i’ve written about the music of Danielle Johnson – aka Danz CM (previously aka Computer Magic) – on a number of occasions. Her usual output is analogue synth-laden bedroom pop – growing increasingly sophisticated over the years, featuring in my Best Albums of the Year in 2018 and 2021 – but her most recent release is the score to a short film titled While Mortals Sleep, which moves away into less tangible, more atmospheric territory. i don’t usually listen to a score before seeing the movie, but it’s an independent production and there doesn’t appear to be any way to watch it online yet, so for now Johnson’s score will have to do.
IMDb reliably informs me that While Mortals Sleep has a running time of a mere 14 minutes, so it’s no surprise that Danz CM’s score clocks in at just under 8½ minutes, which i think takes the record for the shortest film score i’ve yet heard (the previous shortest being the 16½-minute score for Lars von Trier’s Antichrist). Despite my fondness for the large-scale and the epic, i absolutely love brevity and the art of the miniature, and it’s nice to spend just a little time in the five brief tableaux that comprise this score. It’s all pretty simple, but i like its directness and the immediacy of its soundworld.
‘Susan’s Song’ acts as an introduction, beginning in a place of bright intensity. There’s slight movement audible within, growing into noise and deeper pitches, all of which ultimately causes its shimmer to vanish, replaced with edgy droning. ‘Darkness’ continues this with a throbbing atmosphere in which glimpses of pitch are just about tangible. ‘Afternoon’ serves as a short repose at the centre of the score, being more open with spaced-out piano chords, each one triggering a vague swelling response. ‘Eye of God’ is the most involved, bringing together a soft burbling texture with shimmering strummed strings and various unclear elements. Powerful surging notes cut through this, and as it continues soft tones trace a faint melody, which persists when everything else falls away, its timbre evoking synthetic voices. Its stability fails toward the end, the chords becoming dissonant before finally erupting. ‘Sanctuariam’ is a disarmingly curt epilogue featuring bells in dialogue and more pseudo-vocal chords, acting as a kind of ‘anti-resolution’, suggesting not so much a conclusion as blunt finality.
Hopefully the film will become more widely available in due course; meanwhile, Danz CM’s score for While Mortals Sleep is available free from her Bandcamp, and for those desperate for outdated technology, there’s a cassette available from her label Channel 9 Records.