Twister – music by Mark Mancina

TwisterEvery once in a while, a soundtrack appears that you just kind of order on sight. This was one of those. I was no stranger to Mark Mancina’s propulsive, all-American-sounding score from the 1996 tornado disaster flick Twister, as I already had the original release of the score from that year, but the thought of a complete Twister score release was enough to lighten my wallet a bit…mainly for the love of a single piece of music omitted from the ’96 CD.

One of the film’s best sequences follows a somewhat introspective series of vignettes that nail home, none too subtly, the emotional stakes for the movie’s characters. After a hasty retreat from a decidedly southern meal, the ragtag storm chasers led by Bill Paxton’s character do a bit of ill-advised off-roading without being entirely sure where they’re going to wind up. The orchestral part of the soundtrack begins churning in a steady rhythm with the signature battery of cellos that anchor the entire score, eventually transitioning into “Humans Being”, the song Van Halen contributed to Twister‘s “songtrack” album. It’s quite possibly the best integration of score and tie-in song I’ve ever heard Hollywood pull off, and…it was missing from the original album.

That track, “Walk In The Woods”, tapers off rather than crashing into rock music territory (the Van Halen song can still be found on the readily available song CD), but it sold me on this whole remaster. Unlike some past reissues which doubled the amount of music available or blew our minds with alternates or unused takes, there are probably fewer than ten minutes of truly “new” music to be found on this reissue. But in conversing with fellow soundtrack afficionados, I found that “Walk In The Woods” was the tipping point for them picking this one up too.

4 out of 4The familiar tracks from the original album are renamed and shuffled around a bit from the original 1996 release, but it’s all there – with one exception. Missing from this new release is the snippet of movie dialogue (well, singing, really) in which a couple of the storm chasers sing a bit of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma (particularly badly); if you’re a fan of that few seconds of silliness, you need to hang on to the 1996 release as well as this one.

Order this CD

  1. Wheatfield (film version) (1:25)
  2. The Hunt Begins (3:50)
  3. The Sky (1:03)
  4. Dorothy IV (film version) (1:57)
  5. The First Twister (0:49)
  6. In the Ditch / Where’s My Truck? (2:00)
  7. Waterspouts (2:49)
  8. Cow (5:42)
  9. Walk In The Woods (2:05)
  10. Bob’s Road (2:13)
  11. Hail No! (2:43)
  12. Futility (film version) (2:17)
  13. Drive-In Twister (2:57)
  14. Wakita (film version) (5:19)
  15. Sculptures (film version) (3:06)
  16. House Visit (4:47)
  17. The Big Suck (film version) (1:47)
  18. End Titles (2:25)
  19. Wheatfield (alternate) (1:28)
  20. Waterspouts (alternate) (2:50)
  21. The Big Suck (alternate) (1:14)
  22. End Title / Respect the Wind (9:20)

Released by: La-La Land Records
Release date: January 20, 2017
Total running time: 64:07

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:

8 Bit Weapon – Tron Tribute

8 Bit Weapon - Tron TributeChiptune champs 8 Bit Weapon pay tribute to one of electronic music’s true pioneers, Wendy Carlos, by way of reinterpreting Carlos’ music from the 1982 movie Tron. With Tron slowly bubbling back into the public consciousness by way of Disney’s attempt to revive the franchise on the big screen later in 2010, Tron Tribute is an inspired project with good timing.

Available as a free download, Tron Tribute basically cycles through variations on two different pieces of music from Tron, namely “Tron Scherzo” and the movie’s end credit suite (or at least about the first 1/3 of it). 8 Bit Weapon deploys its usual arsenal of classic Commodore 64 and Game Boy sounds for the occasion, and adds an Apple II-based synth for good measure. (The custom-made Apple II synth program is also available on their website.)

The variations aren’t wildly different – it’s more a case of subtly swapping out “instruments” – but the result is still quite an enjoyable new take on the music from Tron . (It’s also worth noting that 8 Bit Weapon isn’t the first act to take on such a reinterpretation – there was also a track of Tron music, appropriately arranged for the sound hardware of the Intellivision, whose maker had the license for home 4 out of 4video games based on Tron, on the Intellivision In Hi-Fi album.)

