For the soundtrack to his Scientology-inspired movie The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson reunited with Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, who also provided the music to There Will Be Blood. The director's tale of a spiritually lost sailor and the leader of a religious organization he meets after World War II and the bond they form is set to music that alternately showcases the seeming innocence of the postwar era and tears off that veneer. Madisen Beaty's sweet yet somehow creepy version of "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" manages to accomplish both of those goals at once, but for most of The Master's music, the task of crafting claustrophobic intimacy falls to Greenwood, which he does ably with deceptively simple pieces that usually focus on one or two instruments at a time, whether it's the disorienting woodwinds of "Atomic Healer" or the unearthly screech of "Baton Sparks"' descending strings. These discordant cues only make Ella Fitzgerald's "Get Thee Behind Me Satan," Jo Stafford's "No Other Love," and Helen Forrest's "Changing Partners" sound smoother, and vice versa. Most of Greenwood's compositions, such as "Back Beyond," convey a simmering sense of tension and marred, ambiguous beauty that occasionally resolves itself into more definite emotions such as "Alethia"'s alluring, harp-driven mysticality, "Able-Bodied Seamen"'s sense of danger, or "Sweetness of Freddie"'s poignancy. This uneasy listening provides a masterful backdrop for Anderson's film and also makes for fascinating listening in its own right, while once again separating Greenwood from more predictable composers.
Heather Phares - allmusic.com
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