TRON: Legacy Soundtrack Daft Punk (Universal)
What's a soundtrack anyway? It used to be a fully notated thing by a professional composer, played by an orchestra plus whatever instrumental exotica (Theremin, zither etc.) seemed necessary. Then the composers went out of style, and items from our communal pop soundtrack took over (remember the thrill of hearing Little Green Bag during the title sequence of Reservoir Dogs?).
Now it's a divided territory, with the likes of Randy Newman and his cousin Thomas controlling one side of the street, and prefab or commissioned pop songs working the other.
Into this scene comes Daft Punk, the French electronic dance-music duo, commissioned by Disney to provide a soundtrack for the sequel to TRON, a sci-fi film (with a synth-heavy score by Wendy Carlos) that was moderately successful when it came out in 1982 and is now regarded as visionary Hollywood cinema. The Daft Punk assignment looked like a stroke of brilliance, and the probable results have been the focus of much fervent debate.
A couple of tracks have been ping-ponging around the Internet, stoking further anticipation. Alas, the disc itself proves the old rule that when a break-in occurs, the most valuable items get nicked first.
We'll have to see the film to know how well Thomas Bangalter's and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo's handiwork serves its intended purpose, but as an album, it's mostly a snooze. The default option is a brooding, portentous soundscape built from constant heavy repetitions of a bass tonic, with anxious synth chords or orchestral cross-hatching on top. That's right: Awed perhaps by the big screen and its symphonic traditions, Daft Punk hired an orchestra. This archaic institution succeeded in luring the pair into the most surprising Wonderland imaginable for such a resolutely futuristic group: the quasi-classical Adagio for TRON, a limpid, passable imitation of a Mozartean slow movement. Other bits sound almost like Philip Glass, or like Ralph Vaughan Williams in a bombastic mood.
You have to wade through a dozen tracks to get to something with a real dance pulse: End of Line, a mid-tempo number soon to be fodder for someone's rap track. Then comes the outstanding Derezzed, which is exactly the kind of stuttering, rampageous, robotic madness we were all hoping for - cool and frenetic at the same time.
The only other item worth hearing more than once is TRON: Legacy, the end title music, for which Daft Punk had the good sense to stoke up some propulsive crunchy dance machinery before inviting the orchestra to lay what musicians call goose eggs on it. The other egg laid is the album itself, as a stand-alone recording at least.
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