Michael Myers and Trent Reznor

It’s Friday The 13th, so I should be talking about Jason Vorhees. But you know what, I don’t care. Michael Myers has always held a special, darkly-lit place in my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I watched Halloween growing up. It was on TV at least once a year(edited, of course) and I’d always watch it. Even prior to seeing the unedited version on videocassette, it was a very scary, visceral experience for me. The initial murder of Vorhees’ sister, the escape from the institution, stalking of Laurie Strode, and the murders at the end of the film all filled me with such dread that even the most goriest of films can’t come close to that angst I felt lying under a blanket on my parent’s couch in the living room as a sticky little kid.

Even years later that iconic theme music would stick with me, showing up in various forms(Halloween toys, plunking out the theme drunkenly on my best friend’s piano, and various viewings over the years), that I never thought someone covering this theme would affect me as much as the version I just heard today did. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made a version of John Carpenter’s Halloween theme and released it today, on Friday the 13th, 2017.

It’s actually pretty amazing.

They take their time with it. They savor the nuances and tease the theme generously before going full Carpenter, with some generous Reznor/Ross vibes. They toy with the main theme with lots of distortion and chaos lurking in the background for a good 5 minutes before close to the end when a Reznor-approved beat comes crashing in to make Carpenter’s iconic theme become some sort of dark and sultry remix. It’s really rather stunning.

They haven’t rebuilt the Halloween theme more than they’ve reimagined it into something modern and dystopian. I think it’s genius. You may think it’s shite. That’s okay. Give it a shot and see what happens. I’m fanboying right now. I think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are two of the most exciting film composers working today. The NIN stuff is still good to my ears as well(we can’t keep recreating the past now, can we dear?), but their film work is absolutely stunning. If John Carpenter decides to not score the new Halloween, I know two guys perfect for the job.

Happy Friday The 13th, lovelies.

Nine Inch Nails : Add Violence EP

Say what you will about Trent Reznor, but the guy over the last four years has been in constant creative motion. Nine Inch Nails’ 2013 return with Hesitation Marks was met with equal parts cheers and jeers. Cheers for a guy coming out of a 4 year NIN shutdown to a solid return to form. Jeers for folks that felt he was softening and repeating old motifs. Me? I liked the album. He never came across to me as some poet laureate, so I could forgive the average in the lyrics department. But his compositional, arranging, and studio skills were as tight as ever. From there he scores three films with Atticus Ross(Gone Girl(2014), Before The Flood(2016), Patriot’s Day(2016)), becomes some mogul/music wizard dujour at Beats and helped curate Apple Music, and at the end of 2016 he and Ross put out the NIN EP Not The Actual Events. The latter was released with the promise of two more EPs to follow later in 2017, making it a trilogy of sorts. That EP was promising, with some biting NIN aggression and experimental twists and turns that while wasn’t mind blowing was a welcome addition to the NIN discography(while wetting the appetites of NIN fans everywhere.)

We’re in the middle of 2017 and that second EP has arrived. Add Violence dials down the angst and turns up the oscillation a bit. It feels better conceived and fluid than its predecessor, while still retaining the wily spirit of classic NIN.

Opening track “Less Than” gets all early 80s bouncy synth with the help of some catchy keyboard lines and synsonic-sounding drums. It’s like Reznor dropped the needle on Black Celebration and Power, Corruption & Lies and got heavy-handed with the Kahlua he was pouring into his protein shakes. This is the loosest and most fun NIN has sounded since Year Zero. “The Lovers” is the best track on here. It’s dark, brooding, and yes, sexy. Jittery rhythms, Pong-like synth notes, and menacing piano zig zag through the mix as Reznor turns up the longing in his vocal spots. This track feels like the very best of Reznor and Ross’ creative power. It builds; ascending then descending like a menacing tower on the horizon. I imagine playing Tetris on a grainy black and white TV with this as the soundtrack. Odd, but fitting. “This Isn’t The Place” has an electronic swing to it. It’s decent, but seems to meander a bit too long. “Not Anymore” sounds like a cross between Suicide and the Art of Noise, but with Reznor ad-libbing lyrics over a distorted bass line. The song goes into a frenzied explosion of fuzz in the chorus. “The Background World” moves along for nearly 12 minutes. First opening with a smooth, familiar groove that you easily fall into. Soon enough you notice something becomes slightly off. A skip in the song. As the track moves along it slowly falls into a deep distortion as that skip becomes more prominent. The track falls into an abyss of white noise before falling into some other dimension.

