Album of the Week: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (NULL)

Album of the Week:

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (NULL)

Written and recorded in collaboration with Atticus Ross, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Trent Reznor’s soundtrack for David Fincher’s upcoming film adaptation of the Stieg Larsson novel of the same name.  You’ve probably already heard the album’s opening number: Reznor, Ross, and Karen O’s industrial cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”  But, while nodding cheekily to the film’s Scandinavian setting, this cover doesn’t have much to do with what follows on the rest of the album, which stunningly demonstrates Reznor’s continual willingness to transform himself from the angst-ridden leader of industrial rock pioneers Nine Inch Nails (NIN) to a composer of minimalistic, ambient soundscapes.

If you’ve been paying attention to Reznor’s art over the past few years, his use of ambient music on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should come as no surprise.  Both collaborations with Ross, two of Reznor’s most recent releases—NIN’s 2008 album Ghosts I-IV and the 2010 Academy Award-winning score for Fincher’s film The Social Network—successfully showcased the artistic heights that he can attain when he turns down the volume, eliminates the vocals, and lets texture and atmosphere take over.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo expands on the achievement of Ghosts I – IV  and The Social Network by inviting more audience participation.  Not only does it tease the imaginations of the readers of Larsson’s novel (will the track “A Pause for Reflection” feature in a scene devoted to Mikael, Lisbeth, or both of them?), but it’s also one of the most original soundtrack releases in the history of recorded music.  Clocking in at a whopping 173 minutes and 34 seconds, Reznor and Ross’s recording is longer than Fincher’s film itself.  The album, in its utter length, places those listeners who have read the novel inside of Fincher’s head, having to decide which specific tracks to use to provide atmosphere for which specific scenes.

With so much fascinating music available to him, Fincher’s decisions must have been extremely tough.  Indeed, Reznor and Ross have created a minimalist masterwork of ambient delicacy and subtlety.  They base most of their tracks on synth washes and pulses of percussion as well as on Reznor’s impressionistic keyboards, which recall both the compositions of one of his primary influences—the French modernist composer Erik Satie—and the softer, meditative sections of the otherwise extremely heavy industrial rock of NIN’s The Downward Spiral (1994) and The Fragile (1999).

Through Reznor and Ross’s minimalist method, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo realizes the goal of the most memorable ambient music: the creation of a series of sonic landscapes in which the listener can stop, meditate, and imagine.  It’s up to the listener to decide whether he/she wants to imagine the cyberpunk Lisbeth Salander blasting down Sweden’s snow-framed highways, picture Mikael Blomkvist typing the Vangers’ family history on his laptop, or brood on his/her existence.

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  1. Don't forget "How to Destroy Angels," Trent and Atticus' other collaboration with Trent's wife Mariqueen.

  2. Thanks, Jon, for the comment. I didn't include HDA because they sound more like industrial rock-era NIN than Reznor's other, ambient collaborations with Ross. I'm looking forward to the HDA full-length!

  3. Pingback: How To Destroy Angels Full Length Album Coming Soon | Cultural Transmogrifier Magazine

  4. Pingback: Trent Reznor – In Depth Interview with THR | Cultural Transmogrifier Magazine

  5. Another article on Trent Reznor – this one focussing on his relationship with David Fincher – can be found here:

  6. Reznor's Quake soundtrack from 1996 makes for an interesting comparison with this one – the use of ambient soundscapes for mood generation is in high prevalence long before he teamed up with Atticus. And like TGWTDT, it opens with an industrial scorcher…

  7. Pingback: Trent Reznor – In Depth Interview with THR | Cultural Transmogrifier Magazine

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