Nick Zammuto – We the Animals

Us three. Us brothers. Us kings. We The Animals is based on the novel of the same name by Justin Torres. The award-winning film from Jeremiah Zagar features a dazzling soundtrack from Nick Zammuto, composer and co-founder of The Books. The soundtrack is inspired by its rural setting in upstate New York, and the score draws a parallel with Zammuto’s earlier ambient-electronic work.

Zammuto’s music sits in isolation, flying solo with sung interludes and warm synths. Initially, the melodies add a comforting layer, like a woolly hat in November, but the tip of the synth is jagged, glowing like the muted blue of cold fire and cutting like a kitchen knife. The short sections recall different scenes, but the soundtrack still flows with the quality of clarity and serenity as one segment segues into the next. Echoing both comfort and withdrawal, the thoughtful compositions are a reflection on Zammuto’s sensitivity as a composer. Sweet birdsong sweeps over an airy synth.

Trees are left to sway in the comforting breeze of a golden melody. The subdued color of the lake is a mirror to the failing glow of late September, reminiscent of the imaginative ambient nostalgia and wanderings of Future Loop Foundation (especially Memories of a Fading Room, 2007), or the relaxed ambient music of Der Waldläufer and Ulrich Schnauss.

I remember your heart inside me. Ticking like a bomb…

With much of the soundtrack coming in at a minute or two, or even less than that, the compositions still feel fleshed-out, detailing the coming-of-age odyssey with deep incisions and emotional hits, and expressing feelings that are nonetheless tinted with softness and smooshed like hamburger. The soundtrack bursts with the energy of youth, but the soft, wood-smoked melodies show a special kind of tenderness, and the music feels like something of an education.

A heartbeat links the music as an important, recurring theme. It runs throughout the soundtrack, providing the music with the rhythmic echoes of continued life. Sometimes quiet and at others arresting, the soundtrack is one with plenty of heart.

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