Mother Nature

Domain and dominance. In Johan Liedgren’s 2012 film Mother Nature, a common misunderstanding over a campsite booking turns disastrous. An unnamed character–a divorced father and typographer with a face ripe for harassment–claims he has made an online reservation for a site that another family has taken, even as the woods are far out of range of wireless internet or cell phone calls. A brooding New York couple offers to intervene, but the divorcee refuses. His non-confrontational manner elicits scorn, condescending sexual advances, hostility, now violence.

For score composition, Liedgren brought in Ben Lukas Boysen, whose previous work includes the gorgeous Restive soundtrack. Like Mother Nature, the previous film can loosely be described as a chase through the wild, and it speaks volumes that film crews invite Boysen to projects meant to examine the starkness of nature, and of human nature. Note that he also records as Hecq, and offers commercial sound design for clients such as BMW, Mazda and Four Seasons.

Viewer accounts of Restive indicate a terribly dark film, and fittingly Boysen’s score is a dimly lit and seismic thing. Tectonic shifts rumble at our feet, a stone-walled frigidness bounces every note. The lighting throughout Mother Nature is diffuse, but only that. Its core dispute is avoidable from all sides; at any time during the first hour the divorcee could bring things to a full boil or simply remove the kettle from the stove. It is the half-simmer that antagonizes the others, including his son. This way Boysen’s Mother Nature compositions are less menacing than mournful, not so much glacial as old-growth. “To Nature” begins silently, with a tactile but passive drone, now a plateau of sparse piano and sinewy reed. A word on instrumentation: the recent Ableton Live feature shows Boysen capturing raw sound from the inside of a glass of water, as well as the voltage field of a laptop through a coil pickup microphone. So while his studio includes piano, cello, and bowed gong–and the one sheet promises “guitar, bass & percussion”–this article does not feign certainty on which sound is what.

“Inevitable” and “Last Supper” blind like sunglare reflected from a lake, particularly the second of the two, with its liturgical choir (all non-vocal, apparently) and almost colorless spectrum. “Without God” is palpable, threatening and subtly orchestral. Its string, voice, wind, and percussive effects temper a critical scene at the film’s midpoint, and from here all motives are transparent. “Flat Tire” rings with bells and stomps with drums, where “Pussy” is at turns calculating with its quiet drone and thunderous with its cinematic brassiness. The film’s denouement may be conventional but the epilogue surely isn’t. This way “Blessing” and “Mother Nature” conclude the previous nine movements without simply offering variations on them. The closing scenes are not pitch-bent per se, but certainly worldview-bent.

Boysen has a large and varied discography, from dubstep to IDM and his commercial work. His soundtracks offer yet another side of an accomplished and prolific artist.

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