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The Vietnam War(Original Score)The Vietnam War(Original Score)
Album: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Label: Universal
Tracks: 17

If you have seen the American TV series (all 18 hours of it), originally developed for HBO, you will need little introduction to the source of this music. Or perhaps you are familiar with Ken Burns musical series on the history of "Jazz", and are aware of his interest in the overlap of film and music in documentary. Either way you will be intrigued by this double CD,


This is not the Soundtrack album!

In the TV series, Burns uses 120 contemporary rock, folk and blues tunes from the late 60's and early 70's to create the atmosphere of Vietnam, as experienced by young draftees and regular army troops. A selection of 38 of these have been released on the double-CD Soundtrack album (also on Universal Music).

The Original Score, on the other hand, provides 90 minutes on the incidental music from the series, written and performed by Reznor, founder and (for most of its career) sole member of Nine Inch Nails and Ross (who joined in late 2106). The music consists of original tunes, reworked instrumental versions of Nine Inch Nails numbers, and adaptations of music already used in their soundtracks for the films The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

All of the 17 tracks are instrumental, and the style can best be described as ambient electronic. In some ways this work mirrors some of the more ambient UK 'jazz' groups we have reviewed at Fatea, such as "Get the Blessing" or ""Neil Cowley Trio". Reznor and Ross appear to mix instruments (piano, percussion, guitars) with computer-generated sounds. The result is a swirling, often amorphous series of themes, mostly played at slow tempos and creating dirge-like, dark emotional fields. I suppose another way to describe the sound would be to imagine early Pink Floyd LP instrumentals (Interstellar Overdrive?) played at 16 rpm!

As the tracks were written specifically as mood and background to the film, there seems little point in trying to pick out individual tunes; the mood is sombre, uniform and the tracks largely interchangeable. The thematic development is interesting, and the sonic palate varied (if slightly monochrome). For aficionados of this kind of soundscape music, this album is interesting (if not essential). For those looking for melodies, traditional harmonic development, or improvisational sophistication, this may not be your cup of tea.

Martin Price