Richard Vreeland is a 31-year-old American composer who most people know as Disasterpeace. If you’re not familiar with the name Disasterpeace, then you may be familiar with the David Robert Mitchell film It Follows (2015). And if you’ve never heard of the film, then I’ve got some explaining to do.
It Follows is a social horror film, meaning it deals with how we connect with one another and how those connections have consequences and ramifications, sometimes beyond our comprehension, in this case as a sexually transmitted curse. It made a big splash when it released, and though the film is exceptionally well-made, the soundtrack is integral to the experience. Mitchell hand-picked Disasterpeace to score his film based on his previous chiptune with the video game Fez.
After starting with guitar, and posting videos of his playing online, Disasterpeace was asked if he’d like to write music for cellphone games. From there, he transitioned from guitar to the digital realm, where he prefers to work. Using computers and synths, he shies away from traditional instruments, adhering to strict, low environmental footprint for his work. For It Follows, he had to work within a very short time span to score the film, but still managed to compose something that struck a chord with the viewers and actually became the high point of the film. The opening track, ‘Heels’, is perhaps the best known from the score, with percussive notes, it is repetitive and disturbing, designed to make you feel extremely uncomfortable without even watching the film. The progression is relentless; as relentless as the supernatural entity in the film. What follows ‘Heels’ is a more 80’s soundtrack, reminiscent of the works of John Carpenter, though he does revisit the opening theme several times in the rest of score in one way or another, each time tweaking and changing it just a little, pulling back the tension at the just the right moments while using the cue to make us squirm just when we need to.
Here’s a video of the opening of the film. Listen to how the score cues the action beats of the scene, and how each action takes the music to another level of tension. Warning, the end of this scene is quite graphic, and somewhat spoilery.
His latest soundtrack, Hyper Light Drifter, is also for a video game, and is somewhat more traditional in tone. He layers his tracks, textures them really, with many different synth sounds, producing a seamless blend of music, with sparing use of percussion. It’s quite beautiful, and must be heard to be appreciated. Fortunately, we’ll be hearing his work again real soon in the theaters, as David Robert Mitchell’s next film, Under the Silver Lake, is in post-production at the time of writing, slated for release in 2018. Until then, crank up the soundtrack to It Follows, and try not to get too creeped out listening to it.