Laurel Halo presents an album’s worth of score provided for the 2018 experimental documentary Possessed by Dutch design collective Metahaven, produced in collaboration with Rob Schröder and Dutch Mountain Films. Her first foray into writing music for the screen, the album provides a rich variety of sounds, from aqueous, subterranean drones, to plaintive folk pieces for violin and cello, to uncanny pseudoclassical piano mutations.
It’s fitting for Laurel Halo to move into the score world. Already known for her ability to craft evocative, emotionally charged music, the pieces on offer give shade and contour to the central questions of Possessed: how do we find new ways of being together, outside the self-surveillance of social media? What can life look like outside neverending competition? The film’s sophisticated collage including makeup tutorials, phones melted by liquefied lead, FBI facial recognition, selfie risk-takers atop cranes, and ecstatic believers all point to the central question of the film: who is looking out for you?
The soundtrack traverses both the synthetic and acoustic, in keeping with the film’s tension between what is natural and unnatural. Opening track Hyphae unfolds like the eponymous fungal network, spreading and extending indelibly; the Rome Themes signalling religious, romantic yearning; the delicate piano of Marbles recalling the recurrent motif of black marbles, all knocking against one another, but never touching. Zeljava, named after the abandoned former Yugoslavian military airbase featured in the film, is a central piece for its wrenching resonance. In a nod to film music tradition a simple rendition of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater is also included in the collection.
Violinist Galya Bisengalieva and cellist Oliver Coates provide rich performances, and renowned engineer Paul Corley lends additional production.
released April 10, 2020
Music by Laurel Halo
Cello by Oliver Coates
Violin by Galya Bisengalieva
Additional production by Paul Corley
Additional string production by Oliver Coates
Mixed by Paul Corley
Mastered by Noel Summerville
Published by Decca Publishing, a division of Decca Music Group Ltd.
I probably wouldn't have listened to this without the context of it being about dementia, but even without that context, this is a real work of art. The distorted big-band samples create a sound that starts out nostalgic, and becomes disturbing and confused, then fades into emptiness, but is enthralling all the way through. Stage 4 is my favorite, simultaneously defying musical logic and upholding it. Ivan Stanton