Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pretty Great Machine

I’ve yet to see David Fincher’s The Social Network, though I hope to by the time the new week is out (the wages of living in an isolated mountain town, a situation that will soon be remedied). Instead I’ve been digesting the film’s soundtrack, a collaboration between Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Ross I know next to nothing about, but I’ve enjoyed Nine Inch Nails for several years. The Social Network soundtrack is an especial treat then, as I think it’s the best thing Reznor’s done in a long time.

Being entirely instrumental, its most obvious kin in Reznor’s discography is the Nine Inch Nails double album Ghosts, which Ross had a hand in. There are said to be a couple reworked tracks from Ghosts ("A Familiar Taste" and "Magnetic", for instance) though the only one I've noticed is the low synth melody that drives "In Motion," which starts off sounding like the deep piano dirge of 32 Ghosts IV and immediately twists it into something much bouncier. Though direct lifts and reworkings from Ghosts are less than occasional, the album as a whole shares its dark ambiance, but tosses in some synth-poppy elements and is much more focused. Freed of Reznor's too often juvenile lyrics, the music is given room and attention to shine that hasn't been heard since The Fragile, over ten years ago.

There really aren't any bad tracks among the 19 included. Some standouts include the tension-building "Intriguing Possibilities" and the aforementioned "In Motion," whose jaunty low synth is danced around by what at times almost sounds like a coins sound effect from a Mario game. The primary melody of "Pieces Form the Whole," my favorite track, brings to mind Kraftwerk's "Computer Love" and, ludicrously, the Zeal Theme from Chrono Trigger (listen to how the melodies in these all resolve themselves). The reworking of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is a delight, and "Magnetic" builds up to include some great driving, jangling guitars. The last three tracks are quite different in tone, going from the self-explanatory "Complication With Optimistic Outcome" to the brooding "The Gentle Hum of Anxiety" to a sort of resigned sadness in "Soft Trees Break the Fall." I'm most looking forward to hearing these three in the context of the movie, but the music as a whole is so strong, it'll be interesting to see how it complements David Fincher's visuals and Aaron Sorkin's story.

The past few days I've been putting the soundtrack for The Social Network on in the background only to have my attention caught by a musical hook or some interesting texture in the songs. It's just that good, and the Amazon download price of $5 (I got it for $3 in the initial 48-hour release window) borders on larceny. But that's how Trent Reznor wants it, and for that he should be friended.

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