The soundtrack institution of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross return to their well of ominousness and employ an array of techniques to convey anxiety, impending danger, and discomfort.
Starting with 2008’s sprawling collection of instrumental work Ghosts I-IV (released under the Nine Inch Nails aegis) and accelerating with 2010’s Oscar-winning score for David Fincher’s The Social Network, the instrumental side of Trent Reznorhas effectively shared equal billing with the more traditional industrial rock that made him a superstar. Never one for half measures, Reznor clearly sees the film-soundtrack work done alongside his longtime composing partner Atticus Ross as a chance to flex. “We aim for these to play like albums that take you on a journey and can exist as companion pieces to the films and as their own separate works,” Reznor wrote recently. He’s not kidding: The duo’s score for Fincher’s 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for instance, is 15 minutes longer than the movie itself.
In announcing the release of Bird Box, the score for Netflix’s treacly Sandra Bullock survival-horror film of the same name, Reznor described it as a way of presenting the audience with “a significant amount of music and conceptual sound” that didn’t make the film’s final cut. Even then, that “Abridged” parenthetical in the title points toward “a more expansive” version of the album due later this year. It’s just as well since what Reznor and Ross have created is better than the movie they created it for. It does exactly what good soundtracks are capable of doing, and what they expressly intend for it to do: Emerge as a rewarding experience in its own right.