I don’t know how many times I’ve had this conversation in my life:
Someone – “I love movie soundtracks.”
Me – “You dig classical?”
Someone – “No, I don’t like classical, just movie soundtracks.”
Shit like this used to annoy me. I didn’t see a difference between the two. Generally, they both have the same style, the same instruments, and a similar sound. But, as much as I hate to fucking admit it, there is a difference. Sure, it’s subtle as all fuck. It’s like having a taste test between your neighbours’ tap water. But if you really focus, there’s a difference.
Danny Mulhern, the composer of these two bitches, has done a lot of soundtrack work: BBC’s The Natural World, Silent Witness, How Art Made the World, and the 2018 movie What They Had which stars Hilary Swank. Or, if you’ve ever watched the BBC series Wonders of the Solar System (presented by sex god and science’s hardest cock Brian Cox [look, you can see this as a lazy joke or a testament to how much I really love this series]) than you’ve heard Danny’s work as a musician. In an interview with Stationary Travels, Danny explains what it’s like to work on a soundtrack: “In the end you’re providing the nutrients for someone else’s baby. It’s significant, but it’s not your baby.” And that’s the big difference between the two. See? I told you it was subtle. But think of it this way: picture fucking someone for money vs. fucking someone out of love. Sure, they may both have a similar style, use the same instruments, and they may even sound the same but, in the end, one, even if it’s really fun, is done for something else while the other can be a mind-blowing universe-defying type of experience. (Full disclosure: I was going to go for a cooking comparison i.e. making a pie in a restaurant vs. making a pie for someone you care for. But be real, who cares for pie that fucking much?)
Danny Mulhern calls these two albums companion pieces because “they were recorded at the same time, over a few sessions with the same ensemble […] They are both improvised and ‘composed’ elements to the pieces.” So why didn’t he release this shit as a single album? “When I was putting the track order together it occurred to me that I had a lot of pieces, and people might be more likely to listen to the whole record if it was shorter, because there is so much amazing music out there. So instead of them being one album I split them into two releases.”
How you listen to it is up to you. You can listen to it as two separate albums. Shit was made that way. But in my opinion? Fuck it. I want that OG mix. I’m a motherfucker that likes director’s cuts. If you want the theatrical version? Go ahead. But I’m going to talk about this shit as one cohesive whole, so strap the fuck in.
Shit works as thus: Danny works with the London Contemporary Orchestra on these albums. He has a minimalistic style. The end result has this Jóhann Jóhannsson vibe with a sensitivity and trust that comes only from experience. Danny knows what the fuck he’s doing. This is that kind of shit you put on and sit in. It’s the kind of music that can drift you into imagination or make you reflect upon the past. Wanna have a deep night conversation talk with a friend? This is your jam. Many parts of this album have oceanic elements. Beats or struck notes have a wetness to them. When switching over to Safe House, the big fucking difference is that now there are electronic instruments added to the mix. But, despite this? The tone and subject are the same. All the electronics seem to do is clarify the direction and intent these pieces are wanting to take. It’s nice to hear Danny work for himself. He’s got some serious shit to say. You might even say these tunes are mind-blowing and universe-defying, but that all depends on how much you really care for pie.