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Film scores are my absolute favourite genre of music, and not just because I can listen to them in the background without distracting myself from work/study with words (and my tendency to try and sing along! ;)). A good film score conjures emotions of all kinds; whether you've seen the movie in question or not it's easy to close your eyes and picture matching scenes.
On the other hand, my knowledge of Daft Punk doesn't extend much beyond 'Around the World' (from 1997 - who let that be 15 years ago!?)! Surely a *dance music* (bleugh!) duo can't possibly make a particularly listenable album, even if it is a film score?! So aside from the fact that I had seen the (disappointingly lacklustre) movie I went into this listening experience rather expecting more electronic squawks and beeps. Such a surprise, then, to find this album full of very classical-sounding, orchestral music. Even several listens in, I was continually surprised by how heavily this leans towards more conventional film orchestration - with just enough electronica to lift it from the herd, make this album something a bit different and certainly one of my new favourite film scores!
Perhaps more surprising is the overall tone: I associate dance music with happy, upbeat (if often moronic) noise; the Tron Legacy soundtrack isn't just not dance, it's practically downbeat to the point of yearningly blue; solemn almost to the point of having something to prove. And then there's just the all-too-brief blast of something altogether other! Overall, just a great marriage, to my ears.
Now... I'm not hugely a fan of the track-by-track breakdown, but movie scores are different: there's a story to follow, after all! Word of warning then: if you haven't seen the movie there are a few, small possible spoilers below. I'll try to be brief - like the tracks, many of which are quite short (sub-2 minutes) with the whole album coming in at around the hour mark.
A very quiet start, slowly introducing the main theme that is to run through the rest of the album. It's a stately orchestral piece - giving some hint that this album may not be quite as you'd expect!
Jeff Bridges' spoken-word piece briefly explaining a little about the world of Tron, over a more electronic version of the previous track. I love the slight other-worldliness, which suits so well the movie's theme of putting real people into the computer's game-like world.
~The Son of Flynn~
A very short, light track, dancing over the keyboard with the orchestra underneath. In the movie, we're being introduced to the now-adult Sam, son of Kevin Flynn, whose disappearance (some years after his ventures into the original Tron) forms the background to this sequel.
In the movies the Recognizers are a sort of policing force so this track appropriately brings in a darkness (along with a few brass-blasts reminiscent of 'Inception'). It also almost seems to lose the electronica in favour of a full orchestra - as I said, rather a surprise to expectations, perhaps, particularly as this is the point where the movie (in the cinema, at least) switched from 'conventional' 2D to 3D!
Veering back away from the orchestra a bit, and this track is more a bridging-piece rather than one of the movie's themes, as Sam is kitted out for his 'adventure' on The Grid!
Starts so quietly, it's almost a shock when the electronic pulse starts to build! A very short piece that stops rather suddenly, leaving you wanting more...
...and this is it. Sam Flynn faces Tron's prime warrior-enforcer, a dark and mysterious character who gets a suitably threatening theme, merging a dark electric underbeat with powerful strings.
~The Game Has Changed~
As does the score: at this point I feel we move from introducing the various themes into the 'storyline', as it were. As with the previous track, there's a blend of the old and new in the music - making it a clever choice for the trailer, where it featured.
This may sound very familiar, as it's been running with at least one advert of late. Galloping yet delicate strings lead us in to one of the outstanding tracks from the album, in my view, perfectly conjuring a sense of space and travel and momentum. And as with my other favourites, just not quite long enough for me!
~Adagio for Tron~
Along with the classical name, this is a very classical-sounding piece. Sad, and beautiful, and my absolute favourite. You can actually get the sheet music for this! About halfway through there is a more modern element brought in to complement the instruments, but it fits perfectly, as does the track with the flashback it accompanies in the movie.
Segues seamlessly from the above; almost impossible to spot as a separate track!
~End of the Line~
THIS is the signature track, me thinks. For those who haven't seen/remembered the movie, the End of the Line is the club run by a Bowie-esque Michael Sheen. It's not fast, not dance music, but somehow this track makes me want to move. My one complaint is that this really feels like a lifting in the album - like we're just "getting there" - and then it's finished, gone, and we don't come back here at all!
Easily the most upbeat track on the album, along with the loudest and closest to dance music. Not my favourite, but the overall album 'needs' this track, I feel. 'Deresovled' is how a program is killed; this is the attack on the club.
Really momentous, heavy-passion piece, with the electric fuzz noise behind it reminding me of Radiohead, and showing how old and new musical styles can meet well.
Very reminiscent of the original Tron, perhaps because under the orchestral strings is a theme that very much reminds me of the old C64 or even ZX Spectrum games! Almost certainly deliberate, given the original soundtrack featured a track called 'The Light Sailer'. In both cases, the 'Sailer' is Tron transport.
This is a rather dark, semi-disturbing aspect of Tron's world (literally reprogramming!), and the theme is suitably dark and menacing. Back to very pure orchestral, with startled strings and lots of brass that wouldn't sound out of place near (Holtz's) Mars.
Mainly strings, but not the bass and then comes in a subtle bit of synthesizer. Thematically, an anticipation-raising piece. Despite the name, this track isn't accompanying the gladiator-like arena scene, where programs (and the occasional User!) battle each other with Frisbees. Ahem ;)
Quietly unsettling, with some swirly strings to match the movie's chase scene and that Planets-esque brass section going again. About halfway through there's a very subtle synth sub-bass going on.
A big change, both thematically and that the keyboards are more apparent. That said, the merging with the flute is absolutely gorgeous, if a little sad-sounding, matching the confrontation in the movie.
