Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - Bird Box (Abridged) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - Bird Box (Abridged)

by paul_guyet Rating:9 Release Date:2019-01-01
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - Bird Box (Abridged)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - Bird Box (Abridged)

Trent Reznor has been creating cinematic instrumental music for over twenty-five years. At first, on 1992’s Broken EP and 1994’s The Downward Spiral, these pieces served as small gasps of breath during the intense, industrial onslaught surrounding them, but on 1999’s double album The Fragile, of which nearly a third was instrumental, these moments became a larger, more integral element to his work. In 2008, Reznor released Ghosts I-IV, a 36-track instrumental album which he described as “soundtracks for daydreams”. It also served as his open letter to filmmakers signaling his interest in scoring major motion pictures. Since 2010, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have scored several films, but Bird Box  stands out among them as their first horror film.

Reznor and Ross understand that restraint is just as, or even more important than, release. Yes, Bird Box is their first horror score, but if everything is screaming guitars, exploding percussion, and bleeding synths, the listener merely goes numb, but craft some dark corners…small spaces in which to catch one’s breath, with which to instill a quiet, reflective moment of deceptive security and solitude, and the terror is brought to new heights when it does finally come crashing through the wall.

It’s clear from the first track of Bird Box that this is the score Nine Inch Nails fans have been waiting for for almost a decade, because while 2010’s Social Network score was a masterwork, it’s almost entirely incongruous with the subject matter; based on the music, one expects to see Mark Zuckerberg covered in bits of hair and brain whilst bludgeoning nuns to death with a ball peen hammer, not typing intently and being a shitty friend.

The cold, repeating piano, blurred voices, and twisted electro-organic sounds of birds and insects on the opener, “Outside”, immediately abandon the listener in a vast, dark place, filled with tension and danger. They are alone and vulnerable. “Undercurrents" is menace and anxiety and lethal pursuit made sonic. "Looking Forwards And Backwards" has whispered of "Parallel Timeline With Alternate Outcome” from 2011’s frigid, sprawling score for Fincher’sThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and allows for a few uneasy breaths; same with “Sleep Deprivation” and “A Hidden Moment”, that last which could have been a holdover from 2002’s almost acoustic Still. "And It Keeps On Coming” is the sound of unending despair. You will never be safe or warm or loved again, and "Close Encounters” is everything I’d ever wanted in a Reznor/Ross horror score in one track, the simple, subtle, effective violin motif, melting Yamaoka drone, and the teeth-chattering piano trill racing around the edge of everything. It’s a perfect, nerve-jangling track before the floor gives way and some monstrous thing begins lumbering after you. Everything is summed up with “Last Thing Left”, a sombre, beautiful piano and keyboard piece. It’s not a happy ending, but it’s an ending, the nightmare has finally come to a close.

There was concern that the music for Bird Box might have been phoned in, as it was composed on the road, in between dates on Nine Inch Nails' recent Cold and Black and Infinite tour, but that is unmistakably not the case. An artfully constructed and masterfully executed score from start to finish and something all horror film composers are sure to emulate for years to come*, Bird Box is the best use of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ scoring abilities since their first foray into this particular area of musical composition almost a decade ago.

* Whether Trent Reznor likes that or not.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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