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 SundfÃ¸r, 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 Dreaming. Here, 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 SundfÃ¸r)