Review : Daft Punk - Tron Legacy
PopmattersDaft Punk’s robot shtick has multiple benefits. By wearing futuristic helmets that obscure their faces during nearly all public appearances, band members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo enjoy anonymity. As much as the duo has become known for innovative dance music, the degree to which they have controlled their identities allows them the flexibility to exercise various personae at will. For example, Bangalter’s stressful, nausea-inducing solo contribution to Gaspar Noé’s shock film Irreversible would likely never soundtrack a Gap jeans or Apple iPod commercial, as have Daft Punk’s pop songs. It is a rare measure of freedom that allows an artist to have equal footing in such disparate worlds.
With masks firmly affixed, Daft Punk is capable of remaining true to the robot concept to such an extent that fans and critics react with confusion. Pure statements like the brilliant album Human After All and film Electroma commit fully to the synthetic inspiration at the root of the band’s output. Listeners and viewers charmed by the concept don’t always warm to an execution that seems to be the work of actual robots.
All of these elements make Daft Punk a natural fit for science fiction films. In addition to Electroma (for which the duo did not compose music), Bangalter and de Homem-Christo have collaborated with Kazuhisa Takenouchi on Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, a feature length Japanese animated film set to the entirety of Daft Punk’s Discovery. The corresponding cartoon world of Interstella 5555 expands the experience of listening to the music and places already impossibly catchy numbers like “One More Time” into a visual context that makes the music doubly difficult to forget.
There seems to be a similar symbiosis in the selection of Daft Punk to provide an original score for Tron Legacy, Disney’s sequel to 1982’s groundbreaking Tron. The announcement that the band would record music for the film resulted in supposedly leaked tracks of serviceable electronica by impostors—evidence of listeners thinking they’ve figured out how Daft Punk’s music should sound. The subsequent promotion of upbeat official soundtrack selection “Derezzed” suggested the impostors weren’t so far off in mimicking the danceable style of the group’s discography....full text
Musicomh"I kept dreaming of a world I thought I'd never see". Jeff Bridges' words, a snippet of dialogue from the eagerly awaited Tron Legacy, could almost be levelled against Daft Punk, invited to score its soundtrack. The choice of the Parisian duo is a hugely exciting one for fans of cinema and electronica alike, bringing about as it does an unlikely collision of Daft Punk and Walt Disney.
Don't come here expecting a follow-up to 2005's Recovery though, for you will leave with precious little for your money. Only fleetingly do we see the Daft Punk of previous records, but the sudden outbursts of energetic disco house are all the more thrilling having heard what goes before.
They have a lot to live up to, given the interstellar score provided for the original film by Wendy Carlos, but their proficiency as orchestrators is immediately striking. Sure, there is a large dollop of Aaron Copland in the main theme, Philip Glass in Solar Sailer, and an Avatar-like sense of dread in the terrific build up of Rinzler and Arena, but this is by and large a brilliantly executed concept.
They show off their prowess especially well through the shrill woodwind and snarling brass of Outlands, but equally importantly in the subtle, cello-led Adagio For Tron, some of the most emotive music here. Yet where they really make this music their own is in the addition of a lovely synth growl that underpins the bass in several numbers, adding extra weight to The Game Has Changed in particular....full text
GuardianLast summer, Daft Punk's soundtrack to Tron: Legacy leaked on the internet. You would think that Daft Punk fans might exercise caution when it comes to internet leaks after that unfortunate business with their last studio album, 2005's Human After All. When tracks purporting to be from the follow-up to the multimillion-selling Discovery emerged online, a lot of devotees rushed to announce that they were very obviously faked, that two zeitgeist-defining musical geniuses such as Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo couldn't possibly be responsible for anything so shoddy and uninspired. In the enormously unlikely event that they were responsible, it was suggested, these tracks were clearly intended as a joke to put people off the scent of their forthcoming masterpiece.
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Unfortunately, the devotees duly discovered that no, they weren't faked; yes, Bangalter and De Homem-Chrosto were responsible; and no, the tracks weren't a joke. This time, the Tron leaks turned up everywhere – just in time for Disney to announce they were not the work of Daft Punk at all, but a slightly nutty-sounding Daft Punk fan with a YouTube account.
At least it told you something about the degree of anticipation for the soundtrack. There's being excited about a forthcoming record, then there's being so excited that you start speculating wildly about what it might contain, then there's being so excited you come over all Mike Yarwood and start doing impersonations. You can see where the expectation comes from, though. For one thing, Daft Punk might have been put on Earth specifically in order to record a soundtrack for a sequel to Tron: their 80s retro-futurist aesthetic is clearly indebted to the original, which variously features primitive electronic graphics, the soft rock of Journey, a plot in which a programmer becomes part of a neon-glowing computer mainframe after being shot with a laser, and the Scarecrow from Scarecrow and Mrs King. It occasionally seems less like a film that actually got made than a dream Thomas Bangalter might once have had.
Second, Daft Punk's ability to shift the course of pop music has been proven beyond measure. The filtered house of their debut album Homework spawned imitations from everyone up to and including Madonna. On its arrival, Discovery appeared to be a cheese so ripe it threatened to stink your house out. But, for better or worse, it turned out to presage virtually every subsequent development in pop for the next decade, from the prevalence of Auto-Tuned vocals to the fetishisation of the 80s to the rise of the Guilty Pleasures phenomenon: it may well be the single most influential album of the last 10 years. What effect might the duo have on the world of the film soundtrack?
The faked tracks just sounded like Daft Punk, which apparently was never on the cards for the actual album: "We knew from the start that we were never going to do this film score with two synthesisers and a drum machine," explained Bangalter of their decision to co-opt an orchestra. The results fall more or less into three categories. There are the straightforward orchestral tracks, which sound suitably grandiose and cinematic, but with the best will in the world, could be the work of anybody. Then there are the tracks that attempt to meld electronics – usually a lonely throbbing synth line – with sawing strings and brass sections. These have some lovely moments – Rinzler's dramatic explosions of In the Air Tonight drums, the beautiful ebb and flow of Solar Saile – but there's something faintly underwhelming about them, perhaps because the inspiration of 80s-era Maurice Jarre and Vangelis hangs heavy over them, and dance music has explored both those influences pretty thoroughly in recent years. Anyone with an inclination towards the kind of 12‑in singles that get bracketed as cosmic disco or new Balearic will undoubtedly have heard stuff that sounds like this. It won't necessarily have been better, but there's none of the head-turning WTF? factor that's accompanied past Daft Punk tracks in the past.
That leaves us with a handful of straightforward electronic tracks. You almost feel bad for saying they're the best things here, given that Bangalter and De Homem-Christo have gone to the extreme of employing an 85-piece orchestra in order to not make straightforward electronic tracks. But there's no getting around the fact that Tron: Legacy gets really exciting when there's no one but Daft Punk in the studio: the corroded synthesisers and overloaded beats of Derezzed; the insouciant strut of End of Line, with its addictive, repetitious melody; the two minutes of Fragile, which – at risk of sounding desperately callow – sounds like the intro to an amazing dance track....full text
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