Artist Spotlight: Clint Mansell

Sorry in advance for how lengthy this is or if I’m stepping out of turn. While deservedly known now as a composer, like other film composers such as Danny Elfman, Johnny Greenwood, Cliff Martinez, Mark Mothersbaugh, and Trent Reznor (a friend of his), Clint Mansell got his start as a founder, lead singer (later co-singer), and guitarist of Pop Will Eat Itself. The Poppies were founded in 1981 (though not known as such until 1986) and over the years dabbled in a number of genres including Grebo (their own made up genre full of embarrassing white people dreads), Industrial Rock, hip ho, and Dance influences. I’m hardly a big fan of PWEI but they did turn out some good stuff with “There is No Love Between Us” being more indicative of their early works and “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” (which was written by Mansell) more indicative of their later industrial style.

Aside from helping provide some background vocals to Nine Inch Nails’ “Pilgrimage” and “Starfvckers, Inc.”, when PWEI broke up in 1996 Mansell headed in a much different path.

For Darren Aronofsky first film, 1998’s Pi, Mansell was tapped to do the music and started a collaboration that has continued to this day. Although it hearkened back to some of the electronic stuff, PWEI did, Mansell’s scores are in no way similar to what he did before.

In many ways, it is their second film both together and overall that Aronofsky and Mansell are still known for to this day. 2000’s Requiem for a Dream is a wonderful, tough to watch film greatly elevated by Mansell’s frequently madness inducing score which made heavy use of strings (performed by the Kronos Quartet). As an album though it isn’t the best listen being made up of a few songs repeated with minor changes though what’s there is still good to listen to.

The track however that launched his career on the soundtrack is of course “Lux Aeterna” which brought him relative fame and launched Mansell’s career later being used for all sorts of things such as trailers for Sunshine and an (inferior) redone version used for LoTR: The Two Towers.

For the next few years, Mansell did a bunch of scores but nothing of not until the twin releases of The Fountain and Smokin’ Aces. The Fountain saw him reteam with Arofnosky and The Kronos Quartet and his without question my favorite of his works (and Arofnosky’s) and of any soundtrack for that matter. It is just such a beautiful score again using strings heavily but this time they are more drawn out and slower than the choppier (and befitting that movie) ones in Requiem for a Dream while also a more varied score in itself. “Death is the Road to Awe” may be the perfect song and defining the climax, but it’s great from beginning to end including “The Last Man”, “Xibalba”, and “Together We Will Live Forever”.

Smokin’ Aces has some similarities with the rest of his work (most notably “Dead Reckoning”) but is frequently a departure for what he was and would be known for incorporating guitars and other instrumentation. Sadly it was almost never released if not for the complaint of Mansell fans and that would have been a real loss.

Not much to say about The Wrestler besides well here.

Mansell’s next major work was on another director’s first film, Duncan Jones’ Moon. It features a more sparse piano and electronic driven sound befitting the solitude of Sam Bell. It was also around here that I became a Clint Mansell fan instead of just knowing about him.

In terms of award recognition, Black Swan is Mansell’s biggest achievement and only denied an Oscar nomination due to the strict guidelines of that category. Since the work is largely a reworking of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake he was ineligible, but that makes it no less wonderful and perfectly worked into and complimenting the movie.

That’s about all I wanted to say for now but here are a couple other later works he did.

Anybody have anything they want to add or any tracks they want to spotlight (really could have just put up The Fountain soundtrack and called it a day)?