Add Violence resonates more than its predecessor. It feels more cohesive, like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross sat down and mapped out some songs with a sonic thru-line. They kept it more of a blippy, electronic affair with a healthy dose of their rich atmosphere. The result is a sweet shot of electronic urgency.

7.9 out of 10

 

 

Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile : Deviations 1

So right off the bat it must be said that this very unique version of Trent Reznor’s 1999 masterpiece ode to mental breakdown and substance abuse is for a very limited number of Nine Inch Nails fans. Of those fans there’s two kinds of fans that will want this: the hardcore completists and the soundtrack fans. The casual window shoppers, the mild interest guys and gals, and that one guy that never “got it” after Pretty Hate Machine need not apply. This one isn’t for you. Thanks for stopping by, though. Sure, take a beer with you. See you later…

Okay, now that we’re alone let’s talk about The Fragile : Deviations 1.

So back in December, along with the release of Not The Actual Events, it was announced that a definitive version of Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile was being released. It was meticulously remastered by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. As a huge fan of The Fragile I was pretty excited about this prospect. As well as the original album, there was also an oddity announced in The Fragile : Deviations 1. It’s an instrumental version of the 1999 record. The album was completely remixed and remastered as instrumental fare. According to NIN.com:

A very special limited edition of The Fragile is now available for preorder in the NIN store. This unique version of NIN’s classic record was created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and features 37 instrumental, alternate and unreleased tracks, many of which have never been heard before anywhere.”

Reznor explains, ‘The Fragile occupies a very interesting and intimate place in my heart. I was going through a turbulent time in my life when making it and revisiting it has become a form of therapy for me. As an experiment, I removed all the vocals from the record and found it became a truly changed experience that worked on a different yet compelling level. The Fragile: Deviations 1 represents Atticus and I embellishing the original record with a number of tracks from those sessions we didn’t use before. The result paints a complimentary but different picture we wanted to share.

Not being what I’d call a hardcore NIN fan, but also not a mild occasional listener, I was intrigued by the prospect of an instrumental version of the first NIN record I sort of really got into. Two years prior to The Fragile I’d totally fallen for NINs “The Perfect Drug” off David Lynch’s Lost Highway soundtrack, so in 1999 I was ready to fall for a NIN record. After a day or two of mulling it over in December I decided to throw caution to the wind and I preordered this behemoth of a set(it’s 4 LPs at $80.)

According to their website it was supposed to ship in April of 2017. April came and went. As did May and June. I found myself going back to old emails to make sure I hadn’t dreamt preordering this damn record. I did indeed order this thing. Finally in July I’d gotten a confirmation email that this record was shipping and a week later a heavy, flat, square box showed up on the front porch.

It arrived.

I’ve been spinning this record on and off for the last couple weeks. I stand by my first statement that this is something of a completist-only kind of album. Most folks aren’t going to fall head over heals for this album. No vocals, it’s an album that pushes the wall of sonics to the forefront. It’s gone from an epic ode to self hate and utter emotional devastation to something that transcends that pain and turns it into something far different from its origins. It doesn’t feel angry and pained anymore.

The Fragile : Deviations 1 feels like something of a rebirth of the original album.

This is a completist kind of album, but it’s also for those fans of the Reznor/Ross film scores. First, the music is still there. It’s brighter, louder, and more in focus. The guitars hum with a vibrancy. Without the vocals your attention is pushed towards the amazing job Reznor and Ross did on engineering this thing. It really does sound like a score to some lost dystopian film. Something like Wim Wenders doing a post-apocalyptic arthouse epic. Paris, Texas-meets-The Road Warrior. Listening to these songs with new ears you really do notice just how cinematic Reznor’s arranging truly was, even back in 1999. He was definitely working towards becoming that film composer he’s become. With Trent Reznor making Atticus Ross a permanent member of NIN only goes to show just how important that musical partnership has become. Sure, he was in How To Destroy Angels with Reznor and Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig, but for him to be a permanent member of NIN is something else. It was always just Reznor writing and recording in the studio, with a band assembled for gigs. Having Ross as a permanent member truly shows the importance of that partnership.

