Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto takes a thoughtful approach on his new record Black Mirror: Smithereens (Original Series Soundtrack). For those who watch the TV show Black Mirror, there’s no doubt Sakamoto impresses with his ability to capture the sound of a tech world gone dark.
The album opens with “Meditation App” a surreal track with phantom-like textures rich in a type of dark brilliance. The opening track is hypnotizing and cinematic, running smoothly when considering the visuals within the show. Sakamoto continues with “Plot” an obscure ambient track with a strange elastic pull that brings all the sounds together.
In “This Is My Last Day,” Sakamoto’s classical pianos, heavy with reverb, are perfect for recreating the distant and disconnected theme within the show, and the introduction of strings, in the end, brings a vivid emotion to it all. “Hayley” also sounds like a distant sonic memory that longs to be erased. The notes warp from happy to dark, and ring in your head. “Countdown” is a refreshing addition to the soundtrack, and Sakamoto captures the purely riveting suspense by slowly bringing the melodies higher in pitch, creating insane anticipation.
Probably more impressive in sound and design are the tracks “Chain Smoking Addict” and “Chase.” Sakamoto produces distorted noises in the tracks from perhaps smashing or breaking something, and it sounds like how technology glitching would sound. Ear-ringing signal generator noises lead into chaotic synths for added appeal.
Finishing the record with “Release” Sakamoto ends with beautiful airy pianos and meditative synths, the track creating a vibrant sonic atmosphere you cannot escape. A weird percussive sound revs up in the final song and reminds of a bustling engine of some sort. The placement of the music gives the song a groovy yet syncopated tempo that differentiates itself from the rest of the soundtrack. Eventually, the track turns into raw fuzz noise and distortion until it blissfully launches into release.
Black Mirror: Smithereens (Original Series Soundtrack) is quite different from what Sakamoto usually works on given it’s a soundtrack to a very subdued and sometimes underwhelming TV show, depending on who you ask. Nonetheless, Sakamoto manages to create a riveting soundscape that can be played on its own for reflective or surreal moods.