Exit Music Review SectionMusic Review Navigation Menu
Donnie Darko

Michael Andrews
Donnie Darko OST
(Enjoy Records)

Last year, a little movie came and went from theatres with critical acclaim, but not many box office receipts to match. Partially held because of an unfortunate parallel with the events of 9/11 (which is even more eerie given the time-travel themes of the movie), the film didn't really find a large audience, and like a lot of great, smaller films, that's a shame. Without going into the film too much, I'll just say that it's an 80's period piece that mixes dark humor, a bit of teen angst, surrealism, and science fiction to great effect. Now that it's out on DVD, it will hopefully find the cult audience that it deserves and first-time director Richard Kelly can go on blowing our minds in the future given a decent budget.

Alas, this review is about the film soundtrack, but it actually makes some sense to at least partially describe the film for those who haven't seen it. At any rate, Michael Andrews is not only a member of the band Greyboy Allstars (who produced a great little soundtrack to the also little-seen film Zero Effect) and Elgin Park, but a composer as well. Having done scoring for television shows such as Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared, he's also done movie scores for Orange County and Out Cold.

His work for this film is on another level, though, and it's not just because he's working in a different realm (most of his other work has been slightly upbeat at least) thematically. Comprised mainly of muted piano melodies, minimoog, mellotron, marimba, vocodor, and some wordless, ethereal vocals, the 17 tracks and 40 minutes of music provides the perfect, somber backdrop to the film.

The disc opens with the track "Carpathian Ridge," and after an opening drone, a lovely piano melody creeps in along with some of those body-less vocals. Somewhat similar to the touching tracks that Danny Elfman created with his Edward Scissorhands score, it starts out beautiful but ends with a slight menacing tone, leaving you wondering what else is in store. "The Tangent Universe" is the second track, and it's really nothing more than layered tones and drones, but it works well before fading into one of the best tracks on the album called "The Artifact & Living" in which a minor piano melody drifts behind a lighter, more uplifting one as darker tones swirl in the background and threaten to overtake things.

The playful "Middlesex Times" follows things up nicely with a jaunty marimba melody and some synth strings before the soundtrack again takes a darker turn with the driving synth strings and gurgling moogs of "Manipulated Living." Throughout the rest of the soundtrack, some of these same motifs are introduced again, as well as many new ones creeping in as well. The closing two tracks on the disc are different versions of the Tears For Fears cover by Gary Jules that grace the ending scenes of the movie. Those who have seen the film already know how well the track fits the movie, but the stripped-down remake (the piano melody of which ties into the rest of the soundtrack) brings out the haunting lyrics of the track and turn it into something entirely different and beautiful. If you haven't seen the movie, mark it down on your list of things that you should see soon, and chances are you'll find yourself wanting to revisit this very nice minimal electronic soundtrack with a touch of human warmth.

Rating: 7.5