(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

CD review - Daft Punk, TRON: Legacy film score (2010)

A great film score may not necessarily work as a standalone album. The score should mesh with the visual elements of the film and smoothly match the feel or, better yet, create the mood for a given scene. This is completely different than a collection of songs from a movie. True fans of the art will enjoy a film score album on its own merits, but more casual listeners may be put off by the large collection of short pieces that provide the themes or scene support.

For TRON: Legacy, Daft Punk have done a fine job of composing the score, but fans of the duo's electronic albums may not be satisfied with the TRON experience. Only a small handful of songs like Derezzed capture Daft Punk's frantic energy. Its strong house beat and glitched out elements would be at home on their normal releases, although it feels very short. End of Line also sets up a satisfying dance beat with strong synth lines and some interesting beep-boop electronica.

On the other hand, Daft Punk's seamless integration of their electronic aesthetic with a full orchestra is what makes TRON: Legacy a wonderful soundtrack. The fine balance of elements becomes clear in the first two tracks. Overture introduces us to some of the running thematic elements used throughout the score. The soaring horns and rich strings dominate although there are some electronic backing elements. This leads into The Grid and Jeff Bridges' voiceover. Once the words are done, we hear the electronic statement of the same theme from Overture.

From then on, the pieces usually contain both the organic orchestral sounds and the cooler electronic parts. Mechanical throbbing sets a mood, but the orchestra is generally present, too. On Recognizer, these elements fall together perfectly. The staccato strings convey tension and focus, while a bassy throb adds a taste of threat. Then the horns build the theme into something majestic.

Along with Daft Punk, much of the credit for this balance should go to Joseph Trapanese for his work on the orchestral arrangements. His delicate touch with voicing the motifs in the orchestra left room for the electronic music while still contributing strongly to hitting the right mood.

My favorite track is the warm Adagio for Tron, which starts with a reflective, sympathetic string melody. The orchestra unfolds the melodic line into warmth. Here, the electronic part is not cold or mechanical, but ethereal. The track seems to end, which leads into a second movement. The theme is revisited, but faster and more insistent. The tension releases, though, returning to the moody beginning.

TRON: Legacy is a well executed film score. There are a few moments that will stand out for Daft Punk's fans, but the subtle balance between analog and digital is the real selling point. I'll toast with a nice dry Riesling.

(View the trailer)

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