Album Reviews

Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese – Oblivion: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

on April 08, 2013, 12:02am
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Note that the majority of the Oblivion soundtrack is composed by Joseph Trapanese and Anthony Gonzalez, not Joseph Trapanese and M83. Only at the tail-end do we get a song credited to Gonzalez’ full band. Soaring with his interstellar synths and a cloud-surfing lead vocal from Susanne Sundfør, the title track weaves the nostalgic drama of M83’s dream pop with more traditional string and horn arrangements. It’s a modernized version of Tangerine Dream’s scores from the ’80s (two of which were also Tom Cruise films), and, unfortunately, a fleeting hint of what might have been.

Nowhere else on the album do we get such an organic meshing of fantasy and classicism. There might be a hint of Gonzalez on the instrumental tracks — spacey effects on “Jack’s Dream”, crystalized keys on “StarWaves” — but his presence is rarely felt, despite having collaborated with Trapanese on five cuts from Hurry Up, We’re DreamingHere, it’s all obvious sci-fi fare: melancholy piano to underscore narration or an establishing shot of a scorched Earth, recycled cello and french horn swells from Hans Zimmer’s more recent catalogue that build to galloping drums when a chase scene starts. Generically white-knuckle titles like “Odyssey Rescue” and “Canyon Battle” speak for themselves.

In defense of the composers, the constant crescendos undoubtedly become more dynamic and less monotonous when they’re accompanied by visuals. Then again, there are soundtracks that break free from their respective films and can be enjoyed on their own; Jaws, Halloween, and There Will Be Blood all come to mind. But like Daft Punk’s soundtrack for Tron: Legacy before it (a film also directed by Joseph Kosinski), Oblivion is symbiotically dependent on the silver screen. Let’s hope the movie’s decent.

Essential Tracks: “Oblivion” (feat. Susanne Sundfør)

6 comments

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Toby
May 12, 2014 at 5:53 am

Reviewers often amaze me. “Spacey effects” and “crystallized keys” are the easy bit – any 2-bit synth can do those. What’s hard are notes, arrangement and dynamics. Does this soundtrack sound similar to others? Of course it does – that’s what music is: the recognisable done in a new way. I’ve listened to dozens of Zimmer’s scores and, while similarities exist (well, of course) this soundtrack certainly has an identity of its own. Moreover, it is beautifully recorded and mixed: the dynamics and “depth of field” are simply stunning. Unfortunately we live in a world where Bad is the new Good and where, in pursuit of the New, the baby often gets thrown out with the bath water. There’s not much that’s New in this score but it’s honest and wonderfully well executed. In the end most reviewers out there just have no idea how hard it is to be this good. The Oblivion soundtrack is a truly stunning piece of work.

Gunnar Liljas
April 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

“It’s a modernized version of Tangerine Dream’s scores from the ’80s (two
of which were also Tom Cruise films), and, unfortunately, a fleeting
hint of what might have been.”

Wow, that’s spot on! “Might have been” if TD hadn’t suddenly lost all sense of taste and musicality.

Danny Peck
April 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Disagree. This soundtrack was 5-star all the way.

Timo
April 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm

The Tron Legacy soundtrack is also great as stand-alone. Sorry, you really seem to not have much experience in good film scores. The Oblivion score is more dependent but not bad at all! It fits perfectly to every single scene of the film and is even great to listen to in your Winamp player. I bought the soundtrack on friday and some tracks really are better than Zimmers recent soundtracks. And I am german, so I should prefer Zimmer normally.

You really cannot compare the previous album of M83 with a FILM soundtrack.

Tumppi
April 15, 2013 at 10:55 am

Rock guitars must have destroyed your ears.

Bent Rasmussen
April 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

Tron Legacy OST is, in my oppinion not at all dependent on the movie – perhaps this one is more so, but the tracks I’ve heard so far don’t appear that way – to my ears.

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