Channelling Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. That was my remit for Omnisphere Ferox.
Ever since they first collaborated with David Fincher on the Oscar-winning score for The Social Network, Reznor and Ross have changed the face of film and TV soundtracks. Their twisted blend of analogue electronics and distorted instruments has influenced a generation of dark and quirky soundtracks. Fincher’s sombre and stylish view of the world seemed to match the gritty, uncontrolled beauty of their sound and, dare I say it, the collaboration has improved with each and every film.
The scores to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl are fantastic; both regular listens for me. And they had both also had some small influence on previous soundsets of mine, particularly the analogue, atmospheric side of things. But I decided I wanted to dedicate an entire soundset to the style and, for that, I decided that Omnisphere 2 was going to be the best approach.
This was particularly obvious from working as a beta tester on Omnisphere 2. The wealth of new soundsources contained material that was absolutely perfect for a Reznor/Ross style soundset. There are many new weird and wonderful modular synth and circuit bending samples, as well as some really excellent hybrid acoustic stuff – especially the bowed and plucked noises courtesy of Diego Stocco.
And it wasn’t just the soundsources. The new effects leant themselves to the style too. The new filters, analogue modulations and bevy of distortion boxes and amps were all too perfect.
At the heart of the Reznor/Ross sound, whether it’s synthesised or organic, is a sense of unease. There’s a lot of dynamic LFO control in these patches, especially subtle little increments on the tuning and filters. Then there’s the punch and grit to be added by compressors and those filthy, lo-fi distortion/saturation effects. The sounds can very slowly creep you out as they steadily twist and turn, or they punch you straight in the gut before you’ve even seen them coming. That’s what I like about Omnisphere Ferox and the Reznor/Ross sound, it’s there to surprise you, to disturb you, sometimes even delight you, before making sure it disturbs you again when you’re least expecting it!
There were also some other influences that crept in as I went along. One of my favourite scores of 2015 was Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s for Sicario; a tense, primal work of art. I also really enjoyed the score he co-wrote with Hildur Guðnadóttir and Rutger Hoedemaekers for Trapped. It’s subtle and delicate, but with an underlying menace. I think Jóhann is currently my favourite composer. And if you haven’t seen Trapped itself, I urge you to check it out – best TV series in quite a while, for me.
So, there you have it. If you’re a fan of the work of Trent and Atticus, I do hope Omnisphere Ferox meets your expectations. I can honestly say that I haven’t been this excited about a release for a little while.