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This Week in Sound

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Reznor and Ross, Bones and All

A new score

There is a new movie score out from the team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: Bones and All, the “coming-of-age romantic horror road film” by director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, Suspiria) and screenwriter David Kajganich (The Terror, Suspiria).

Early on in Reznor’s film-score career, 20-plus years after the debut of his band, Nine Inch Nails, he made a comment about how he didn’t intend to do many scores. I need to find the reference, but he was quoted as saying something along the lines of not necessarily having enough “ideas” (I believe that was his word) to do more than maybe one a year, if that. Fortunately, his ideas have flourished, and we’ve had another 14 scores — all with Ross, who has numerous of his own, as well — since the breakthrough that was 2010’s Social Network.

Bones and All is an hour and nearly a quarter of characteristically exquisite attention to detail. The melodies are simple. The textures are rarely muddied. The motifs are persistent. And it’s all committed as if the microphones are inside the instruments. Just when you think a particular string part is getting routinized, you realize the sheer variety of nuance with which Reznor and Ross are working.

And then there is “Unfinished Business,” the 22nd of the Bones and All soundtrack album’s 24 tracks. It is hypnotic, even darkly psychedelic, with its industrial noises, plucked strings, warped vocals, and shimmering faulty-circuit feedback. And then those voices come fully into sonic view, and they are, by all appearances, lifted straight from the movie itself. Diegetic and non-diegetic — on-screen and off — converge emphatically. These are horrific sounds (it is a horror film; it is about cannibalism), all gnashing and moaning. The voices peek out of the thick noise bed like arms violently grasping for prey.

And then they disappear. At one point in “Unfinished Business” there’s a gap, a pause, a near silence, just the quiet of what I presume to be the dark of night, and then the score comes back strong. It’s a startling moment in a score that otherwise hints at rather than underlines the goings-on. I’m not a big horror-movie viewer, even though I do count George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as one of my favorite movies of all time, but I’ll be watching Bones and All at some point soon for sure.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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