I feel I’m rambling here. This record is a masterpiece to my ears. It’s one I happily add to the collection of Reznor/Ross collaborations. I feel that their scores for The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, Before The Flood, and Patriot’s Day are modern classics. They are all unique in their own way, but carry with each of them that Reznor/Ross DNA strand that gives them all this cohesive, arthouse charm. I would put The Fragile : Deviations 1 in the same category as their film scores. With unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and extended versions of songs this album feels like it’s own musical beast. It’s almost like the score to the making of a concept album about a guy’s fall into madness. It’s very meta if you think about it.

This one is definitely worth your time if you’re willing to commit to the ride. If you’re looking for “Head Like A Hole”, you should look elsewhere.

9. 2 out of 10

Gut Reaction – The Fragile : Deviations 1

I don’t often start vomiting out words of praise on a first run of an album, but since the album is from Nine Inch Nails and that album is a bizarro world take on the classic The Fragile called The Fragile : Deviations 1 I felt it was okay to do so. So here’s a few thoughts upon dropping the needle.

I knew what I was getting into when I handed over my money card digits back in December and preordered what was being touted as an instrumental version of Trent Reznor’s ode to nervous breakdowns and substance abuse, 1999s The Fragile. Even when The Fragile was released way back before we could ever imagine a world where Donald Trump could be voted in as the leader of the free world, I wasn’t all that into NIN. I got my copy of The Fragile for free by calling in and answering a question on the local alternative radio station during a lunch time program. I drove an hour to the tiny radio station in September of 1999 and got my winnings in the form of a double CD and listened to it on the way home. This was the first time I ever really liked something from NIN. But still, it didn’t really sink in for me till 2005s With Teeth(my best friend and I did get stoned and watch scenes from Star Wars with “The Wretched” soundtracking it, so that was cool.) But with With Teeth, that’s when the teen angst that was supposed to fuel my NIN love was replaced with adult angst and I found myself screaming “Don’t You Fucking Know What You Are!!!” on my way to work in the mornings. Year Zero was another favorite as well, with Reznor making an intimate and angry electronic record for all to enjoy. But it wasn’t until Ghosts I-IV came out in 2008 that I found myself head over heals for this guy that was so angry in my youth. Instrumental pieces that felt like mini-suites of anger and desolation, I thought to myself I’d love to hear Reznor start scoring films. Two years later him and Atticus Ross began a fruitful scoring career with David Fincher, and so began my love of everything Trent Reznor.

This brings me to The Fragile : Deviations 1. For the person that absolutely LOVES Reznor’s film work this record is for you(meaning me, but it could be you, too.) There was always something very cinematic about The Fragile. At times I felt that beautiful and ugly melodrama was wasted on words and screaming, so with the vocals removed the record takes on a whole new meaning and feel. Instead of hearing a man’s descent into lovelorn, chemically induced madness it sounds as if we’re hearing the score to a faintly familiar film that we can’t quite place. I’m currently finishing side 4(there are 8 sides here, guys) and it’s probably one of the cleanest, crisp mixes I’ve heard in a long time. Reznor and Ross have gone back and tweaked the original songs to accentuate certain parts that may have gotten lost in the mix the first time. The buzzsaw guitars are even more biting(as on “Somewhat Damaged” and “We’re In This Together”.) There are also unreleased pieces strewn throughout as well that add a whole other dimension to this record.

I think having a few years of film work under their belts, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have learned how to build mood and create aural scenes in the studio. I truly feel that they’re in their element scoring for film. I loved Hesitation Marks and dug Not The Actual Events, but I’m finding myself drawn to records that talk through the music and not lyrics these days. Reznor’s songs resonated with so many not only because of the music but because he was speaking to the disenfranchised with his lyrics. These days Reznor isn’t really the disaffected, pained guy that he once was. Hearing him sing “Head Like A Hole” these days seems a bit much. But hearing him re-imagine that youthful angst and pain into something new and refreshing is quite the thing. What he’s doing here is nothing short of brilliant.

And I’m not even half way through.

These are just gut reactions, folks. There will be a proper review. But for now I’m giving a resounding JHubner73 thumbs up. This record is absolutely stunning. If any of this kind of interests you, grab a copy while you still can. It will only be available on vinyl, with no digital release at all. Maybe he’ll drop some flash drives in various dirty men’s toilets throughout North America and Europe for shits and giggles with the album on it, but that’s it.

Time for another rum and coke and see what else awaits.

