"What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil? Perhaps more
dreadfully, what happens if our dreams shuffle off before us? When there are no things in
heaven and earth dreamt of in a philosophy save for the next hit of toxic chemicals to
keep reality at bay.
I have not yet seen the film, but by all accounts it's a brilliant and harrowing assay of
the downward spiral precipitated by drug-addiction. And the soundtrack arrives with an
enormous reputation. For mine, it's an enormous disappointment.
Composer Clint Mansell garnered reverential acclaim for his work on Pi (also a
collaboration with Requiem director Darren Aronofsky), and no-one seems prepared to
truncate the diameter of his halo. Here, his squarely pulsing string figures are
reminiscent as a concept of Michael Nyman's scores for Peter Greenaway, but with
approximately 3.1416 percent of the effect.
Tonally, the music is interesting. A string quartet melded with techno-electronica is a
fascinating palette. Sadly, Mansell hardly dips his compositional brush into more but the
blandest tints. This soundtrack is an enticing aural framework with a blank canvass
Which means it simply doesn't work divorced from visual context. A life bereft of dreams
is hopelessly dull. So are soundtracks like this bereft of specific images. If its aim is
to render in sound a trudge towards an awful inevitability it succeeds. As underscore it
probably creates the right milieu. Alone, its recurring phrases, jarring minimalism and
heavy reliance on experimental timbres are as easy to sit through as an extended recording
of a jackhammer.
Kronos Quartet do produce an impressive sound. Thick harmonic beds and mordantly incisive
stocatto interweave with samples of scratches, scrapes and ominous rustling. The curiosity
value suffices for a while, but not for long. There are all styles of art that are
harrowing and riveting. This music is harrowing and tedious. Or perhaps harrowing because
it's so tedious.
Two marvellously chaotic and all too brief sax & percussion-rich extravagances from
The Moonrats (with vocal cameo from Aronofsky) at least interrupt the predictability. They
are vivid concoctions of oxymoronic sound: sublime dissonance, smooth syncopation and
seemingly familiar melodic surprises.
Then all too late, Meltdown, the antepenultimate cue featuring erratic tempo shifts and a
coda that mimics its title, suggests the not only experimental but also entertaining score
that might have been. What a shame.
There's no denying that as the backdrop of a descent into devastation this soundtrack does
create an appropriate ambience. Like glorified muzak for a one-way elevator to the
Published: February 8, 2001