Buried Treasure: How To Destroy Angels – Is Your Love strong Enough?

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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

I met Trent Reznor last year.

It was the day after the Nine Inch Nails/Queens of the Stoneage double bill. I was sitting in the departure lounge at Christchurch Airport waiting for my flight back to Wellington. A child in the same room was making a weird noise that sounded like a whistle crossed with a scream. Of course I looked up to see what the strange sound was.

And then I saw who the kid’s dad was. It was Trent Reznor. There was no way I could mistake it – his face was on all the Nine Inch Nails posters I’d had on my bedroom room as a teenager.

I nervously approached him.

“Uh. Excuse me”.

Trent looked up at me with a steely stare. “Yeah?”

“Are.. are you Trent Reznor?”

“Yeah”.

“Cool…”

He didn’t roll his eyes, but he really should have.

I tried to save myself from looking like too much of a dick. “I was at the show last night. It was awesome.”

Trent looked a bit pissed off. “Thanks. Hey, I’m going to spend some time with my family, OK?” He shook my hand and walked off.

Maybe I shouldn’t have interrupted his family time, but I think I would have regretted it if I had thrown away the chance to meet one of my musical heroes.


Trent Reznor is the gothic poster boy for industrial music. He didn’t start it, but he was responsible for bringing it into the mainstream. Name any angsty alternative-metal from the 90’s onwards and Reznor is likely to be an influence.

In 2009 Reznor announced that NIN were finishing up. He started working on other projects. How To Destroy Angels was one project, fronted by his wife, Mariqueen Maandig. And following up from his acclaimed soundtrack to the video game Quake, Reznor co-wrote the scores to some David Fincher films along with Atticus Ross: The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl.

The Buried Treasure track I’m writing about today is ‘Is Your Love Strong Enough?’ by How To Destroy Angels, from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack.

I’ve never even watched TGWTDT – I didn’t expect the English speaking remake to be any better than the original. But I did buy the soundtrack, because I liked the work Reznor did on The Social Network. The music is eerie and unsettling – suiting the mood of a David Finch film. It’s not something I listen to often – it’s three albums worth of creepy background music – except for two songs. One is a cover of Led Zepplin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, featuring Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the other is a Bryan Ferry cover by HTDA.

The cover is ethereal like the original, but with less of a 80’s power ballad feel. This automatically makes the cover an improvement. Maandig’s vocals are the highlight of the song – strong and haunting. Reznor also adds some backing vocals to the mix. Both have powerful voices and they contrast nicely. The song is brooding and builds up slowly. The glitchy electronic sounds are inevitable when you consider the artists’ industrial backgrounds, and the blips and beeps add colour to otherwise stark reverberating keyboards.

I read that Maandig came and sang some HTDA songs during the NIN set in Auckland on the same tour I went to. I wish that she’d done the same in Christchurch.

Joseph James

Album Review: Ranges – Night & Day

Ranges Night & Day cover
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Ranges are a post-rock act from Bozeman, Montana who started out as a trio, and have recently expanded to a 5-piece so that they can play live. Together they write themed instrumental music that is often accompanied by visuals of some kind. Some themes of their past projects have been the Montana ranges, the solar system, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s teachings about taking action when you see something wrong. Recently Ranges and some other artists from the region were asked to each contribute to collection that explored the dichotomy of night and day. Ranges’ entry resulted in their latest single, ‘Night & Day’.

I’ve classified this write up as an album review, but in reality it’s a song review. That said, this song is longer than many EPs that I review here anyway. Like the song ‘Dominion’ by Jakob, ‘Night & Day’ is big enough to be a stand alone release without needing the context of an album to sit within.

The song last 24 minutes, representing the 24 hours of the day. Listen closely and you may be able to hear changes that signify different parts of the day, like sunrise or sunset.

The song begins soft, slowly building. After a few minutes things begin to perk up with a piano ostinato, a mantra that slowly ebbs in and out. I interpret this part as birds chirping for the dawn chorus. My favourite part is a stark cut out around the five minute mark with just an electric drum beat and the piano ostinato. Proper drums enter a minute later, solidifying the sound. The song sounds quite uplifting as it increases in intensity.

