There are musical collaborations that last just long enough to compose and publish one single record. Others, on the other hand, become so succesfull that they not only generate a significant discography but become, in the end, comparable to a permament ensemble. The collaboration between Trent Reznor, who’s the the founder and leader of the industrial rock project Nine Inch Nails, and the English producer and musician Atticus Ross, who actually produced many of the recent releases by NIN, certainly belongs to the second category. Reznor and Ross started composing music together in 2010, when they wrote the soundtrack of the movie The Social Network, for which they won the Academy Award. From that moment, Reznor and Ross have produced together many other appreciated soundtracks for movies such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Gone Girl (2014) and Patriots Day (2016). In the early days of 2019 the duo has released a new album with the official soundtrack of the movie Bird Box, which is the post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Susanne Bier and premiered on last November 2018. As a matter of fact, the two have specialized in composing music for thrilling and spine-tingling films with high emotional content.
In the years to come, probably Bird Box will be remembered more for the involontary global Internet meme that it generated than for the movie itself. In these days, in fact, the web is still flooded by amatorial videos and funny pictures where all kinds of people are blindfolded while trying to do day-to-day activities. That’s because the movie tells of a woman and her children who must make it through a series of locations and events while blindfolded, in order to avoid seeing some supernatural entity which apparently moves people to to commit suicide. As said, this narrative idea has taken an unexpected comic twist.
If this will be the fate of the movie, I don’t believe that Bird Box will remain famous for its soundtrack, and it’s a little shame because the music that has been composed by Reznor and Ross is of the highest quality. To some extent, this event could be seen as the confirmation of the capacity of the duo to choose films of which, for one reason or another, people talk a lot about.
From a musical point of view, Bird Box‘s soundtrack fits in that style of dark ambient and experimental electronic music that we have already encountered in the previous works from Reznor and Ross. The record offers to the listeners an hour of disturbing atmospheres with layers of synthesizers that are blended with rarefied sounds from piano and other instruments. The songs proceed with extremely slow rhythms and incorporate myriads of different sound effects and field recordings. The result is a music which transmits anxiety and insecurity, perfect for accompanying the scenes of the movie but valid also for being listened as a stand-alone product. In this sense, the album is in all respect a self-consistent artistic product that we can appreciate and judge just like one of the many dark ambient records that are commonly published by other artists. And it’s also a very interesting one.
Based on the description I just gave of the music of Bird Box, one could argue that the LP contains more or less the same basic ingredients that Reznor and Ross used for most of their previous soundtracks. And it’s partially true, because the atmospheres evoked by this new LP are not so different from those already heard for Gone Girl or The Social Network. What’s relatively different in the case of the new album is that the tracks have a internal development and also a structure that are tangibly more complete than what we heard in the past. For the first time it seems that all the tracks of the OST may be considered as “real songs” rather than pieces of music that were conceived just to accompany a specific scene of the movie.
This didn’t happen by chance, however. On one side the two musicians evidently experienced a moment of special musical inspiration. On the other side, it’s no secret that Reznor and Ross decided to publish in this LP the original versions of all of the songs, regardless of which parts eventually were used in the actual movie. That was definitely a good move for the listeners, and it’s also the reason for the title they gave to the LP: Bird Box (Abridged), where “abridged” refers to the fact that the music in the record is that recorded prior to the final editing for the film.
In summary: Reznor and Ross’ new release is a particularly inspired record that won’t disappoint the lovers of dark ambient music, whether they have seen the film or not. If I should express my rating, I would give the album a full 7/10.
Bird Box (Abridged) is available for streaming on Spotify.
My favorite song are the long opening track Outside, which sets the atmosphere of the whole record and also introduces most of the melodic elements of the sountrack, the haunting song What isn’t anymore and the short interlude A Hidden Moment.