Ben Salisbury / Geoff Barrow - Men (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Music Album Reviews

Ben Salisbury / Geoff Barrow - Men (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Music Album Reviews
On their latest collaboration with director Alex Garland, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury craft an unsettling vocal-driven score to match the creepy idyll of Men.

Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury have proven themselves to be masterful architects of slickly intricate cinematic scores. Their abilities emerge from their complementary talents: Barrow is famous for his distinctively sullen and sultry percussion-laden sounds (most notably with Portishead), while Salisbury is an Emmy-nominated television and film composer, deftly attuned to the structural cues necessary for any score’s skeleton. Their first formal collaboration on DROKK: Music Inspired by Mega City One was audacious, glistening with Vangelis-influenced analog synths and roaring with the heightened dimensions of the Judge Dredd comics from which it was adapted. Their work on this score introduced the duo to Alex Garland, who wrote and produced 2012’s Dredd, and would enlist Barrow and Salisbury to score his directorial debut, Ex Machina.

Their collaboration has continued through 2018’s Annihilation, the 2020 television series Devs, and now, Garland’s latest movie, Men. Unlike the complex sci-fi worlds of Ex Machina or Annihilation, the world of Men is plainly ordinary. It’s set in the English countryside, where Harper (Jessie Buckley) retreats after her husband James (Paapa Essiedu) falls from their home to his death. Was it an accident or suicide? Harper does not know. Nonetheless, she finds herself weighed by the shackles of guilt. After strange men—all of whom appear to resemble her odd landlord Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear)—begin to stalk her, the idyll quickly unravels.

With this score, Barrow and Salisbury’s intention is to dramatize the familiar, such that even ordinariness—the comfort of the home, a sympathetic glance from a stranger, or the sway of leaves—becomes disquieting. To do so, Barrow and Salisbury focus on the voice. It is one thing to speak, and another to be heard, and whenever Harper tries to express her discomfort within her new setting, she’s quickly brushed aside. Likewise, Barrow and Salisbury’s score heavily involves manipulated vocals that climb to seemingly dolorous stretches of pain throughout. They rise to screechy, hysterical heights, and fall to lamenting, unsettling lows. These vocals are desolate, as if trying to push against the condemnation of incredulity. They, like Harper, scream—but who listens?

Harper confides to a priest that she feels “haunted” by the ghost of her husband. “Haunted” also describes this score, which forms around the negative space of silence. Like Men—sparsely populated, save for Harper and these few creepy men—Barrow and Salisbury’s score strays away from formal complexity. Vocals and instrumentation begin isolated, then layer—but before anything becomes too intricate, the score sputters back into the vacuum of silence, beginning anew. Even the most anguished howls fade just as they had begun: like wisps. “Runaway / Crash” begins with a four-note riff which then combines with a simple synth melody, ascending rapidly in intensity, before a sudden stop.

The second—and shortest—track, “A Country Walk,” provides a gasp of optimism, opening with bright pipe organ chords. The organ is a nod to the church, and to the dimension of pain Harper feels: so deep, so implacable, that it feels divinely wrought. “A Country Walk” captures Harper at the beginning of Men, witnessing the lushness of the countryside, and hopeful that she might escape James’ lingering memory. But as the increasingly damned bellows on Barrow and Salisbury’s score express, escaping one’s past isn’t so easy.

Earlier on in the movie, Harper stands before a tunnel and sings a note. The tunnel somehow echoes her voice back perfectly. While they use Harper’s literal echo in the film in “Runaway / Crash,” Barrow and Salisbury also use the echo as a generative structure. Anxiety in this score is etched, like many frantic echoes, in short riffs and repetitiousness. On tracks like “Tunnel Escape” and “Fuck This,” these echo-like structures distort into into what sounds like the adrenaline-soaked throb of a heart trapped in a nightmare.

For Harper, that nightmare is voicelessness. She spends the film screaming: in church, underneath water, watching James plummet to his death outside her window. Even so, we don’t hear her screams—in the film, they’re usually muted. But Barrow and Salisbury’s score screams for her. Tucked into the final seconds of “Birth,” the final track, are plaintive two-note echoes that descend, as if resigning to their fate of damnation. Even if we hear Harper, it’s too late.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Ben Salisbury / Geoff Barrow - Men (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Music Album Reviews Ben Salisbury / Geoff Barrow - Men (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on June 10, 2022 Rating: 5


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