On his second musical collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonny Greenwood certifies his talent and skill of making his soundtracks, which are eminently symphonic and academic, sound completely different from the music of his band, Radiohead; yet still transmitting the feeling that there's a lot of the band's essence in his scores and vision as a composer. Following in the wake of “There Will Be Blood” - which also benefited from the creative association of these two minds bubbling with ideas and ambition - “The Master”, tightens the ties with Radiohead in its ample, cinematic vision, but also in the effort to interpret classic concepts from the past in a modern and daring way. The forms vary, and the way they go about it are clearly different , but in essence, they're looking for the same thing, and the proximity of both worlds in the mind of the British guitarist is obvious at all times on this soundtrack.
With the exception of the four vocal tracks (Ella Fitzgerald, Madisen Beaty, Jo Stafford, and Helen Forrest are the only guests at the party), the album goes the same way as its predecessor: thin and quiet pieces which sometimes result in a storm and on which string and piano arrangements play an essential role, with the inestimable help of foreign elements, like the synthesiser. It's here where Greenwood taps into his most playful and un-academic vein, but also into his particular way of composing and situating the pieces, allergic to convention and the typical tricks of the lazy soundtrack writer. He avoids the climaxes, the crescendos and the power play, maybe because it doesn't go with his personality, but also because the music should never be more important than the images, in terms of intensity and strength.
Between “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master”, the differences are conceptual rather than musical. This is a Greenwood who's much more mature and personal in the creation of his symphonic ideas, less affected. It is as if he needed less twists, less time, and less instruments, to find what he's looking for. And, most of all, this is a Greenwood who searches for beauty and deep emotion in several different ways within the frame of the soundtrack score, an unmistakable sign that the Radiohead member wants to find a voice of his own, different from other contemporaries. “The Master” may seem like a more accessible and digestible move (the four vocal and jazzy pieces certainly help), and it probably is, but make no mistake: these compositions are as complex, dense, and daring as the music that made Radiohead a beacon of restlessness and discomfort in the mainstream world.