Nine Inch Nails : Not The Actual Events

Do younger generations look at Trent Reznor and NIN as some sort of fossilized, angry rich uncle? I hear folks a few years younger ninthan me saying things of that nature. And maybe they have a point to some degree. What’s Reznor got to be mad about these days? Maybe the point isn’t that he’s angry. Maybe he’s more of an impressionistic painter using sound as his colors? Aggression as his brush? I mean, people still go nuts for Quentin Tarantino’s obscene, violence-filled talkie fests and he’s a rich middle-aged dude. What’s the difference? Really, what’s the difference? Even middle-aged dads need to vent sometimes. NIN helps out with that. It’s escapism for the responsible 9 to 5 guys and gals. It’s a shot of adrenaline anger that only kids of the Reagan 80s and Clinton 90s seem to really appreciate.

The career of Nine Inch Nails can be broken up into two parts: when I couldn’t stand them, and then when I got them. The first part was from when I was in high school up to 2005. I didn’t get the anger and screaming. I didn’t get the self hate, self pity, and nihilistic view of the world. Maybe I was too happy of a guy; too well-adjusted and content to look at the brighter side of things. Of course, none of that crap was true because by the time 2005 rolled around I was a husband and father of three kids. I was taking night classes for a degree I didn’t care about that was supposed to save me from a job I didn’t care about. I bought With Teeth on a trip to some big chain box store because we needed diapers and a new garbage can. Why not buy a cd by a band I don’t really care about while I’m at it?

Turns out, With Teeth was that album that graciously opened the door to the world of Trent Reznor for me. Not Pretty Hate Machine when I was 17 or The Downward Spiral when I was 20. It was an album that came out when I was 31 years old. I was nearly middle-aged with a wife, kids, a mortgage, and debt up to my head like a hole. Maybe that says a lot about the album and why so many fans didn’t like it, I don’t know. But in retrospect that record was a turning point for Trent Reznor, whether he regrets With Teeth or not. It feels and sounds like a palate cleanser of a record. Cleaner, clear-eyed, and the first time Trent Reznor directed his anger outward instead of inward. From that record on it sounded like Reznor was advancing the NIN canon into fresher territory, and each successive album was a step to where he’s at now. Zero Year was the personal laptop record where NIN took that outward view to songwriting to the next level. Ghosts was Reznor’s first foray into scoring. A whole concept scored like a film. The Slip may seem like backsliding to some, but I feel like it’s this beautifully built record that feels like a bit of a goodbye to the pop concept of an album. The next year Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross began their film scoring career with David Fincher’s The Social Network.

After two more scores with Fincher and the 2013 NIN album Hesitation Marks the Reznor/Ross team has returned as NIN and given us Not The Actual Events. It’s a 5-song EP of mix-and-match aggression that runs the gamut between techno punk, New Order-on-steroids electronic, slow burn material, and white noise distortion blowouts. It’s a nice tease that hopefully will be preceding something bigger and better.

Things start out nicely with “Branches/Bones”, it’s a nice kick in the teeth that’s in and out in under 2 minutes. Feels nice, like putting on a great old jacket that still fits just right. “Dear World” clicks and beeps along like a more aggressive Kraftwerk. To me, this sounds like Reznor honing in on all the great elements he’s come across over the years. A perfect collection of sounds. “She’s Gone Away” is a little too much like How To Destroy Angels for my taste. It’s interesting, but ultimately a bit too plodding for an EP. “The Idea Of You” has Dave Grohl where he does his best work, behind a drum set. It’s a heavy track that relies on dread and a machine gun blast of a chorus that’s equal parts “Wish” and some sort of new age proto punk. “Burning Bright(Field On Fire)” feels like the next phase. It’s slow, methodical, and a wall of white noise. It’s a Goliath of dense distortion and bombast that still in its roots feels planted in the nerdy love of guys like Gary Numan, Joy Division, and Suicide.

Not The Actual Events is a bunch of welcoming sounds to ring in the new year. Let’s hope there’s more to come.

7.2 out 10

Jhubner73 Presents : Favorite Soundtracks of 2016

Besides being a pretty amazing year for new albums, there have been some amazing film and television scores that have come out in 2016. Now a couple of the soundtracks I picked up this year technically were released in 2015, but that’s merely a technicality. I bought them and loved them in 2016 so they’re ending up on this year’s list.

Here, without further adieu, is my list of favorite scores of 2016.

