for its ‘ultra-violence’.

On de Veer’s website, you can stream a compilation of the quirky but fun sounds he creates. If you’re of a delicate disposition you probably shouldn’t watch Utopia but you can listen to this without getting nightmares.

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