Track One: Play. Less than two seconds in and your pulse quickens. The first track, ‘The Capture Titles’, opens with an odd auditory spasm, a glitch that somehow makes the body tense before anything has happened. It’s not loud, just visceral. It’s diving into a pool of freezing water, losing your breath, and then the melody starts. You realise you’re surrounded by sharks who haven’t noticed you. Yet.
The synthetic, electronic pulse that hammers through almost the entire album is relentless. Five tracks in and I need a cigarette to calm my nerves. This is extra stressful because I’ve never smoked, so don’t have one.
READ MORE: His Dark Materials (Series Two) – Lorne Balfe – Score Review
That theme, that continuing, rhythmic ping, sounds like some kind of searching device. It’s terrifying. Along with that there are a few other musical motifs repeated through the tracks, but when they come round for a second or third time they aren’t old friends you welcome. Instead we’ve already learned to not trust this music. A familiar bar can suddenly turn on you, becoming something totally unexpected.
Though there are strings and more traditional instruments used, it’s the synthetic sounds that drive this album. Nothing too bizarre, but unfamiliar enough to not let you get comfortable. Even on the tracks where we do hear more orchestral arrangements, such as ‘The Soldier’ or ‘What Happened in Halmand’, what should be more reassuring pieces are oddly discordant, with subtle stuttering, or finishing a melody with an unexpected shift in pitch. Is unsettles, even if we don’t know why.
This album confronts us with music where sound strips away all emotions other than raw panic. This is the language of the underdeveloped lizard part of your brain. The part that won’t let you sleep until you’ve moved the hanging dressing gown that you know is just a hanging dressing gown but in the dark it could be a person watching you.
There is only one track where the ongoing drive noticeably relents. Finally, by track 18, ‘Believe your Eyes’ brings us uplifting strings and we can take a breath. That is until roughly the halfway point, where those changes in pitch and slightly unusual arrangements creep in. A few bars later and we’re confronted with that pulse, a searching radar sound that we can never really escape from. Just for a little while, but long enough. The track ends with disquieting, mournful almost-howls. I feel drained.
This is an album of dissonance and false crescendos. Our anxieties are mercilessly tweaked and played with. Perfect when paired with a thriller, hard going when listened to as an album. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but now I need a stiff drink and a lie down. Did I mention I’m teetotal..?
Dave Rowntree & Ian Arber’s score for The Capture is available digitally now from Silva Screen Records.