MONDAY @ THE MUSIC – REQUIEM FOR A DREAM OST

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This was the very first Official Soundtrack that I ever laid my hands on. Thanks eBay! It even comes in a nifty slip-case, as of course this was before the age of releasing music digitally. Having seen this movie countless times, there are many tracks that remind me of various intense scenes from the movie. If I recall correctly, these memorable harmonies have been used in everything from dub-step remixes to episodes of Top Gear, but nothing will stand the test of time as well as the original score, written for this movie by Clint Mansell and performed by the Kronos Quartet. Darren Aronofsky is obviously a fan of Mansell, as he has worked on almost every film of Darren’s, including Pi.

As soon as the violins open the album, in my mind’s eye I instantly see the two main characters hauling a television down to the markets, making the long trek to sell it for drug money. Boy do I know that feeling well. No album can give me chills like this one can. The second track is deceptive in its electronic energy, representing the relief of having scored, and the initial excitement opiates give you. It doesn’t last long, as much like the drug the next track is somber, empty…. the feeling one gets after they have used and can barely keep their eyes open.

They call heroin a downer for a reason.

This is yet another original score that I can listen to on its own and thoroughly enjoy, as it is varied and maintains a steady pace for the duration, despite switching from classical violins, to electronic sounds, to ambient sections with ease. Apart from sudden eclectic moments that often only last a few seconds, a slow pace is maintained for the entire album. The contrasting styles of music, along with these sudden changes in tempo creates an album that is never boring. Each song flows seamlessly, and having seen the movie so many times, if I close my eyes I can often see the scene that matches the track.

The album takes on a whole new sound when the classical sounds are mixed with the electronic elements, creating a very unique sound-scape that is hard to forget. The mood of the album is almost bi-polar, especially when the track ‘Bialy and lox Conga’ plays, a seemingly happy jingle that lasts for all of 45 seconds before it ends abruptly with the sound of a door slamming shut, and we are brought back down as those violins start again.

This Conga tune signifies a change in tone (and also the start of Fall in the film) and the tracks that follow gradually sound more urgent, but also at times more complacent and ambient, with new, more ominous sounding harmonies being introduced. The further into the album we get, the longer the build up to these recurring themes are, both classical and electronic, increasing their impact each time round. This consistency is again broken by a variation on the Conga song used earlier; this time around it sounds distorted and discordant, illustrating the separation from reality the characters of the film are experiencing. Named appropriately Bugs Got a Devilish Grin Conga, it takes the merry sound of the original and puts a decidedly sinister spin on it, and like the first time round, it ends with the slamming of a door, as we move into Winter.

Unsurprisingly then, the last third of the album feels cold and distant, and at times abrasive. The melodic motifs that come and go are now distorted and take on a ominous, altered sound, much like the second Conga track. The urgency of each track rises further and the juxtaposition of soft ambient sounds with intensified, modified versions of earlier themes is extremely effective in creating an unsettling and confusing atmosphere. This is perfectly illustrated by the again appropriately named track, The Beginning of the End.

The atmosphere becomes much darker for the following four tracks, ending on a very sombre note. The party is well and truly over.

This is the perfect soundtrack, tonally representing the three seasons (Summer, Fall, Winter) that are used as chapters in the movie in a truly unique way. This will forever be my favourite official soundtrack, as the ride from the opening violins to the violent and jarring tracks near the end is much like the movie. I could listen to this on repeat for an entire day if I wanted to. I wish more soundtracks had this type of variety.