Double the Rudd is double the fun in Netflix’s new existential dramedy Living With Yourself, but that’s only part of what makes it such a fun, quick binge. The show, from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, takes a while to get going as it sets up the outlandish premise—a middle-aged copywriter visits a spa that promises to spruce up his life only to discover that it’s a cloning facility—but it really kicks into gear by the end of the first episode. After getting knocked out by anaesthetic at the “spa,” Miles (Paul Rudd) wakes up hours later buried underground in a forest.
It’s a strange, exhilarating scene—it involves, after all, a bewildered Rudd walking through woods and backyards in his underwear accosting strangers for a ride home. But what makes it truly memorable is its music: a cacophony of synths in an ascending ostinato that doesn’t so much ignore as it does obliterate musical convention. Its time signature isn’t easily discernible, and when the drums kick in, the song’s disparate elements fall out of sync with each other, becoming a shattering wall of noise—a trance-inducing barrage of sound. It’s a song you don’t forget. It’s physically impossible to.
This composition of pure maximalist mayhem is “Nautilus,” courtesy of Scottish composer Anna Meredith. She made her name creating classical music before ditching it altogether for her signature brand of synthpop. “Nautilus” has been reincarnated over and over again: first in her 2012 EP Black Prince Fury, then as the opener of her debut album Varmints. Now it’s taken on a life of its own in film and TV, repurposed as the definitive song for illustrating chaos. It’s “Where Is My Mind” for anxiety.
Much of Anna Meredith’s work might sound familiar, or at the very least you unintentionally listened in during The Favourite. Her uncharacteristically subtle pizzicato strings are the soundtrack to a befuddled Olivia Colman wandering around her desolate manor. But “Nautilus,” her magnum opus of a banger, is the most recognisable. It was the sound of anticipation for Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime show in her documentary Five Foot Two. That familiar intermingling of electronics and brass thrums along as Gaga nervously makes her way to Houston’s NRG Stadium via police escort. Bo Burnham goes further, using “Nautilus” to tremendous effect in that scene from his debut film Eighth Grade. Here, adolescent anxiety is dialled up to 100 as the insecure Kayla (Elsie Fisher) takes in her own worst nightmare: a pool party. In a film that carefully avoids infantilizing Kayla’s worries, human interaction becomes a horror movie premise, and “Nautilus” erupts like a sonic panic attack.
Meredith also served as the composer for Eighth Grade, and does the same for Living With Yourself. For a show that doesn’t fit simple genre categorizations, “Nautilus” simultaneously amps up the tension while undercutting it for comedy. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the first of many offbeat set-pieces. There’s terror and hilarity in those booming synths, and a raucous ensemble of brass and synthetic tones is the mainstay of the show’s eclectic, invigorating score. For the rest of the music, which Meredith says involved “fifty cues,” she draws from her back catalogue to score the encounters between Miles and his clone. As Miles angrily confronts the new him in the climactic end to the third episode, keep your ears on high alert (though not totally necessary because the music is LOUD) for the thundering trombones of “Bump” from her brilliant new album, FIBS. (Out now!)
“Nautilus” makes a comeback in the show’s final episode—and while I won’t spoil what happens—it’s a thrilling callback to Miles’ monstrous-like emergence from the ground. As much as the song infiltrates your eardrums, it never feels repetitive, even when it’s seemingly appearing repeatedly in pop culture. Maybe it’s because the song doesn’t just encapsulate adrenaline-fueled fear, but the multitudes of complicated feelings around it. It’s a shape-shifting beast that morphs to perfectly fit its container. It’s why Meredith is the most exciting composer working to break out since Mica Levi and Nicholas Britell. (And if there was any justice in the world, “Nautilus” would be as memed as much as the latter’s theme to Succession.) It’s a song I would gladly hear again and again, the question is: where is it going to crop up next?
Originally Appeared on GQ