US / COMPOSER: MICHAEL ABELS / LABEL: WAXWORK RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Strings, strings and more strings, with some childrens' choral vocals on top for extra creepiness: so goes composer Michael Abels' score for Jordan Peele's Us. While the vocals are familiar territory for those already acquainted with the composer's score for the director's first feature, Get Out, this is a rather more focused set of music than that film's score, which ran from Swahili-inflected pieces to blues to vibraphone to even ukulele.
Here, Abels channels his inner Bernard Herrmann, working primarily in fierce strings and strong, stomping percussion, with just a hint of Jerry Goldsmith's "Ave Satani" theme from The Omen for terrifying flavor. Alternating combinations of the two very different sounds results in a score which is never not ominous.
Adding in two tracks which feature prominently in the film's earlier sections - Luniz' 90s hip-hop gem "I Got 5 On It" and Janelle Monae's more recent R&B jam "I Like That" (sadly, a cleaned-up version sans cursing) - along with Minnie Riperton's beautifully psychedelic pop song, "Les Fleurs," tethers the film to more worldly, diegetic sounds.
What's most impressive is the inclusion of the song used so effectively in the film's first trailer, the Tethered Mix of "I Got 5 On It," which interpolates the vocal lines from the song with the score's "Battle Plan," which itself uses the rhythm from Luniz' song, sampled from Club Nouveau's "Why You Treat Me So Bad." It's a masterwork which takes no fewer than three songs and creates something new and frightening.
The score comes pressed as a deluxe double LP on 180-gram vinyl, featuring "Metallic Brass Scissors" coloured vinyl for disc one and "Tethered Red Jumpsuit" coloured vinyl for disc two. It sounds tremendously robust and clean, with nary a crackle or hiss to be found.
The packaging - featuring a mirrored back cover along with a die-cut inner gatefold one has to snip with scissors to reveal the tethered versions of the film's protagonists pictured on the printed inner sleeves - is absolutely brilliant, featuring the most interactive cover since Mondo's vinyl reissue of the Fight Club score.
It's all topped off by an essay by professor, scholar and activist Shana L. Redmond Ph.D. of UCLA, on the unease music can create within a listener. As she says, "It's an overture into the darkness that I accept."