Tron Legacy: Reconfigured

Tron Legacy: ReconfiguredWith Daft Punk’s pedigree, at least a remix or two of the electronica duo’s music from Tron Legacy was inevitable. But trying to get remixes of that soundtrack to sustain over an entire album? That’s a trickier proposition.

I’m going to admit up front that I have a bias when it comes to remixing: either add something new and interesting or surprising to the original piece, or weave the original into something new and interesting that’s just as compelling… or stay home. It’s not enough for my ears for someone to just slap a beat on top of something. (As you can imagine, this means I can swing from loving it to hating it during the track change on any given remix collection.)

And it’s even pretty easy to figure out which tracks from the original soundtrack will be reworked: “Derezzed”, “End Of Line Club” and the already-heavily-percussive end credits were always going to be early favorites, simply because they’ve already got a beat. But it’s the remixers who go off that predictably beaten path who got my attention on this album.

Paul Oakenfold is no stranger to film scoring himself (Swordfish) and he’s certainly no stranger to electronica, and he turns the already mesmerizing track “CLU” into a mesmerizing track with a hypnotic beat and synths that aren’t constantly competing with what’s already present in the original track. I also applaud both remixes of the not-so-obvious “Son Of Flynn” – both Moby and Ki:Theory manage to bolt some interesting complementary sounds onto it. Kaskade’s reworked “Rinzler” is nice too, speeding up the pace considerably and adding layers that don’t feel out of place.

On the flipside, there are tracks that fall flat for me. “The Fall” is a challenging piece to tackle, since it has a rising tone that, in the movie, built the tension during a scene in a plummeting elevator. That almost-jet-engine-like sound would pose a challenge for any remixer, but the choices made for the M83 vs. Big Black Delta remix of “The Fall” are truly bizarre, taking an already-noisy track and going even further off the deep end.

And as obvious as “Derezzed” seems for the remix treatment, the Glitch Mob remix falls strangely flat; a later reworking by Avicii is better, but it goes off in a completely different direction until the song’s melody is completely transformed into something else.

2 out of 4Maybe a better, and more challenging, approach would’ve been to take the same tack as the track-for-track various artists tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours several years ago: recreate, track for track and in order, the entire original soundtrack in remix form, rather than winding up with two versions of “Derezzed”, two versions of “Son Of Flynn”, and so on. It’s just possible that such an approach wouldn’t have attracted the prodigious remixing talent that’s on display here, though. Tron Legacy: Reconfigured (or “R3C0NF1GUR3D” as the cover would have it) is half diamonds and half rough, and a bit disjointed – listen to it in little chunks, not all in one sitting.

Order this CD

  1. Derezzed (The Glitch Mob Remix) (4:22)
  2. Fall (M83 vs. Big Black Delta Remix) (3:54)
  3. The Grid (The Crystal Method Remix) (4:27)
  4. Adagio For Tron (Teddybears Remix) (5:34)
  5. The Son Of Flynn (Ki:Theory Remix) (4:51)
  6. C.L.U. (Paul Oakenfold Remix) (4:35)
  7. The Son Of Flynn (Moby Remix) (6:32)
  8. End Of Line (Boys Noize Remix) (5:40)
  9. Rinzler (Kaskade Remix) (6:52)
  10. ENCOM Part 2 (Com Truise Remix) (4:52)
  11. End Of Line (Photek Remix) (5:18)
  12. Arena (The Japanese Popstars Remix) (6:07)
  13. Derezzed (Avicii Remix) (5:03)
  14. Solar Sailer (Pretty Lights Remix) (4:32)
  15. Tron Legacy End Titles (Sander Kleinenberg Remix) (5:04)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: 2011
Total running time: 77:43

Tron Legacy (North American edition)

Tron LegacyOne of the things announced fairly early on about Tron Legacy was that its music would be composed by Daft Punk. Now, I like “Robot Rock” as much as the next guy, but was this French techno/DJ duo up to composing the score for an entire film from a franchise whose fan base was very much attached to the synth-orchestral sound of the original movie?

