Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross & Nick Chuba
Dr. Death (Original Series Soundtrack)
I don’t know if enjoying is the right word – but I’m watching Dr. Death and I’ll probably work through all of it, intriguing story, decent performances – but the score grabbed me immediately. So I hunted that out for an isolated listen and it’s become essential music to me. Regardless of what I end up thinking of the show.
Atticus Ross (Nine Inch Nails) is still best known for his partnership with Trent Reznor and the series of great soundtracks they have created for big-budget feature films and documentaries. But Ross has his own gig going as a composer without Reznor. He’s been crucial as a supervisor and composer on several films working alone (Love & Mercy) and more often with his brother Leopold Ross. The pair have worked – together and alone – with Nick Chuba across most of the last decade. Creating a range of sinister, foreboding works for TV and film.
Here the trio layers in their regular electronic sprinklings, amid organic orchestration for some truly beautiful cues. Dark World – at nearly eight minutes – feels like a suite. Building on the album’s opener (Scrubbing In) with ominous, moody synths ahead of a gloriously dark cello motif and throbs of keyboard-generated bass. It builds and builds with big drums coming in for just the final seconds of wash.
These are song-length cues too – no tiny incidental snatches, the music works up and around a scene when you’re watching the show, from very subtle background build to then envelope the words and mood of any set-piece. And here, away from the images, we get to associate our scenes or feelings with this music. Not Like This is a gorgeous synth-line of linear development, Smog and Sunrise has some of the creeping, pulsing feel of Ross’ earliest Reznor collaborations but ultimately there’s more light than dark.
The lovely, lonesome piano tones of Self Medicating are supported by eerie swirls of synth and soft electronica while Something Stirs Beneath The Surface is well named, as a shimmer of synth slowly unfolds to reveal an undulating pulse, a different mood entirely is submerged in the piece. We hear it rise up for a few moments – we sense it, feel it, and then it returns down deep into the wash.
Maybe I shouldn’t take comfort from this score – it is eerie (Privileges) but there is a feeling of hope somewhere in some of this music (Throughline) and almost elevation. It’s stunning TV work. I love hearing these cues in the show. But they combine to make a full album, one that feels and flows and hangs together as its own musical cluster. Its own statement.