8 Bit Weapon’s take on Tron nicely splits the difference between Wendy Carlos’ complex harmonies and the unique harmonics of the machines used to play the music – and you sure can’t beat the price.

Download it!

  1. Tron Scherzo (Sark’s Revenge Mix) (2:00)
  2. Tron Theme & Ending (Flynn’s Farewell Mix) (1:10)
  3. Tron Scherzo (Solar Sailer Mix) (2:00)
  4. Tron Theme & Ending (Yori’s Game Boy Mix) (1:10)
  5. Discuss it in our forumTron Scherzo (Clu’s Game Boy Mix) (2:01)

Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 8:21

Twilight Zone: The Movie – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Twilight Zone: The MovieReturning full-circle to the early days of his career as a contract composer working for one studio or another, Jerry Goldsmith was no stranger to The Twilight Zone, having devised the music for some of its classic television installments. By the time he was tapped for the big-screen re-interpretation of it, however, Goldsmith was one of the major players in movie music…and in 1983, just a few years after Aliens and Star Trek: The Motion Picture and their knockout scores, that’s putting it mildly. According to the information-dense booklet that’s become a hallmark of Film Score Monthly’s impressive CDs, Goldsmith was more than happy to return to this particular dimension of sight and sound. This CD gathers, for the first time, every note of music recorded for Twilight Zone: The Movie, including background source music and even leaving room for the suites that were specially recorded or edited together for the original 1983 album release (in the back of the booklet, a running order is included for those who wish to program their CD players to reflect the original LP running order).

If there’s a composer better suited to this unusual movie – which did its best to reflect its short-story-length episodic roots – I can’t imagine who it would be. Goldsmith is called upon to deliver, effectively, four distinctly different scores for one film, as well as framing sequences bookended by Marius Constant’s immortal Twilight Zone theme. What’s all the more impressive is that Goldsmith doesn’t seem to have changed a thing about the original theme, completely forgoing the opportunity to update it or broaden it for the big screen. This is one of the elements that really works toward making the film an integral chapter of the franchise: whether you’re talking about the music or the scripts, it doesn’t completely betray the source material just to cash in on the name (which it very easily could have – the movie languished in development hell for some time as its structure was endlessly debated at the studio).

The first story in the movie’s four-episode format, Time Out, receives a deceptively old-fashioned score: heavy on rumbling piano bass notes and an occasional snare drum cadence, it’s nothing that couldn’t have been done with the meager musical resources at Goldsmith’s command in the original TV series. Kick The Can, the second story, has a broader musical palette, but it accomplishes this by way of synths which were, even then, obviously synths.

The third story, It’s A Good Life, receives an unusual musical treatment to say the least – there are moments of beauty and wonder that sound like they might’ve emerged from the Star Trek: The Motion Picture score, and then there are Carl Stalling-inspired slices of cartoon whimsy that inevitably descend into something with a much more sinister feel. Jarring, but effective; “The House” is one of my favorite pieces of Goldsmith music from this epoch of his career.

The fourth and final story, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, is the crowning glory of Twilight Zone: The Movie, revisiting a segment of the original series that starred William Shatner. In the big-screen iteration, however, John Lithgow is the increasingly paranoid passenger who rants and raves that he’s seen “a man on the wing of the plane!” Nightmare is one of my favorite pieces of early ’80s genre cinema, and it gets a devilishly devious musical treatment with plenty of scratchy fiddle and wavering, almost-theremin-like synthesizer to signify the gremlin that’s tearing the plane apart before Lithgow’s eyes. And speaking of gremlins, in between the big, brassy suspense cues, the creature also gets a musical signature that one can tell was rhythmically built upon by Goldsmith for Gremlins a year later – though not madly similar melodically, the rhythmic resemblance is undeniable. In Gremlins, the same rhythm gained a playful-but-sinister tone, but here, it’s just plain scary.

The bonus tracks include the edited-down suites from the original LP, previously unreleased songs recorded for the backgrounds of certain scenes (which, while seemingly out of place next to the orchestral score, were still written by Goldsmith), and a few alternate takes. It was mentioned at the beginning of this review, but the booklet is an outstanding source of behind-the-scenes info about both the movie and its music, including the original LP liner notes. Twilight Zone: The Movie was a major release from a major studio, and Film Score Monthly’s presentation more than does it justice.