As it turns out, Daft Punk was more than up to the challenge, and more than a few moviegoers are likely to snap up the soundtrack while quietly asking themselves “Who did the music to the original Tron? Carlos somebody?” Just as Wendy Carlos‘ expansive, at times almost abstract electronic music was a perfect fit for the original Tron, Daft Punk nails the sound that accompanies the new movie. It’s a giddy mix of synth and orchestral textures, with only a couple of tracks that hint at Daft Punk’s more typical sound. It’s a much more foreboding sound than Carlos’ music, which did a great job of establishing Tron‘s computer world as a wondrous, almost magical setting. The new movie’s setting is darker and more dangerous, and Daft Punk’s music is a perfect fit for that.

But you don’t just hear Daft Punk on the soundtrack – there’s also an orchestra of over 100 players here, and the CD credits make a note of an orchestration assist by veteran Hollywood composer Bruce Broughton – normally a name you see headlining his own soundtracks. There are also “special thanks” for advice on the art of film scoring listing names like Harry Gregson-Williams and Hans Zimmer (again, not exactly B-list names). Daft Punk chased after this assignment, admitting along the way to being fans of classic Tron, and they obviously also sought some help from some of the most prolific film composers in the business.

The result is a soundtrack with plenty of motifs for specific characters and situations, and an album that, while it isn’t necessarily in the chronological order of scenes in the movie, makes for a very satisfying listen. Helping things considerably is that the movie’s rookie director (at least as far as directing for the big screen goes) trusted his rookie composers enough to dial the film’s atmospheric sound mix back and let the music carry key moments. One of the best musical moments in the score – a piece that’s been getting rapt attention as far back as the movie’s trailers – is “The Game Has Changed”, but its quiet, moody intro lands on an unusually quiet moment at the beginning of the showy (and otherwise noisy) light cycle competition. It’s a surprising combination of scene and music, and it’s incredibly effective.

The closest Daft Punk gets to sounding like Wendy Carlos may be the mostly-electronic “Son Of Flynn”, which somewhat surprisingly accompanies scenes that take place in the “real” world rather than the electronic realm. Other highlights include “Nocturne” (a much more sedate take on the same basic melody as “Son Of Flynn”), the techno anthem “Derezzed”, “Rinzler” and another moment where the music dominates the movie’s sound mix, “Adagio For Tron”. Those pieces that are mostly orchestral are surprisingly good – not a bad film scoring debut for a couple of guys whose primary output is electronic dance music.

There is one big bone to pick, but it isn’t with Daft Punk. Listeners in the UK and Europe got a two-disc version of the Tron Legacy soundtrack with several extra tracks, and even more extra tracks were spread out among online music stores ranging from iTunes and Amazon.com to Wal-Mart and Nokia (!). The scavenger hunt approach might have been neat for the “Flynn Lives” alternate reality game that helped to build buzz leading up to the movie’s release, but don’t make it such a chore for us to get a complete soundtrack for the movie. The additional tracks will be covered in another review.

As a single-CD experience, however, the Tron Legacy soundtrack delivers most of the movie’s key scenes in musical form. I really don’t know if this score hails the beginning of a whole new career for Daft Punk, or just a brilliant way to get a new audience interested in their back catalogue and future works, but I would bet money on one thing: 4 out of 4Tron Legacy‘s soundtrack will become a frequent flyer in movie trailers for the next decade. Its dark ambience and rhythmic sense make for some pretty catchy music, either with or away from the movie for which the music was originally constructed. And that, naturally, makes it a pretty good soundtrack listen too.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (2:28)
  2. The Grid (1:36)
  3. The Son of Flynn (1:35)
  4. Recognizer (2:37)
  5. Armory (2:03)
  6. Arena (1:33)
  7. Rinzler (2:17)
  8. The Game Has Changed (3:25)
  9. Outlands (2:42)
  10. Adagio for TRON (4:11)
  11. Nocturne (1:41)
  12. End of Line (2:36)
  13. Derezzed (1:44)
  14. Fall (1:22)
  15. Solar Sailer (2:42)
  16. Rectifier (2:14)
  17. Disc Wars (4:11)
  18. C.L.U. (4:39)
  19. Arrival (2:00)
  20. Flynn Lives (3:22)
  21. TRON Legacy (End Titles) (3:17)
  22. Finale (4:22)

Released by: Disney Music
Release date: 2010
Total running time: