Before the Flood is a documentary from Fischer Stevens that follows actor Leonardo DiCaprio on a three-year journey as he surveys the impact of climate change. Its soundtrack is a superb collaboration between multi-instrumentalists and producers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, revered composer Gustavo Santaolalla, and Scottish post-rock outfit Mogwai. Opening things nicely is the title track. Comprised of minimal yet solid electronic beats and wavering Swarmatron sounds, the piece is littered with some melancholy piano and striding basslines. Santaolalla's diverse use of strings and acoustics also functions perfectly upon Reznor and Ross' canvas of intertwining electro-organic beauty.
"A Minute to Breathe" is a sorrowful piano sonnet with Reznor’s vocals evoking the message; his voice cracks through the vocals that break around the mix, panning nicely and sliding off into the distance as he sings "I don’t wanna say goodbye...", ending with all the elements bringing themselves together and some distant brass sitting atop the rest before fading into the distance. Mogwai’s "Dust Bowl" delivers swollen, frosty ambience layered with delay-heavy synth pads and light treble-picked guitar. Santaolalla’s technical prowess is unmistakable on such tracks such as "Thin Ice" -- his familiar use of the Ronroco is evident here with beautifully picked notes running alongside some sorrow-laden violas. He opts for a more sinister tone with "The Melting Pot," which consists of an ominous, rumbling, and persistent bass running underneath perilous strings before peaking altogether with portentous ambience. Santaolalla's abilities are impeccably combined with those of Reznor and Ross. With "Trembling," his familiar command of strings dominates the first half of the song, and the powerhouse production duo’s talents suddenly come into play around mid-track; synthesized bass and trickling piano adorn the mix, with the light touch of Swarmatron and everything awash with some beautiful reverb. A surefire highlight is Reznor and Ross' "8 Billion" -- a very interesting piece, mostly because the same melody runs throughout while surrounding harmonies burgeon unpredictably. It’s a long track that simultaneously transforms its palette and remains locked into its central melody; a perfect example of the production duo’s unwavering ability to constantly find new kinds of musicality within noise. Mogwai close the album brilliantly with "After the Flood," a wonderful track composed of lonely glockenspiels and benevolent static with wobbly, synthesized strings rippling throughout before a thudding bass drum breaks through with light hi-hats. A cacophony of noise -- the effects, harmonies, and melodies are all used equally and very effectively throughout the record, truly giving it a sense of scale and significance. It's the perfect soundtrack for DiCaprio’s trek across the globe investigating the imminent perils of climate change and what we must do to save the planet. The soundtrack for Before the Flood is an extremely impressive and collaborative effort from some of the most creative musicians on the scene today.