10. The Dust Brothers : Fight Club S/T

dsc05012Fight Club hasn’t aged all that well with me. I discussed this in great length just a couple weeks ago, but that was only in an effort to praise just how good the score by Michael Simpson and John King, aka The Dust Brothers was. Due to the film’s dark humor and overall dreary atmosphere the soundtrack needed to facilitate the mood in that direction. The score is like a dark trip-hop album, with bits of light and gallows humor dispersed throughout. If it wasn’t called Fight Club S/T it could just be considered a great trip-hop album. The Dust Brothers are no strangers to creating mood through a musical patchwork of loops and samples, and here they work to make David Fincher’s cult hit much better than it really was.

9. Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL : Batman V Superman : Dawn Of Justice S/T

dsc05018I’ll be perfectly honest here, the only reason I bought this album was because of my 11-year old son. We saw the movie in the theater and he was much more of a fan than I was. When the record was released I had no intention of buying it, but when he saw it he was like “That would be great to have, wouldn’t it?” I can’t deny my son’s enthusiasm for vinyl buying, so I chucked the $35 at my local record store guy and grumbled to myself as I walked to my car. Truth be told, it’s a pretty amazing score on its own. Zimmer knows how to create mood for a film, and with Junkie XL adding a bit of ADHD energy to the whole affair it turns out to be a damn good score. It’s sprawled across five sides of vinyl, with the 6th side being a killer etching.

Be prepared to have some serious play fighting in the living room and some fist-to-pillow violence when you play this one in the house.

8. Mogwai : Atomic S/T

dsc05021Mogwai have found something that can keep them working until they want to retire: film scoring. If they grow tired of trying to reinvent what they started nearly 20 years ago they can write someone else’s vision. Atomic is the score to a documentary about the bombs being dropped on Japan and it paints a subtle musical interpretation of the film’s darker themes. With their score of Les Revenents and the new Leonardo DiCaprio documentary Before The Flood, in which they collaborate with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, they show that they’re far more than purveyors of the post-rock crown. In fact, they’ve melted the crown down and made really nice cufflinks out of it. Something they can wear when they’re nominated for their first ‘Best Film Score’ award.

7. Kreng : Camino S/T

dsc05020I first heard Kreng, aka Pepijn Caudron, last year when he created one of my favorite scores for the horror/comedy Cooties. This year he scored the thriller Camino. I have not seen Camino, but if the score is any indication it’s one hell of a ride. Kreng shifted gears this time around and went for a more orchestral sound, leaving the trip-hop vibes for another project. There’s lots of shrieking strings and tense use of sound effects, with an overall heavy vibe. Kreng has become one of my favorite composers and I look forward to whatever he has coming up next.

6. Kurt Stenzel : Jodorowsky’s Dune S/T

dsc05017Kurt Stenzel created an intimate synth score for Frank Pavich’s doc about the Alexander Jodorowsky’s doomed attempt at bringing Frank Herbert’s Dune to life. Stenzel uses pieces of conversation from the film and works them in seamlessly to space-y synth and guitar that at times almost feels mystical in its use. It’s an existential trip that I think Jodorowsky would be quite fond of, if he hasn’t yet heard it.

5. Various Artists : Lost Highway S/T

dsc05019I think it’s safe to say that David Lynch’s Lost Highway was one of the most batshit crazy films of the nineties, and one of Lynch’s most absurd films(that’s saying a lot, people.) But if you looked past the doppleganger twists, noir-in-Hell story, and Robert Blake’s frightening makeup the movie had a pretty solid soundtrack. Bowie, Trent Reznor, Smashing Pumpkins, Lou Reed, NIN, and Angelo Badalamenti. The soundtrack was produced by Reznor and it has the flavor Reznor holed up in a house freaking out. It’s great having this thing finally available on vinyl.

4. Ben Lovett : Synchronicity S/T

dsc05014I hadn’t heard of the film prior to seeing that it’s score was being released by Mondotees/Death Waltz, but all it took were a couple snippets on Soundcloud for me to engage my Paypal acct into buying mode. The score is exquisitely classic neo-futuristic synth. A cross between classics like Vangelis and Tangerine Dream with some more modern touches, in-particular Sinoia Caves work on the Beyond The Black Rainbow. Lovett made the film much better than it deserved to be. It wasn’t horrible, but too convoluted for its own good(great casting though, with Michael Ironside and AJ Bowen in supporting roles.) If you like listening to Blade Runner as much as watching it, you should already own this score.

