[sic] Magazine

Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy, Soundtrack

The Movie Soundtrack is the modern classical genre.

And by classical, I do not mean the use of traditional orchestral instruments, but a genre that works in a very specific of structure: where elements are not confined to verse, chorus, middle-eight, break, but to a set of overlapping textures, recurring themes and multiple motifs, as well as the knowledge that What You Leave Out Is As Important As What You Leave In.

No longer confined by instrumentation, the soundtrack as a genre can, in my mind, be more clearly defined as music that evokes feeling. Many modern soundtracks evoke disgust in me. I don’t think anyone cares or wants to remember that Nickelback soundtracked a Spiderman movie. Would anyone have minded if modern movies don’t contain a carelessly shoehorned in rock or bad rap song? Nothing dates faster than the date itself.

The Golden Age of the Movie Soundtrack started, in earnest, with the names Bernard Hermann . Jerry Goldsmith . John Williams . Their work has become both in-extractable from the films, and separate, eternal pieces of music. Who can listen to ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ without thinking of the rotating space station? Who hasn’t at some point, pulled off some personal coup and thought about the rising, rousing Indiana Jones theme as they walked down the street after? Maybe it’s just me.

Add another name to the list: Daft Punk . Taking a cue from the groundbreaking work of Clint Mansell – in a former life, vocalist for Pop Will Eat Itself – ‘Tron : Legacy’ is easily Daft Punk’s best work so far, and one of the finest contemporary soundtracks of the past decade. The soundtrack may have been rearranged for home listening (Does anyone remember the appalling 46 minute official soundtrack to ‘Return of The Jedi’ that was designated the ‘concert’ arrangement? Nowhere near as obvious as that).

Some tracks – ‘Adagio For TRON’, for example – are strongly reminiscent in places of Daft Punk’s influences: the shining light of Philip Glass arpeggios appear again and again. At other points, the influence of Walter/Wendy Carlos score work for Kubrick can be heard in long, measured tones. Elsewhere – such as the stellar ‘End Of Line’, the rhythm marches on whilst synths create a vocabulary of roars and bleeps. Throw into that ‘Derezzed’, a short piece that would be a stormer played live is also the most obviously Daft Punk number of the piece, and the cumulative effect is that of a sonic claustrophobia. With ‘Fall’, a starkly orchestral piece of ever shortening and rising motifs, following immediately afterwards, creating a sense of oppression.

The soundtrack is arranged largely to follow the film, but also with the home listening experience in mind, with ebbs and flows, narrative structures, dense moments and quiet, reflective elements. By ‘Disc Wars’ – track 17 of 22 – the piece of starting to gear up again for a finale. The 100 strong orchestra whips up a storm of several conflicting, simultaneous themes linking electronics and orchestra with a grace not often seen.

However, the soundtrack has one, crucial weakness. Being 58 minutes and 22 songs long, it’s missing at least 21 minutes of music. But fear not, if you buy the release five times over, including a Deluxe 2CD edition, and downloads from Amazon, iTunes, and A Major Phone Manufacturers Store, you can own every piece of officially released material from the score. It’s this kind of abusive, wilful limitation and obfuscation of the market that leaves a bitter taste in the listener’s mouth.

As a soundtrack experience, ‘Tron: Legacy’ works well with the film, and at home. As an album it stands up well in its own right. As a Daft Punk album, it’s also easily the best thing they’ve done yet.

For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word