3 out of 4

Order this CD

  1. Main Title: The Twilight Zone Theme (0:48)
  2. Time Out

  3. Questions / The Ledge (4:03)
  4. Yellow Star (3:57)
  5. Kick The Can

  6. Harp and Love (1:27)
  7. Weekend Visit (1:34)
  8. Kick The Can (0:37)
  9. Night Games (1:54)
  10. Take Me With You / A New Guest (10:13)
  11. It’s A Good Life

  12. The House (2:30)
  13. The Sister / I Didn’t Do It (1:22)
  14. Carbon Monster (3:08)
  15. That’s All, Ethel (1:48)
  16. No More Tricks (3:57)
  17. Nightmare At 20,000 Feet

  18. Nervous Pills (2:39)
  19. No Smoking (2:07)
  20. On The Wing (1:21)
  21. A Face In The Window (2:11)
  22. Engine Failure (1:38)
  23. Overture: Twilight Zone Theme and End Title (6:03)
  24. Bonus Tracks

  25. Nights Are Forever (3:36)
  26. Anesthesia (3:04)
  27. Questions / The Ledge (album edit) (3:03)
  28. Take Me With You / A New Guest (album edit) (5:03)
  29. That’s All Ethel (album edit) (4:29)
  30. Cartoon Music (1:27)
  31. A Face In The Window / Hungry Monster / Twilight Zone Theme (album edit) (4:58)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 78:57

Tripods: The Pool Of Fire Suite – music by Ken Freeman

Tripods: The Pool Of Fire SuiteIncluded as a bonus feature of the long-delayed (and long, long overdue) compelte series DVD set of the 1980s BBC SF series The Tripods, and also available as a download for those with no interest in the DVDs, the Pool Of Fire Suite is an interesting experiment: original Tripods TV composer Ken Freeman, a master of synthetic textures, composed new music for key story points in the season of the show that was never made. Despite the fact that over 20 years have passed, Freeman makes an effort to make it sound as though this music is coming out of his synth rig circa 1986/87 – with minimal hints of the massive advances that have been made in synthesizers and/or sampling in the intervening two decades.

“A Plan Of Action” immediately sets the tone with an extended, minor-key statement of the Tripods theme, but this time slowed down to a dirge: it’s easy to imagine this music covering the scenes picking up from the second season’s cliffhanger, in which Will and his friends discover that the base from which their resistance movement has been fighting the Earth-dominating Tripods has been laid to waste. As easy as it is to picture these things, Freeman is free to explore the material without the timing constraints of composing to picture.

Freeman delves into a surprisingly bluesy, guitar-centered sound with a percolating ’80s-style synth backing in “A Drink With Ruki”, an a similarly upbeat brass riff lightens things up in “The Pool Of Fire” itself. “Summer Wind” also keeps things light for a portion of the story involving the view from a hot air balloon.

After the triumphant strains of “Freedom”, “The Conference Of Man” brings the Tripods theme back to the fore, this time in a much more confident (and less mournful) interpretation, but there’s still dissonant unease waiting in the wings: without the Tripods to unit humanity in a fight against a common cause, the newly freed human race risks splintering into factions fighting over its own resources. Where this storyline could have gone is anyone’s guess: there were no further books carrying the story forward, and of course there were no further TV adventures. So we’re still treated to an unresolved cliffhanger – albeit a purely musical one.

4 out of 4I’ve always been a huge fan of the original Tripods music, so the very notion that the BBC would commission Ken Freeman to provide music for adventures never filmed is a huge hit with me. The music is sensational – and I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking that it’s the BBC’s (and the audience’s) loss that a third season wasn’t made that could have featured music like this.