3. Cliff Martinez : The Neon Demon S/T

dsc05013Cliff Martinez can do no wrong in my eyes. His work only elevates whatever film it’s accompanying. He’s created this symbiotic relationship with director Nicolas Winding Refn, much like he did with Steven Soderbergh, where everything work together and becomes all the better by that artistic relationship. The Neon Demon is over-the-top and over indulgent, but that’s how it should be. Any kind of restraint and it just wouldn’t work as well. Martinez turns the score into a thumping techno musical world where dream and reality collide and embrace, bleeding all over each other. It’s his most intense score yet.

2. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein : Stranger Things S/T Volume 1 and 2

dsc05009This will be the last you hear me utter “Stranger Things” for the rest of the year. I’m sure once season 2 hits I’ll start yacking about this show again, but until then this is it. The Duffer Bros locked into something with their debut show that a whole hell of a lot of us absorbed and took in like clean oxygen after being under a heavy quilt for too long. It was a refreshing take on the 80s kid films where everyone wasn’t a model and happy endings weren’t always a given. Stranger Things took the “rag tag group of outsiders” storyline and gave it new life with some new faces and some underused ones as well. Science fiction colliding with horror colliding with friendship created this year’s best television. To authenticate the nostalgia factor the Duffer Bros tapped Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Austin synth band SURVIVE to score their Netflix original series. The results? Classic 80s sound with deft modern touches. The score grabbed me before I saw a single shot of the actual show. The opening credits scene with the pulsating synthesizer hooked me instantly. The show could’ve been just okay and I would’ve continued on because of that music. Fortunately the show was spot-on.

Truly top notch.

And last but not least, the best among a sea of best: Mac Quayle : Mr. Robot S/T Volume 1 and 2

dsc05008No show surprised me more than Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot. Both season 1 and 2 were original pieces of television, putting the dark world that David Fincher has created in cinema and put it smack dab on cable TV(it’s on USA Network.) One of the most important aspects of the show is the music. It creates this world of musical ones and zeros that go to enhance the paranoid world of our protagonist Elliot Alderson. The music is this electronic pulse that seems to push the characters along in strange and dark places. You don’t know who to trust or what to believe is reality and what is part of the character’s failing mind. Mac Quayle’s scoring technique takes a few cues from the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross playbook, using vintage sound and posing them in a modern world of tech geeks and international computer hacking. Quayle works subtly. It works so well that you don’t notice how good it is till you can enjoy the score completely on its own. It’s a riveting musical world that would appeal to electronic music fans and fans of background noise while you study or melt into the furniture.

Mac Quayle takes the prize as far as I’m concerned. Can’t wait to see what he does from here.


I bought a lot of soundtracks this year, and none were disappointing. These were the 10 that I obsessed over the most, but here’s a few more that were pretty great.

Angelo Badalamenti : Twin Peaks S/T – David Lynch. Angelo Badalamenti. Agent Cooper. ‘Nuff said.

Daredevil S/T : John Palesano and Jessica Jones S/T : Sean Callery – Arrived late into the year, but incredible scores to some more amazing television. Plus bonus for some incredible artwork.

Atticus and Leopold Ross & Bobby Krlic : Almost Holy S/T – Intense score for the intense doc Almost Holy about a priest trying to save drug-addled teens in the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. The score has the electronic leanings of the Ross bros with Krlic’s darker, gothic tones of The Haxan Cloak.

Howard Shore : Nightcrawler S/T – Score for the 2015 thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Released this year through Invada Records, this score stands out as a more leaner, grittier sound than Shore has done in the past.

Brad Fiedel : The Terminator S/T – C’mon, why wouldn’t this end up on a list of favorite scores? It’s been long out-of-print, so some geniuses decided to put it back out on vinyl because they knew suckers like me would buy it up. They were right. I did. And I have no regrets. Fiedel knocked it out of the park with this one. Don’t agree? Then “f**k you, a**hole”.

