one of the best things about Daft Punk’s soundtrack to TRON: LEGACY is how much there is to say about it. it’s nothing if not opinionating …
i’ll leave the group’s history to the experts. i own just one of their earliest tracks, from the Source Lab 2 compilation, aaaaand that’s about it. while scanning around for related music during my obsessive phase of listening to the leaked tracks, i came across some nice and familiar sounding works of theirs. particularly Discovery, of course. and everybody loves these guys. they engender such passion in their fans. they’re eccentric and strategically low-profile. they’re hard-working, intense and fastiduous. and this album proves for certain that they’re talented as all hell.
how they managed to pull this whole thing off, i don’t know. and i have to say, for their first album in 5 years AND their first major motion picture soundtrack, there’s a lot of expectations for them to meet. let’s stick to the score itself, a groundbreaking union of classic electronica and orchestral conduction. for purposes of review, i’m pretty much going to disregard the dyed-in-the-wool dance tracks — End of Line, Derezzed, yadda yadda — because i know that the boys can do that. what i didn’t know was that they could so consistently re-capture the trademark tonal moog sound of Wendy Carlos‘s original 1982 soundtrack. i also didn’t know that driving Kraftwerk beats could be instrumented by a string section. so now i know.
and there’s such a satisfying variety to the tracks too. sure, by the 3rd or 4th listen through the album, you may start to get a bit weary of the Philip Glass-ian rhythmic overtones. yet the album is rich with variety, and is constantly introducing new themes and moods, and in a way so authentically fitted to drama. the weaving of organic music and their trademark squelchy sound is simply remarkable. certainly a lot of due credit must also go out to Joseph Trapanese who championed the orchestral transcription, for the post-production results are incomparable.
two of the tracks i’m most fond of are Recognizer and The Game Has Changed, and for reasons perhaps particular to my Ambient-tuned head. *listen to the strings*. when i think of Daft Punk, i think of audio distortion by flange. and the strings, they do that. they flange. intentionally so, from the choice of aggressive muscular tempo, even down to the playing technique itself — apparently Daft Punk was very particular about that — and out flows the natural imperfection of a professional orchestra attempting to produce a German techno track. the subtle flaws that differentiate each and every hand-played measure are most evident in those self-flanging strings. and with those two tracks in particular — in the rising pumps of Recognizer, and the long spatial bridges in Game — it becomes clear that Guy-Manuel, Thomas and Joseph all knew exactly what they were doing in crafting their fusion-ready moodline to be encased in deep bass and analog synth. it’s sublime and brilliant.
another reviewer (who is clearly more seasoned in reviewing Hollywood film music than i am) compared TRON: LEGACY in somewhat dismissive terms to the soundtrack to this summer’s INCEPTION. you know, what, with the use of bombastic brass and all. so the same. yeah, i saw the movie (meh), and yeah, i scanned the tracks on the album. mehh. the Hanz Zimmer mix itself is rather mushy and frequency-limited — whereas Daft Punk pushes both ends of the audio spectrum equally, and often simultaneously. and i don’t hear mr. Zimmer even attempting any Electro tracks, let alone 3 to 4 distinct ones like our French buddies are able to effortlessly toss into their opus (just for good measure) ON TOP OF their compelling and evolving musical score. seriously; they pull off not only the music they’re known for, but also the kind of mature film piece that few in the establishment had imagined that they could. and with bold panache.
okay, okay. i can’t believe i’m defending these boys against their critics in the press :). they’re big enough to take care of themselves, as TRON: LEGACY goes to prove for sure. and i can only imagine what it’s all gonna sound like with an actualy film to watch on top of it!