This track is a builder, bringing back in the main theme and a sense of the pace slowly picking up in a rather stately manner - and, of course, the end scenes of the movie!
~Tron Legacy (End Titles)~
This is probably what I expected the album to be more like, heavy on the synthesizer. Still, very listenable rather than just electronics beeping-noises under the main theme. Maybe it's just me, but there is quite a clear demarcation - that we are now listening to a set piece of music, rather than part of a score/storyline.
Sounds very much like that last bit of music you get after the titles have been running a while, and if you're still sitting in the cinema then you're waiting for a post-credit scene...! It's a gentle piece, nice enough but not - and probably not intended to - really stand(ing) out.
~Sea of Simulation~
Very worth waiting for! This is the gentle electronica, vaguely Tubular Bells-ish, that seems so well to sit with the concept and period of (the original) Tron. It's quite dreamy, and a lovely end to the proceedings. It is also so much better than the same-named track from the original score!
That last comment hits on one of the oddities here: Tron is one of the movies of my childhood, remembered with huge fondness, and yet the (recently purchased) score is disappointing. Here, with Tron: Legacy, the absolute opposite holds true: the film so failed to live up to the anticipation, but the accompanying music has almost made me forgive it!
So yes, it's a somewhat sombre listen, but that doesn't mean depressing. I've just listened to it straight through - twice - for the review, and the layers of complexity are still revealing themselves, a year and a half on. I'm not a fan of dance music, or Daft Punk - I suspect fans of either of those are going to be at least disappointed if not utterly loathing of this album: if it is all a bit too mainstream film score-y for your tastes, the 'Tron Legacy: Reconfigured' album features remixes of (some of) the above 23 tracks, with a much more dance slant from what I can tell from the samplers. I'm intrigued, but personally I adore the strong orchestral themes with just that added spice of electronica bringing in something a bit novel.
Recommended, whether you liked - or indeed, saw! - the movie or not.
One day I happened to find out that Daft Punk composed the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. I cannot comment on the movie as I haven't seen it (although after seeing the trailer I am not expecting much from it), but the idea of another film score from Daft Punk sounded really nice. Daft Punk's own screen work so far has been peculiarly good and I am looking forward to the time when I get down to reviewing Interstella 5555 and Electroma.
The Tron score consists of 22 tracks. I review them individually below not as a music critic (for God's sake, I am not!), but as a human-after-all being:
1. Overture: slow-building and powerfully noble
2. The Grid: pensive, with a sense of foreboding; slightly reminds me of Electronic Performers from Air's 2001 album 10 000Hz Legend
3. The Son of Flynn: 70's or 80's sci-fi sounding
4. Recognizer: thrilling and tense, with a sour feeling to it; the kind of music that should accompany life-turning decisions
5. Armory: gently threatening
6. Arena: the good old Daft Punk sound, slightly reminiscent of Alive from the 1997 Homework
7. Rinzler: slow-building electronic panic
8. The Game Has Changed: probably, one of the most characteristic tracks of the album demonstrating the perfect marriage of electronic and orchestral sound
9. Outlands: anxious and classical
10. Adagio for Tron: has this quiet post-storm mood and would be very suitable for a psychological drama
11. Nocturne: as solemn as the Universe
12. End of Line: something like a milder version of Television Rules the Nation from Human After All with a hint of 8-bit computer game sound
13. Derezzed: once again, good old Daft Punk and French house of the late 90's
14. Fall: stormy and sweeping
15. Solar Sailer: almost meditative, but with non-abating tension
16. Rectifier: alarming and almost disturbing, a higher level of panic compared to Rinzler
17. Disc Wars: tragic
18. C.L.U.: perfect combination of electronic tension, orchestral grandeur, and classical elegance
19. Arrival: elevating
20. Flynn Lives: noble and epic
21. Tron Legacy (End Titles): typically end-titles sounding
22. Finale: menacing, massive, pensive... epic
Aesthetically, Daft Punk with their 80's style are perfect for something like Tron: Legacy (paradoxically, I hate 80's but love Daft Punk). The album does sound like it was written for a sci-fi epic of late 70's - early 80's, maybe for a Stanley Kubrick film, which brings us to the original Tron soundtrack written by Wendy Carlos who worked on Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. Quite a complicated story, isn't it?
Overall, we do not hear as much Daft Punk on this album as many have probably been anticipating, but were those anticipations justified anyway? Knowing the music selection for Daft Punk's own film, Electroma, I was not surprised to hear modernised classical music rather than typical house. Yet, I am still wondering if Disney and Daft Punk actually worked on the same film. The soundtrack will definitely do well on its own, how well the movie will perform I cannot tell as I haven't seen it. With this powerful orchestral sound and psychotension, I think Daft Punk would be better off working for Christopher Nolan rather than Disney.
Listening to this album reminds me of some Daft Punk fans' questions about what the duo are going to do now that they are far beyond their twenties. I think the answer is quite obvious. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo revealed another side of their musical talent and coped with the Disney task professionally (although judging by the Interstella 5555 story they should be hating the corporation). The album is very good at delivering a variety of moods within the overall gloomy atmosphere. Daft Punk proved yet again that they are more than just an electronic/dance music duo.
P.S. I might be too generous with the stars here. Rationally (and if I were an evil music critic), I would give it 4 out of 5, but if I vote with my heart, 5 out of 5 seems the perfect option :)
NB: This review is mirrored in my blog at www.artymind.com
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Grid, The
3 Son Of Flynn, The
8 Game Has Changed, The
10 Adagio For Tron
12 End Of Line
15 Solar Sailer
17 Disc Wars
20 Flynn Lives
21 Tron Legacy