It’s never been a better time to be a popular artist who wants to write film music. While it’s certainly not a new thing, there has been a bevy of musicians that have moved into the scoring world, such as Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers and Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails). Now it’s the turn of Orbital, who have scored the remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s crime thriller Pusher.
Now for those in the know, like some of the previous acts, Orbital produce electronic dance music. Sadly, this is a warning to some who will immediately discount the music because of this, so this is me asking you to follow Kuato and “open your mind.”
Although I haven’t seen the film, by all accounts it’s a pretty chaotic flick, which is reflected in the moody and atmospheric score. With a dance music act doing the music, people may assume that it’s going to be wall-to-wall bass and thumping “choons”, but it’s surprisingly diverse, and at times subdued and emotional. Orbital have certainly done their homework.
What they’ve really done well here is used their palette to really illustrate the tone and thematic aspects. There’s a certain sense here of a downward spiral, a descent into darkness and despair that goes on and on, but is punctuated by fighting back, a veritable clawing at the walls, all of which is well conveyed musically.
That’s not to say the entire album is doom and gloom, although at times it really does get dark. Not like ‘I forgot to turn the hall light on’ dark, actual ‘tenth level of hell’ dark to the point where it sounds like a horror film, with a horrendous wall of sound at times that’s not easy to escape. But no, there are plenty of moments that are suitable for you to nod your head to in the car, or irritate your neighbours with. There are even euphoric moments, although these are few and far between.
It has to be stressed that it’s not really fair to compare Pusher with something like TRON Legacy, as the latter was a hybrid of electronics and orchestral arrangements, whereas there’s nothing traditionally symphonic in Orbital’s music. However, because it is all dance music, there are a couple of pieces which are more traditional to the electronic music genre, which – while they aren’t really to my taste – I can’t really criticise, especially as it’s probably authentic to the film and its subject matter.
If you keep an open mind, Pusher is an intriguing score. It’s a challenging work at times, with the darkness and chaos appropriately overwhelming, but it’s also a very rewarding listen. And it certainly makes me hopeful that Orbital produce more scores in the future.
PUSHER is out now from Silva Screen Records
Words: Charlie Brigden