Looper soundtrack review
|REVIEWS - AUDIO REVIEWS|
An unconventional yet brilliant score for an unconventional yet brilliant film...
Composers take a great risk when they eschew traditional orchestral instruments in favor of seeking out organic – or for that matter, inorganic – sounds in order to create a wholly original musical backdrop for a film. Drumming on plastic pipes and garbage cans or jingling chains will sound like just that, which is fine if that’s what you’re attempting to achieve in your final product. However, the creative person, the one who sees the real musicality in those sounds, can bring out the real beauty in them. They can nurture them and coax them into something spectacular. In fact, if the right person thinks outside of the box and takes the time to look for the music in the mundane, they will produce a music that can be described as completely original. Nathan Johnson is just that sort of madman, and he has created an intriguing, beautiful and stimulating score for his cousin Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller Looper.
Cousins Rian and Nathan have collaborated on several projects, and Nathan seems to have found his niche working with what they describe as a “junkyard orchestra”. Johnson utilizes everyday household utensils, gadgets and dinnerware, as well as using other ordinary things he finds for percussion. According to Nathan, when they set to work on the film and score,
“it quickly became clear that our starting point was going to be drums…but not drums as we know them…and we began going on these rhythm reconnaissance missions, searching for metal and plumbing and plastic. Basically what you find in a hardware store.”
And instead of recording right in the studio, Nathan says,
“LA has an impressive selection of parking garages. We found one in particular that had an amazing natural reverb and then we just went to town recording metal and chains and eventually all of these car door slams that would become our custom kettle drum kit.”
Nathan takes those unique sounds and digitally manipulates them into something new, and blends those found sounds with traditional instruments, the final product being this incredibly fascinating wall of sound that involves industrial fans, treadmills and even guns, as well as strings, woodwinds and piano. Most of the pieces on the soundtrack sound like controlled noise, but it’s more than that, in that those sounds – once manipulated and layered – sound like the real world, but with a touch of surrealism.
There are also a few more musically attuned tracks for those who don’t go for the avant garde. “Mining for Memories” provides some return to the orchestra, blended superbly with the newly-created sounds. “Her Face” is a beautifully written piece that features piano, strings and woodwinds, while Nathan’s junkyard creations add an interesting depth. The piano is again featured in “Revelations”, before turning toward the lower strings and finally breaking down into a nearly discordant wall of sound. “La Belle Aurore” gives us a cacophony of blasting horns that seem slightly dissonant, but never too much so.
Both Johnsons describe Looper as an action movie, and the score certainly reflects that notion. It is an exciting album to hear, not only for the uniqueness of it, but for the tempo, and the way that Nathan has seamlessly blended his homemade sounds with the traditional, creating something that is at once strange yet vaguely familiar, and never disappointing. I’m certain that given the plot of the film and the subject matter, this is the only score that could fit such a story. The soundtrack may not be the first choice in listening for the casual music fan, but for those looking for something fresh, unique and quite honestly thrilling, I would recommend this 100%. It is one of those rare scores anymore that doesn’t rely on tried and true, film score-by-numbers composing. Nathan Johnson has created a masterpiece with this score, and I look forward to any future projects he may work on.
Looper Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now from La-La Records.
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