XPeriments from Dark Phoenix – Hans Zimmer

You’ve heard Hans Zimmer in movies, creating the soundtrack to epic stories, but, on this album, he lets loose and writes a love letter to music itself. They could never put these songs in a superhero film for obvious reasons and I’m okay with that; this work is innovative, wacky, pretentious, and attention-grabbing, all wonderful things for music to be. At times, it feels like Zimmer transcribed the feeling of moving onto another dimensional plane, yet it has distinctly modern influences which ground the song in contemporary music, like the fast percussion of “X-SI” and “X-MP”. The obvious standout is “X-HZT”, which people think stands for “Hans Zimmer Theme” and is 17 minutes of pure unsettling bliss, with an otherworldly constant groove and superbly alien chords; my favorite thing about that track is the vocals, which do something I’ve never heard before in a perfect way. “X-LGDP” continues this trend, using frenetic, unearthly vocal percussion to develop from confusing, uneasy atempo movements into a violent, decisive percussion smackdown. If you like Hans Zimmer’s other work and want an anthemic orchestral piece, check out “X-MP”, a booming full-orchestra piece that brings in the beat to great effect. If you like Nine Inch Nails, especially their ambient series Ghosts, you should definitely check out “X-HD”, which uses buzzing tones and fast percussion that reminds me of them. There are a lot of chord movements I really like that create totally unique feelings, and I’d love to examine them, but he’s leagues above my comprehension here; there are too many moments (mostly in “X-HZT”) where no chord feels totally resolved, frequently preventing me from comfortably assigning it a key. There’s a good deal of harmonic minor (see “X-X”, the epic orchestral bop with the sick guitar solo), a lot of major tonic chords in minor scales (see “X-MDP”, the post-rock slow burn with the euphoric vocal scales), and a good helping of diminished intervals (see “X-SI”, the one that somehow pre-empted Billie Eilish’s “oxytocin”). One of the really interesting things about this music is the way that a lot of the instruments move in and out of tonality; Zimmer manages to create tension between the I chord and the 0 chord. The whole album is incredible, to the point that I’d call it mandatory listening for any producer, composer, or aficionado.

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