FourScore Match-Up #9: “Synths and Sustainability”

Today we’re going to take a look at the films that have forgone the traditional orchestral score and instead paved new ground with something almost completely electronic. No you won’t find Ladyhawke here (which was so bad it was good…no it was just bad) but we’ll take a look at the epic worlds created by a few key stokes on a Casio/Yamaha or something synthetically similar. It’s not just what sounds great on an electronic keyboard, but also what holds up over time.

So who will take the title as king of the digital domain? Is it the EDM duo seemingly born in “The Grid”, the master of all orchestral replicants, or the pair of entries from the ever versatile German group who thought the name Sleeping Citrus didn’t sound atmospheric enough? Find out after the jump…


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TRON: Legacy – A throw back to the electronic revolution that saturated the 80’s, Daft Punk’s score brings back memories of hypercolor t-shirts while infusing an omnipresent score similar to Hans Zimmer’s work on Inception. The result is a beautiful hybrid that would make the mighty Vangelis proud or envious or both. A masterful score that gives a level of depth to the world of TRON that even with all those visuals would feel flat without this musical accompaniment perfectly suited to their stylings.

(Favorite Tracks: Outlands and Flynn Lives)

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Blade Runner – One of the most loved, if not perhaps the definitive, iconic sci-fi soundtrack…and for as big as the sound is you’d be surpeised that there’s really not a real instrument in the whole thing. So unique that it took Scott’s visionary Blade Runner and made it so much more. Etherial, haunting and weightless, it gave viewers a feeling and atmosphere that transcends filthy visuals that saturated the bleak and gritty future.

(Favorite Tracks: Blade Runner Blues and Tears In Rain)

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The Keep – One of Michael Mann’s first films (that gets forgotten quite a bit) has 80’s fantasy written all over it. Tangerine Dream was a mainstay in the 80’s (Risky Business and Vision Quest to name a few) but they had a talent for taking you to other worlds…cheesy though they may be. This is one of their darker pieces but it made the movie tolerable because while interesting in concept, the film itself sure wasn’t.

(Favorite Tracks: Supernatural Accomplice and The Keep)

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Legend – Now fans of this movie probably know that Jerry Goldsmith originally scored this film. But in light of poor screenings Legend became a slave to the unavoidable trend of electronic scores even though Goldsmith’s score was more impressive. Still Tangerine Dream’s work is rather suited to the time and nostalgia aside it, like Jerry’s work stands up over the years. While it’s probably unfair to put two Tangerine Dream scores up in the same FourScore it’s only fair as they were the best at the time. Also what else could be here instead? Goblin (for their score on Dawn of the Dead)? Perhaps. Ladyhawke? Get off it. We’re trying to focus on “good” scores here people and those two just don’t cut it:P

(Favorite Tracks: Goblins and The Unicorn Theme)

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FourScore Ruling:

Yup, those beloved Light Cycles would be as interesting as a child’s Lite Brite without Daft Punk. They got unceremoniously snubbed this year at the Oscars (as well as Digital Domain in the VFX category too) but fans know just how good their work is. It seems a bit unfair to give the win to a recent score and seemingly pass over ones who have had a few decades to find an audience. But Daft Punk sifted through years of film to find out what does and doesn’t work with a synthetic score. They replicate the unrefined and experimental methods that started the move to digitizers but add to it their own signature style of club beats and viola! The result is an electronic score that makes you nod your head while it leans towards an epic sounding orchestral piece.

You know the score is awesome when the composers get a cameo…

Sorry Vangelis, I truly love your iconic and legendary score (again, “Bladerunner Blues” is just fantastic) but it felt just a bit distant from the gritty nature of the film. While that might have been the intent, Daft Punk’s score felt more symbiotic and therefore gets my vote and takes this round…so everyone, start sending me your hate mail now:)

Comments

  1. I haven’t seen your last two picks, but I find it impossible to pick between your first two. The BLADERUNNER score is just so beautiful, and I think works perfectly in contrast to films gritty tone…then again, the TRON: LEGACY score just about salvaged what was otherwise a very mediocre movie.

    • I understand your indecision completely. You’re right, the contract Vangelis’ score provides is part of it lasting brilliance but TRON Legacy is sooo damn good therefore making up for the thin film. I’m just not a big on Legend like most Scott fans but you should check out The Keep just on an ethereal level even though the film is mostly shite.