Showing posts with label tron. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tron. Show all posts

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy (2010)

   To be honest, they had me at the affectionately appropriated John Carpenter synths

   I had eagerly anticipated this latest curio from one of our era's most beloved and occasionally pilloried electronic acts, but the prospect of uniting them with the 85-piece London Orchestra and the guiding hands of orchestrator and arranger Joseph Trapanese certainly instilled promise. Never mind that at far as the cosmos is certain, no other concern is as fated to score a Tron sequel as Daft Punk, but the spectre of third album Human After All still casts a pesky shadow. I cannot recall the halcyon message board day the general approval of 'Robot Rock' dissipated into shards of broken hopes and dead disco dreams when some encyclopaedic wag unearthed its original incarnation as Breakwater's 'Release The Beast', providing both an appreciation of a superb sample source and an accusatory totem with which to beat our favourite French androids over the head, without smirking a little

   Nevertheless, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Man de Homem-Christo have built up enough goodwill over the years to merit more than a little leeway when scoring a blockbuster movie, and if their remit was to produce a soundtrack that stands with the greats of our cinematic history, than the amount of time I've spent listening to this record since its December release suggests they came tantalisingly close to succeeding. For if the duo did not know their way around a hook - no matter how repetitive - their career would have been consigned to history faster than that of The Nolan Sisters

   Of course, such a sampladelic act know their way around the hooks other artists create, and aside from Carpenter and other old hands like Philip Glass, Vangelis (the well played homage 'Arrival') and Maurice Jarre (whose sweeping, bold romanticism and late period synth antics seem to guide the electronic and orchestral merges here as much as Tron's original composer Wendy Carlos. Wagner's here too, of course - who else could 'Rectifier's evil imperial bombast remind one of?), the soundtrack also takes in a very modern sampling of prolific scorers Hans Zimmer and John Powell, who are named in the album's thank you-notes, and whose respective trademarks of moody, minor key, minimalist strings (the recurring leitmotif for the film's sinister, near-unkillable antagonist Clu; 'ENCOM Parts I and II') and muscular tribal rhythms married to string-based melodies and flourishes ('Disc Wars'; 'ENCOM' again) give Tron: Legacy an almost self-consciously contemporary launchpad. Which is why it's so compelling when Daft Punk then proceed to add other twists to it. The repetitive build, swell and release that guides their studio records - utilised here as if to prove that the formula is mutable, not worthless, in a different setting - deftly complements the rushes of emotion, danger, odd austerity and digital battling that the film presents. Indeed, when the aforementioned Carpenter-like four note synth intruded like a warning alarm during Clu's first appearance, I could have punched the air with glee - a newly minted, iconic, modern leitmotif to match Jason Bourne's (the elegant, Bernard Hermann-like grasp of sinister undertones through strings and timpani offering the perfect creepy accompaniment, as does the hot vapor electro hiss when the stern, urgent strings of the final 'CLU' theme incarnation take hold - music for a last stand against a complete monster if I ever heard it. Digital Jeff Bridges is the new Childcatcher)

   The fortunate thing with so many musical reference points is Bangalter and de Homem-Christo's determination to meld them in ways both subtle and overt, refracting this familiarity into their own aesthetic in the same manner that their synths and symphonies wind around each other like sinew, a trick excellently deployed early in the runtime during the first 5 seconds of the stirring, Zimmer-but-different 'Recognizer' alone. Indeed, this piece is demonstrable of the album's significant, intrinsic aspect: the total ease in wedding the orchestral to the machinery, giving both core elements a textural parity that is stunningly synergistic - in this way, and in the recurrence of its own science fiction main motif across the myriad pieces, the work I'm most reminded of is that of Basil Poledouris for RoboCop. Like Daft Punk, he successfully rendered a traditional, yet unconventional, film accompaniment that musically captured the man/machine tension driving the story; in both cases, it is a judicious sense of nuance that results in such textural success. Hence, unlike with Zimmer or even Jarre, one doesn't see "the synthy bit" and "the horny bit" telegraphed a mile off. And it is both this and their versatility that make future Daft scores a prospect worth putting up with the inevitable cash-in remixes* for

* Let us face it - Tron: Legacy Reconfigured would always have sucked most of the interesting elements dry from the bones of the originals

   Even though two years working with Trapanese cannot confer his particular skills upon them, the two minds at Daft Punk's centre are so attuned to the protean aspects of a film's scenes that the score may forever threaten to overshadow the visuals in the mind's memory. Cohesion carries the day - the stylistic, near synaesthetic similarities created through mood and minimal melodies (and of course a band so concerned with hooks would make a film score with a surface so simple), as well as the two's increasingly dynamic mode of production and mixing, are what allows purely symphonic  pieces like the beautiful 'Finale' to gaily coexist with the Springsteen-esque, neon night ride 'End of Line', requiring little glue from the more conceptually enticing in-betweeners like the moving storyteller that is 'Adagio For Tron' (and speaking of leitmotifs, what an excellent plot detail it is to include Rinzler's theme in this piece, furthering the curiosity over this warrior's origins. Other plot guided examples include the reworked refrain of 'Armory' in 'Outlands Part II'). And all of it sounds ridiculously gorgeous and clear as a bell - there's something alluringly crystalline about the pulsingly pretty highlight, 'Outlands', whose wild ride-soundtracking resembles Danny Elfman's 'Flight of the Batmobile' filtered through the breezy sensibilities of Daft Punk's own 'Revolution 909'. And even this gem is preceded by the album's critical consensus-favourite 'The Game Has Changed', where Daft Punk's production nous reflects the fragmentation of the dying Program characters and the sterile yet treacherous and twisting expanse of the Light Cycle grid and the match fought on it through bit crushed martial drums, a hypnotic synth melody and the old build, swell and release as represented by the prominent and then reticent style of the instrumentation

   In order for one to fully appraise the score, I particularly recommend it with the visuals attached. Given that the film was cut to the music, that is no idle witticism - in that sense, it is also the successor to Daft Punk's humourous, nostalgic and entertaining anime collaboration with Leiji Matsumoto, Interstella 5555, which simultaneously played out to their memorable sophomore, Discovery. Tron: Legacy may not have the duo's vision at the helm, but my, are they becoming increasingly adept at telling a story made by others