Around the 7-9 minute mark the piano drops out and the music gets heavier. The tone changes at exactly half way. The soft picking transitions into soaring overdriven guitars and crashing crescendos. The mood becomes cyclical, with tender breaks that launch into a powerful wash. Soaring guitars fly over heavily struck drums. At 18 minutes the mood drops back to a more solemn tone as the day breaks and the sun sets. A guitar bend could just as well be a Coyote howling in the moonlight. The music slowly begins to settle and simplify as it progresses towards the end, ending in eerie swells and light feedback.

A nice touch is that the song was written to loop back on itself continuously, like the cycle of night and day, so if you listen to it on repeat you won’t be able to tell where it starts and finishes.

Mark Levy getting ready to track drums for the song 'Night & Day'

Mark Levy getting ready to track drums for the song ‘Night & Day’

One reason I like Ranges so much is because they’re more than just a band that makes music. Their work is often part of a bigger project. For ‘Night & Day’, Ranges, along with other artists, were asked to create art inspired by the theme, in any medium they wish. Other past projects include providing music for a dance performance when TED came to town, and providing the soundtrack for the short film Tronkyin.  Ranges also put on two feature length audiovisual shows at a Planetarium in support of their album Solar Mansion, which reminds me of local Wellington composer Rhian Sheehan, who also creates soundtracks for shows at Planetariums and observatory domes. Everything that Ranges put out seems ambitious and extended beyond expectations.

Like I said in my Gilmore Trail review, one of the reasons that instrumental music is so intriguing is because the absence of lyrics leave the music open ended so that the listener can interpret the music however they wish. Even though we know that the song is inspired by a 24 hour day, we can still insert our own stories to fit the soundtrack.

Ranges is a band that pushes the conceptual envelope and expands on ideas across mediums, and ‘Night & Day’ is no exception. As well as being a glorious musical track, the sonic interpretation of night and day makes the song all the more interesting. The song is dynamic enough to stay interesting despite it’s length, especially if you try to identify different parts with the song’s inspiration in mind.

Check out the video below to hear ‘Night & Day’ played live. If you like it then make sure to follow the links underneath for more.

ranges.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/alpharanges

Twitter and Instagram handle: @rangesmusic

 

Joseph James

Buried Treasure: Foo Fighters – A320

Godzilla Soundtrack
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Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.

The Godzilla film that came out in 1998 was crap. The soundtrack that came with it was also fairly weak.

It starts off badly. First we have Bob Dylan’s son stripping David Bowie’s song ‘Heroes’ of any appeal. This is followed by P. Diddy posturing and say “uh” a lot over the top of Led Zepplin’s ‘Kashmir’.

With the exception of a few OK tracks, this album must be a collection of the lamest songs that existed in the  90’s “alternative” scene. Even the Rage Against The Machine song “No Shelter” ironically critiques the film it was commissioned to be written for. The best song would have to be a remix of Green Day’s ‘Brain Stew’, although I find it humourous that the remixing consists of a drum pattern played on the bell of a ride cymbal and Godzilla roars and growls scattered throughout the song.

Why did I bother to buy the CD then? Two reasons:

1) it only cost me $1

2) it features a rare Foo Fighters song called ‘A320’.

‘A320’ is a long song (almost six minutes long). It is also quite unlike anything else the Foo Fighters had released, at least until Dave Grohl decided to double the size of his band in 2006 for the Skin and Bones tour. The main things that sets this song apart is the inclusion of a string section. It’s soft and slow building, almost like a lullaby. To be honest the song is pretty unexciting until it hits the breakdown. This is when the going gets good. During the breakdown the Foos grunge it up with a filthy distorted riff, sloshy cymbals and squealing guitars. This follows on from then on. The grungy rock band actually sounds pretty good coupled with the orchestral string section.

Foo Fighters fans should find ‘A320’ fairly interesting, seeing as how it’s a departure from their usual sound. It’s not the most exciting song that they’ve ever written, but it sounds pretty epic by the time it comes to an end.

Joseph James