Original Score Composed and Produced by: Nathan Johnson
Core Team: Son Lux, Chris Mears, and Eric Dawson Tate
Field Recordings Sourced and Produced by: Nathan Johnson
Virtual Instruments Designed and Programmed by: Nathan Johnson and Son Lux
Orchestra: The Magik * Magik Orchestra
Release Date: 2012
Format: Audio CD and digital download
Number of Discs: 1 (19 tracks, approx. 48 minutes)
Label: La-La Land Records
Cut Narrative and La-La Land Records have announced the release of the Looper soundtrack digitally on September 18th and on CD (limited edition 3000 units, containing bonus material) on September 25, 2012. “When [writer/director] Rian [Johnson] and I first started dreaming up what the score was going to sound like, we knew it had to be really different,” said Johnson. “Looper is a big action movie, so we knew we needed the score to be massive, but we didn’t want to go down the road of traditional big action movie scores.” “Nathan’s solution,” said Rian Johnson, “was to build massive-sounding instruments out of digitally manipulated found sounds, and it worked beautifully.”
As a composer, producer, art director, and songwriter, Nathan Johnson‘s innovative film scores and hybrid media performances have consistently blurred the lines between stage, screen, music, and narrative. Best known for his unconventional work in film and music, Nathan favors modified, organic instrumentation combined with unique approaches to recording and performing. Nathan’s creative partnership with writer/director (and cousin) Rian Johnson started when the two were children and has continued throughout their professional lives.
Looper is perhaps Johnson’s most unique score to date, featuring a host of indecipherable instruments along with intertwining rhythms and textures. In preparation for the project, Nathan began gathering a wide range of field recordings and then he and his team created a sort of playable, hybrid found-sound orchestra using those original recordings. The results were combined with live strings and horns to produce deep textures featuring pitched industrial fans, tuned treadmills, and a wide range of intricate rhythmic elements — all looping and cycling on themselves at various speeds.
In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. Tristar Pictures presents Looper, in theaters on September 28, 2012. Cut Narrative and La-La Land Records will be releasing the Looper soundtrack digitally on September 18th and on CD on September 25, 2012.
I’ve been lucky enough to review a variety of soundtracks this year. Lucky, because they’ve all been terrific, and lucky because they’ve all been quite different from each other. The Looper Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, however brings a whole new meaning to “different.” This soundtrack was created with strings and horns. And tuned treadmills. And tubing, door slams, a music stand, and a lot of other found, created, and digitally manipulated sounds and instruments with names like “gat kit” and “gurgledanger”. It. Is. Awesome.
The tracks are absolutely, wonderfully chock full of percussion. If you’re a fan of the stage show/concert Stomp, and especially if you love the sound as much as the look of that kind of performance, then you’ll love this. You don’t need to know how they created the various sounds to recognize that they are not traditional instruments. You can in fact spend some amount of time guessing at the components – my favorite from my notes is “finger print on metal tub?” – and for the best experience, you really owe it to yourself to listen with headphones or earbuds, so that you don’t miss any of the subtleties of the very unusual-as-usual sounds that Johnson has incorporated.
But don’t think that there is a complete lack of melody here. The strings and horns consistently lay down the framework, even if it’s a single note, around which every other sound bounces and pings and drives. The heavy, low, ominous horns often remind me of the horn-heavy tracks on Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek soundtrack, and they work well here. There’s a great deal of variety in the emotional tone of the tracks, though there is an overriding sense of tension, urgency, and especially full-on action. You’ll find yourself bouncing your head often, to the driving beat found on so many tracks.
But there are some bits of quiet suspense, and sometimes poignancy and tenderness and sentimentality – is that a music box? no, a celeste! – that gives the listener an infrequent rest, along with a chance to hear even more unusual sounds, before returning to the action of this action movie soundtrack.
Always, though, the emphasis, at least to this former percussionist, is on the rhythm and sound over anything melodic. This must have been so much fun to create. Of course it took days, weeks, and months of hard work, but the result is a completely mesmerizing – and entertaining – listening experience.
I haven’t yet seen the movie, though I intend to, so that did not influence my listening experience. I know now, though, that I will have an enhanced appreciation for the movie because of my familiarity with, and admiration for, this unique soundtrack.
My review copy was a digital download so I can’t speak to the packaging of the CD, but the digital booklet is nice. It includes an entry by composer Nathan Johnson as well as one by Looper director/writer Rian Johnson, a few stills from the movie, a few stills from the production of the soundtrack, and the soundtrack credits, which are somewhat illuminating.
The tracks themselves are fairly short; only two are just over 5 minutes, one is over 4 minutes, and the rest are shorter. Even within the tracks there are big enough changes that they could be broken down to several even shorter tracks. The point is, as with so many soundtracks, the individual tracks and the CD as a whole are short enough, and there is enough action and variety within each track, for my teeny tiny attention span to appreciate and enjoy thoroughly. The tracks do stand alone, so that you can pick out favorites and listen to them individually without them getting cut off abruptly at the end as some other soundtrack entries do.
If you’re looking for some great ear candy, something to tickle the canals and poke at your brain while you mostly bounce your head to the action-laden beat for an extremely entertaining 45 minutes of movie soundtrack exposition, you need to add Looper Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to your library.
I give Looper Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Five Out of Five Stars.