With the Academy Awards nominations announced last week, cinema is on the mind of many. And, with all due respect to Son Lux (Everything Everywhere All At Once), the best original score of 2023 did not find itself on the ballot.

That honor goes to Oliver Coates, whose sublime minimal score for Charlotte Wells' debut film Aftersun offers the perfect juxtaposition to its (mainly) diegetic selection of decade-spanning hits.

Aftersun was 2022's finest film. With dynamic lead performances from Paul Mescal (Academy Award-nominated for the role) and newcomer Frankie Corio, the Cannes-premiered movie is a stunning mixture of memory and depression set on a father/daughter holiday in the early 2000s along the Turkish coast. The score from the man Fact Magazine has dubbed "Radiohead's secret weapon" is haunting and melancholic but richly composed through its combination of synths, strings, field recordings, and droney electronics - a la Eliane Radigue or Tetsuo Inoue. It is a subtle, striking, and otherwordly work from one of contemporary music's most accomplished figures (one whose discography also features collaborations with the likes of Mica Levi, Arca, and Dean Blunt).

The score's emotional weight kicks off immediately with Memory Opening, setting the dreamy ambience necessary to accompany a film rich with adult struggle and youthful coming-of-age. Memory Opening also sets the stage for the album's highlight and unofficial central theme, One Without

In Coates' own words, One Without is meant to induce the "vivid glow of memory". The track, utilized through the film's final moments and closing credits, is sparse but warm. One could even say hopeful. With simple strings and slight reverb, it is a track of incredible power in its simplicity.

Album highlights come from some of its most ambient selections. The appropriately titled Night sees Coates draw out foundational monotones overlaying them with the occasional cello legato. Tai Chi is another, albeit with a drone underlay, as synth and string stabs flow in and out, much like the fluidity of recollection underlying the film. 

Further standouts across its 14 tracks are the glistening Ocean-Rave and Last Dance. The latter is a perfect example of Coates' maximization of the cello's timbres and textures by incorporating electronics and technical manipulations. But, much like the others, these also hold the uncanny ability to create tension and drama, pulling listeners between the familiar and the unknown.

Oliver Coates' Aftersun score is the melancholic prescription for a world abounding in discordant noise. Filled with wonder - even a sense of mysticism - Aftersun is rich in experimental immersion. It works as well as a standalone album as it makes a non-diegetic phenomenological interpretation of the film's main thematic material. It is a perfect score for an excellent movie that also features an amazingly curated soundtrack, including its centrepiece use of the Queen & David Bowie classic, Under Pressure