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Annihilation by Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow (Review)

posted Mar 9, 2018, 1:39 PM by Kaya Savas

Alex Garland’s fascination with science fiction has yielded great screenplays such as 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd. Garland’s itch for directing led him to make his directorial debut with Ex Machina, which was an impressive debut by any standard. While Ex Machina had its flaws, it was still a very captivating science fiction story with some horror elements. For that film, Garland enlisted Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow for the score. Annihilation continues the tone and style of Garland’s visual language along with the tonal and textural approach of Salisbury and Barrow.

Annihilation is a very precisely constructed score made up of tones, textures, some haunting female vocals and an occasional strumming of an acoustic guitar. In that respect the sound becomes very unique. We have electronic elements, human elements and acoustic elements all working together to create an atmosphere of the unknown. The score mimics shapelessness and the undefined with superb precision while still providing structure for long tracks that fill the space. There is a haunting nature to the whole thing, but the music works on this great psychological level of making you feel intrigued yet unsure at the same time. The approach reminded me slightly of Akira Yamaoka’s approach to the Silent Hill scores, but of course there’s nothing harshly industrial here. Annihilation’s sonic palette creates these colder and shimmery metallic tones rather than anything harsh and crunchy. If the score has a weak spot its that the resolution doesn’t quite feel like a resolution but more of a tapering off. While the acoustic guitar does provide a bookended closure by being in track 1 and the last track before the credits, there still seems to be something missing that gives us emotional resolution.

Annihilation is a much more daring and more complex experience when compared to Ex Machina. The way Salisbury and Barrow have expertly created an atmosphere of the unknown adds so much atmosphere to this experience. It would have been nice to feel more of a character journey in the music, but I guess it works for what it was designed for. By creating cold and shimmery tones that work on a psychological level; the score becomes enchanting yet unnerving all at the same time. Hopefully this working relationship with director Alex Garland continues as it’ll be interesting see how Salisbury and Barrow’s sound evolves further.