Trent Reznor x Atticus Ross - "Halloween"
(2017 Sacred Bones)
The weekend before Halloween we'd light the candle inside our gutted and carved pumpkin, sitting it between the rocking chairs on our front porch. In the late evening, its glow would burn a square-toothed grin into the phased-out blue of our vinyl siding. We would creep into the front lawn and throw blankets wrapped around our waists for warmth, leaving my ankles exposed in the Crocs my grade-school self would insist on wearing, staring our gourd down as my dad would cue the opening credits of John Carpenter's Halloween from our DVR. We'd leave our front door propped enough for our TV speakers to just barely ooze their sound into the surrounding neighborhood: wait for it, wait for it...
There it is. 5/4 time signature. Too-trebly piano trepanning your skull. The hi-hat percussion rattling like an old washer-dryer or window unit. It's timbrally in your-face, but compositionally so awkward it can't be anything but unobtrusive. The track's as cornball and lo-fi as the flick it scores, camera panning suburban streets to its funereal organ chords and hurried arpeggios: it's held together by a Snickers-bar buzz and the October chill as dissonant synth pads slowly envelop the song in nighttime.
Lending their talents to the always-spooky Sacred Bones Records, Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross turned in their own version of the classic slasher theme earlier this month, just in time wreak havoc on your Halloween party playlist.
The pair's eight-minute industrial remix opens with a hollow drone not much louder than one of the ghastly noise tapes put out by Hanson Records back in the day. It's an evil fog that parts to reveal a piano, then an insectoid wash of synths, and finally, a detuned take on the theme's iconic melody that's creepier, but not quite as immediately arresting as its source material.
What's lost in simplicity, though, is made up for in cinematic storytelling. Beneath the familiar score lurks the skittering presence of what sound like stock effects from a "scary sounds" CD, flitting beneath the walls of sound like mice behind drywall. Reznor and Ross peel back their instrumental layers about three-fourths of the way through the song, leaving this atonal scuttling stripped bare and exposed before introducing a thumping four-on-the-floor kick that drives the revamped theme 6-feet underground. Then fade to black.
Though not as iconic as John Carpenter's 1978 recording, Nine Inch Nails' take on the Halloween is a faithful successor that revels in growling industrial textures. If you're on DJ duty for this weekend's party, it's worth giving both cuts a well-deserved spin.