Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2021 May 17 • Monday

The 674th Soundtrack of the Week is Eskmo's music for Billions.

“Billions Title & Recap” is a tenebrous, throbbing and pulsating piece that contrasts different frequencies, rhythms and densities to create a suspenseful sonic landscape. Eventually it resolves to a rather pretty and almost angelic groove.

The second piece, “Axe”, suggests both menace and sympathy, effectively telling your ear that this is a theme for a character who is complex but ruthless. There are interesting electronic textures and grooves accompanying fragments of melodies and harmonic clusters.

You might expect more of the same from the next cue, “Axe Capital A”, but it’s something different, a straightforward and insistent rhythm pulse with notes floating above it, what an updated arrangement of a Miami Vice cue could be like.

Groovy but disturbingly warped is the phrase that comes to mind as I tap my toes to the ill sounds of “FBI Raid”. A lot of the sounds appear to be run backwards, giving it a very disorienting feel.

With “Axe & Chuck Faceoff” we get to the theme for the primary conflict of the whole program. It builds and builds and keeps adding layers of tension but alwats subsides, never explodes.

“Chuck Warpath” is the most conventional-sounding cue so far, using the sounds of a string section throughout to develop and amplify the sense of drama, while still maintaining the overall concept of shadowy, pulsating, electro-trance music.

Cloudy spaces are explored in the mesmerizing “Evidence”, which could almost fit right in with Vangelis’s music for Blade Runner.

Then it’s onto something more delicate, crystalline and heavenly for “Everyone Is Afraid of Being Vulnerable”.

“The Rhodes” has a peculiar percolating feel to it, a see-sawing and buoyant quality that conveys the uneasiness that pervades the lives and relationships of Chuck and Wendy Rhodes. As always, there are lots of interesting sonics going on.

Another low driving pulse that eventually divebombs lower and lower before kicking out a strong backbeat is the main feature of “The Game”.

By the time any character in this show asks “Am I a Sociopath?” you can be sure that it’s too late. This is a restrained but nonetheless driving and firm cue, more pulses and gentle hammerings with long tones and colorful sonic embroideries.

“Axe Capital B” is not a reprise of “Axe Capital A” but a lighter, softer response to it, surprisingly gentle, also Vangelis-like.

For the “Dake.Gov” theme there are swirling high-pitched notes and a broken-sounding low end throb, perhaps an intentional commentary on the tortured character of Dake and his strivings.

For “Baths” there are swelling chords above another insistent pulse, very soothing but also mysterious. (Not quite ruddy mysterious.)

Wailing and keening sounds from various sources announce that “Chuck and Wendy Split”, and as the cue continues these statements become graver and more agitated, sometimes on the verge of screaming, sometimes giving an impression of massive weight expressed sonically.

“Wendy” then gets her own theme, pulsating, controlled, patient and with some disturbing and ominous low tones.

The pulsations get left behind for once for dramatic but restrained and powerful “Chuck Rhodes, Riderless Horse”, an assemblage of chords that builds a monument to this character.

Finally there’s “Consumption”, which starts out quietly but strangely, with strange almost industrial sounds gradually taking form, not much in the way of melody, harmony or rhythm, just a very unsettling and alien atmosphere.