Geoff Barrow is an intensely busy, moody dude.
When not making timeless classics with genre innovating project Portishead or newer projects like Beak, Drokk and Quakers or producing records for Anika and The Horrors or running his Invada label or railing against the man on Twitter, Barrow has somehow found time to co-score Alex Garland’s dark, new sci-fi future classic Ex_Machina.
Working with his Drokk collaborator, TV composer Ben Salisbury, Barrow has crafted a truly spectacular soundscape for Garland’s robotic psycho-sexual shell game about a lonely programmer called upon by a potentially sociopathic tech genius to perform a Turing Test on a doe-eyed android.
It’s a remarkable movie.
It is also a gnarly, psyche shattering trip that pulls at the seams of the definitions of God and Man and Woman and Machine, exploring the inevitability of a beautiful cosmic void created by a marriage of Steve Jobs, Oppenheimer and Frankenstein.
Like Bernard Herrman’s work on Psycho or Taxi Driver, the score hits that movie magic sweet spot where it’s present but not intrusive. Where a headphone listen immediately recalls specific images in the mind.
Skirting a space between atmospheric downtempo post-rock and dizzying, glitchy noise, Ex_Machina’s score is the sound of falling headlong into the uncanny valley and crashing up against the walls all the way down but never quite hitting bottom.
Barrow’s musical vibe has always been part noir cinematic, part punk antagonism, part swooning romanticism and part stoned paranoia and Ex_Machina distills it all into a jarring extract.
The effect is Love Potion #9 as MK Ultra grade blotter acid, and it is horrible, and it is good.