By Daniel Mills
Subtle, haunting and complex, Kristin Øhrn Dyrud’s score for Coherence leaves one feeling very much alone. In her music there is a sense of scale, yet also of intimacy, the constantly shifting drones that permeate this score drawing the listener inward and conveying upon them a profound sense of unease.
‘Coherence’, our opener, is a warm, sumptuous track. Øhrn Dyrud bathes us in synth pads, producing an almost soporific effect. Even here though we can detect hints of the anxiety and discord that are so pervasive throughout the rest of the score. ‘The Box’ is a wonderful piece, showcasing Øhrn Dyrud’s considerable skills in orchestration and in crafting textures. Erie and hypnotic, I found the composer’s economic use of their material here and in the next track, ‘Lights Out’, very effective with a chime-like melodic idea lending definition to both pieces and guiding us forward.
‘Excursion’ provides us with one of the most memorable moments of the score. Øhrn Dyrud slowly infuses the piece with an addictively danceable beat, before transfiguring it into something more reminiscent of one of the more barbaric moments in John Cage’s ‘First Construction (in Metal)’. Amidst the now-familiar sound world of drones and slow, semi-tonal glissandi, the sudden emergence of a guitar melody in ‘Photo Cut’ is almost shocking. ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ follows a similar pattern with pulsing ostinati and muted guitar emerging in the track’s last third, driving it forward into the uneasy sounding ‘Hugh and Amir’ where these pulsing ideas find their climax.
Here things take on a more meditative character, Øhrn Dyrud carrying us away with her ethereal textures before her choral writing brings us back to ourselves during ‘Things Are Getting Strange’, reminding us that all is indeed not well. Energy ebbs and flows through ‘The Houses Have Blended’ and ‘Mike’s Note’, though this portion of the score offers little in the way of stand out moments, the composer’s drone-based approach perhaps revealing its limitations. ‘Em’s Journey’ however, is remarkable. Taking the form of a violin driven song, it differs considerably in style from anything heard previously.
Attack is the climatic moment of the soundtrack; the hard edges in Øhrn Dyrud’s score- allowed to surface briefly in ‘Excursion’ and in ‘Mike’s Note’ and hinted at throughout- reach their brutal conclusion. Morning flows into the aftermath of this encounter. Vast and desolate, it could go on for hours. The final track, ‘Coherence?’ Seems to pose the question: ‘was it all worth it?’
Øhrn Dyrud has created a magnificently rich sound-world here and her skill at manipulating the textures she creates is impressive. I did at times however, find myself wishing that I could peel away some of the layers of delays and reverbs that Øhrn Dyrud uses so pervasively. Her work is strikingly subtle and it seems a shame that so much of the detail present in it is obscured. Likewise I found myself wishing that there was more dynamic variety on display. Though quite possibly the fault of this release’s mastering engineer rather than the composer’s, some more extreme shifts between quiet and loud could really have elevated some moments of the score. That said, Coherence makes for some compelling listening, especially for those with an interest in electroacoustic music.
Coherence is out now from MovieScoreMedia