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After The Dark by Nicholas O'Toole (Review)

posted Feb 24, 2014, 12:52 PM by meghan@filmmusicmedia.com   [ updated Mar 7, 2014, 2:57 PM by Kaya Savas ]

Nicholas O’Toole’s original score for After the Dark (original title: The Philosophers) reflects the film’s Indonesian setting, making use of the gamelan in combination with synthesized sound. After the Dark follows a philosophy class whose teacher engages them in an intense thought experiment: they must decide which of them will be chosen to survive an impending nuclear apocaplyse. O’Toole worked with Jonathan Davis, the lead singer of the rock band KoЯn, to create an otherworldly soundscape appropriate to the film’s narrative. Additional music for After the Dark was composed by Glen Phillips of the band Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Each track offers a new take on the musical tropes usually associated with science fiction films, like computerized bleeps and groans, unresolved dissonances, and sweeping glissandi. Plucked strings play repetitive melodies supported by synthesized, syncopated drums that seem to warn of impending disaster. But the soundtrack as a whole lacks cohesion, with jarring changes between tracks. For instance, Track 7, titled “The Vote,” cuts off in the middle of a melodic phrase, suddenly interrupted by the distorted electric guitar sounds of Track 8, “Twenty Agonies.”

“A Question,” Track 19, stands out as a successful use of the metallophones in the gamelan to create a peaceful, if unpredictable, atmosphere. Other tracks develop the recurring, leaping melodic theme in various instruments from a synthesized electric guitar to a xylophone. This theme ties the soundtrack together despite the disorienting breaks between tracks. O’Toole’s effort is, if somewhat expected, capable of transporting the listener to the metaphysical post-apocalyptic world of the characters.