The Chemical Brothers
Hanna: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Back Lot Music
Bands that are a decade or more removed from their heyday face a dilemma if they wish to continue in the music industry. Do they go on reunion tours if they’re lucky? Play state fairs if they’re not so lucky? Write new songs and likely turn off their earlier fans? A handful of electronica acts infiltrated the mainstream in the ’90s. What if they wish to continue? Are they going to reunite and face their fans with nothing but a laptop and a few speakers? Doubtful. A trio of groups had a better idea: compose music for motion pictures. Daft Punk scored the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor won an Oscar for his work on The Social Network soundtrack.
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons (otherwise known as The Chemical Brothers) scored the revenge thriller Hanna. The album peaked at number 11 on Billboard’s soundtrack chart and the movie itself opened at number one. The British duo crafted an album full of pulsating, hypnotic, and unpredictable tracks. The gentle “Hanna’s Theme” bookends the 20-track album, with the last track a beefed up, vocal version of the first. The only other track with lyrics, “The Devil Is in the Beats” begins with a man singing “rock the beat” at random intervals — sorta reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers’ mid-nineties hit single “Block Rockin’ Beats.”
Some tracks function as actual songs (“Container Park”) while others are interesting noise (“Isolated Howl”). Some last less than 20 seconds. “Map Sounds/ Chalice 2” floats by while “Sun Collapse” sounds like a plane swooshing through the sky. Other tracks barely break the minute mark. “The Forest” is faint, echoed notes, and “The Quayside Synthesis” features scratchy organs with tin-can beats.
Every track of Hanna bleeds into the next. In fact, the organ chord progression that ends “The Sandman” anchors the next track, “Marissa Flashback.” The only abrupt breaks occur within individual tracks. Other songs just change course, mid-track. For example, the five-minute low-key frenzy of “Escape 700” devotes its last minute to swooshing wind. The Chemical Brothers switch things up by including Tinker Toys in a handful of tracks. Of course, creepiness infuses these nursery rhyme sounds. Check out “The Sandman” and “The Devil is in the Details.” To be clear, the Hanna soundtrack is not a mishmash of random sounds. The album follows a logical trajectory even if, like me, you haven’t seen the film. The Chemical Brothers seem to be doing well with their method of continuing in the music industry.