Order this CD

  1. A Plan Of Action (3:46)
  2. The Green Man (6:40)
  3. A Drink With Ruki (7:32)
  4. The Pool Of Fire (6:31)
  5. Summer Wind (4:40)
  6. Freedom (5:30)
  7. The Conference Of Man (5:33)

Released by: BBC Video (as part of The Tripods: The Complete Series DVD box set)
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 40:12

Torchwood: Children Of Earth – music by Ben Foster

Torchwood: Children Of EarthFor the truncated (five episodes airing on consecutive nights in a single week) third season of Torchwood, the series delved into some very dark territory, and composer Ben Foster, already entrenched as the de facto maestro of Torchwood’s quirky earthbound adventures, seems to have relished the opportunity. The music of the five-episode Children Of Earth event has no problem going dark. Foster sets up several themes early on (including one for Ianto), while also building on some of the themes established in previous seasons (particularly the Captain Jack theme).

The early tracks seem like business as usual, but “We Are Coming” is a discordant, snarling wake-up call that accompanies one of the creepiest scenes in the entire five-hour cycle. It’s not a piece of music you need to be listening to in a dark room at two in the morning. The tension quickly ratchets up from there; the climax of the first episode leads into several tense action cues from the second episode, punctuated by the slightly-out-of-sequence cue “Gwen’s Baby”. A very brief “Ianto Jones” theme is established here as well, which is developed more fully later in “The Ballad Of Ianto Jones”.

Much of the soundtrack is taken up by the show’s musical action set pieces, with slower moments only occasionally getting the spotlight if they’re major scenes, including a lovely operatic theme that appears in the fourth and fifth episodes. For the most part, the music is sequenced in order of appearance, from the beginning of Day One to the end of Day Five, but there are a few out-of-sequence tracks (at least in the digital download edition of the album).

If I have one nit to pick with Children Of Earth from a musical standpoint, it’s actually a nit that I have to pick with the music of both Torchwood and Doctor Who: the reliance on the orchestra-playing-to-a-rock-beat sound has been stretched about as far as it can possibly go on either show. As the orchestrator for Murray Gold on Doctor Who, Ben Foster has a strong influence on both shows’ sounds, but whoever the architect of the “Who universe rock orchestra” sound is, they should know that the sound has reached its peak…and isn’t too far from reaching its nadir.

4 out of 4Children Of Earth is a fine soundtrack, and damned unnerving in places. In rewatching the episodes, it becomes obvious how much of the story’s impact is down to the music, and quite a bit of the music stands alone nicely as well. If there’s any more story to tell with Torchwood (the ending of the season leaves the notion of picking up the story more than a little ambiguous), it’d be nice if both the storytelling and the music could stay at this level.

Order this CD

  1. The First Sacrifice (1:25)
  2. What’s Occurring? (2:10)
  3. Jack’s Daughter (1:28)
  4. Diplomatic Cars (1:20)
  5. We Are Coming (1:12)
  6. Thames House (1:53)
  7. Double Crossed (1:26)
  8. Countdown To Destruction (1:52)
  9. The Crater (1:00)
  10. Torchwood Hunter (1:42)
  11. Gwen’s Baby (1:03)
  12. On The Run (1:13)
  13. Jack In A Box (1:34)
  14. Ianto Jones (0:50)
  15. Tractor Attack (2:21)
  16. Resurrection (1:11)
  17. Clement MacDonald (2:05)
  18. Something’s Coming (1:35)
  19. Eye Spy (1:20)
  20. Trust Nobody (1:46)
  21. The World Looks To The Skies (2:10)
  22. Jack’s Secret (1:36)
  23. Clem Remembers (1:34)
  24. Judgement Day (4:05)
  25. Requiem For The Fallen (1:23)
  26. The Ballad Of Ianto Jones (4:36)
  27. The Final Day (0:40)
  28. Calm Before The Storm (3:22)
  29. Phase Two Has Begun (1:50)
  30. Requisition 31 (2:38)
  31. He Was A Good Man (1:39)
  32. The Children Of Earth (3:27)
  33. Breaking The Connection (2:25)
  34. Fighting Back (2:02)
  35. Run For Your Lives (1:13)
  36. Sacrifice And Salvation (1:39)
  37. Redemption (3:13)
  38. I Can Run Forever (3:28)
  39. Here Comes Torchwood (2:24)
  40. Next Time On Torchwood (0:31)

Released by: Silva Screen
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 77:21

Note that the above tracklist reflects the digital download edition of the album, and the running order may be different for the CD.