Up next: Favorite records of 2016(numbers 25-11)

 

 

 

 

 

Gone Girl Gone

I didn’t find myself a fan of Nine Inch Nails until around 2005. Before that I always felt that the nihilism and angst was too overwrought. I couldn’t get into Trent Reznor’s techno/industrial dirges, even when he had a line in a song like “I want to fuck you like an animal/I want to feel you from the inside”. With a line like that I  thought for sure I’d dig it. Turns out, nope. But in 2005 something changed. NINs With Teeth connected with me. I dug the live feel of the record. I dug Reznor’s more clear-eyed vision of anger. He didn’t seem to be submerged in a pool of self-hate anymore. He seemed to be aiming that anger outward, into the world. I could appreciate that. The following year he dropped Year Zero, a little electronic classic in my book. He was aiming directly at the Bush administration and their turning the country towards a “Big Brother”-like future. That very next year Reznor put out Ghosts I-IV. This record was a double album that was a series of soundscapes, presented as little vignettes of music. It truly came across as a score to some long lost movie.

13576319_1033705853403327_465641357_nI think Ghosts was Reznor and Atticus Ross getting their feet wet in the idea of film scoring. In 2010 that idea came to fruition when Reznor and Ross scored David Fincher’s The Social Network. That score was a heavy dose of synthesizer and cinematic techno. It’s a stunning score, and one that helped to move that film along wonderfully. With Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I wasn’t as impressed. A well done film, but the Swedish original was a much better portrayal of Stieg Larsson’s novel. And Noomi Rapace captured Lisbeth’s analytical and methodical personality better than Roony Mara. The Reznor/Ross score was good, but as a standalone it was a rather repetitive listen. Fortunately Fincher worked with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross again with 2014s Gone Girl. For my ears, it’s the finest work Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have done thus far. It was also one hell of a movie.

So just a quick aside about David Fincher. I had been on board with Fincher ever since I saw Se7en in the theater back in 1995. I felt it was a masterful film; dark, taught, and suspenseful as hell. Andrew Kevin Walker’s script helped, but Fincher’s vision came through. I loved The Game as well with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. Then in 1999 he laid on us Fight Club, a tour de force(at the time) of gutter violence, jet black humor, and a biting social commentary on conformity and commodity. So then a few years later, after the wife and I had a couple kids, we pop in the Fight Club DVD one night for shits and giggles and I got maybe 35 minutes into it and realized I absolutely hated that film. At first I thought I’d lost my taste for Fincher, but I realized it wasn’t him but the source material. Chuck Palahniuk’s novel left a nasty taste in my mouth. Maybe I was getting too old for that much snarkiness or the sharp sarcasm just wasn’t getting through my brain anymore, but I’d just as soon line someone’s litter box with that movie than watch it again. Fortunately Fincher got me back with Zodiac. Then from The Social Network on he’s been back in my good graces. With Gone Girl he seems to have solidified his visionary style. The story, without giving anything away, is about a husband and wife who’s marriage and lives crumble when the wife goes missing and the husband is the prime suspect in her disappearance. The story is told in various flashbacks that tell differing views on their marriage and relationships together. It’s one of those movies that grabs you by the short and curlies and never lets go.

13576437_1033705830069996_864947323_nBesides the film itself, the score by Reznor and Ross is understated, sometimes minimal, and ever evolving. Listening to it today I’m reminded of so many different composers’ styles. Unlike their scores for The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl is an understated piece. There’s more space in the pieces that allow it to breathe and stretch out around you, slowly filling in the nooks and crannies. Musically it’s like a cross between John Cage, Philip Glass, and Thomas Newman. With Reznor you always get Reznor. He’s never trying to be anyone else but himself. He hides beautiful melodies under the moaning of distortion, feedback, and drone. Ross takes the individual elements that Reznor gathers and turns them in a sonic tapestry. One of my absolute favorite pieces on this double LP is “Like Home”. It’s this slowly building piece of agonizing beauty that as it moves along begins to be engulfed by a sonic howl, until the mournful synth melody that opens the piece is completely devoured. For me, this piece sums up the whole feel of the film itself. A quiet turmoil that ends up swallowing itself.

While I’ve come to appreciate the older work of Trent Reznor and NIN, I’m still more partial to his later output. In particular, his work as a film composer has made me a super fan. His Gone Girl S/T is one of the best film scores I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a great standalone piece as well, and it’s enjoyed many spins on my turntable since I first picked it up(and it will probably continue to get spins for some time.)

Editor’s Note: I’d only recently watched the film Gone Girl. I’ve had the score quite some time before the movie made its way to my Blu Ray player. This is actually a good way to approach a film score. If you can listen to it on its own before you see the film you can come to appreciate its place in the film far more than had you never heard it going into the movie.

Just my geeky opinion, folks.