Album Review: Daft Punk, ‘Tron Legacy Soundtrack’ (Virgin)

The much-anticipated movie sequel is finally here. But it's the brilliant soundtrack that is proving really worth the wait.

There are some pieces of casting so perfect that if you were to believe in destiny, you would say that somebody’s life had been inexorably leading up to that moment and that moment alone. Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell. Wagner as the UK’s unlikely Saturday night folk hero. And now, midway through the insanely exciting Tron sequel, in a sequence inside the virtual End Of The Line nightclub, we find Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo as two living MP3 sound files reimagined as robot DJs. This, of course, is the natural conclusion of everything that [a]Daft Punk[/a] have ever been. And commissioning [a]Daft Punk[/a] to do the soundtrack for Tron Legacy is perhaps the best idea that anyone within the Disney Corporation has had since somebody thought that drawing those three circles in that order looked a bit like a mouse.

The sequel to 1982’s seminal sci-fi computerscape tech-romp Tron has long been the stuff of fable. Visitors to San Diego’s annual geek mecca Comic Con have been teased with short clips from the movie for the past three years now. And if Tron Legacy is among the most anticipated sequels in all of history, this score blasts away all previous frontiers of excitement for what a movie soundtrack can be, more than James Murphy’s work on Greenberg, Kimya Dawson’s on Juno and all of the Twilight movies combined. There hasn’t been a more perfect thematic marriage in pop music since [a]Oasis[/a] allied themselves with booze and fags.

But there’s more to this than just box-ticking. There comes a time in every robotic house duo’s life when they will need to put away childish things and elevate to a plane far grander than the humble disco. Through ‘Homework’, ‘Discovery’ and ‘Human After All’, [a]Daft Punk[/a] have built an unimpeachable body of work, all the cannier for being so sparse. Like the greats of every genre, they only do things when there are things that need to be done. For the past few years they’ve looked like an outfit planning to evolve into the next level of artistic purpose. The soundtrack format allows them to move into that separate sphere, and recording an avant-garde suite of Wagnerian [the other one – Composer Ed] rave with a 100-piece orchestra at London’s Air Studios sounds like a rather genius way of doing it.

The results, of course, sound exactly like you’d imagine [a]Daft Punk[/a] going classical would do (which is no guarantee that what you expect is actually going to work). The brilliance here is how seamlessly they weave the dynamics of the dancefloor in with the blueprint theatrics of a soundtrack. You can hear it in ‘Adagio For Tron’, a moody and mournful set-piece that unfolds with the sound of Gatecrasher awakening beneath. Where this could have sounded proggy, in practice it’s impossibly sleek.

There are tracks that work better in isolation, like the boingy techno of ‘Derezzed’, but watch that track married to the visuals on the trailer that’s doing the rounds online and you can see quite how next-level this shit actually is. Just as the movie promises to be a wet dream of retro futurism, [a]Daft Punk[/a] have taken their French house trademark, one which in any other context might sound dated by now, and moved it somewhere timeless and placeless, something approaching the same tech-dreamscape as the one in the movie. There’s enough evidence of that on the buzz track ‘Tron Legacy (End Titles)’, a formidable, heaving house behemoth that actually gleams with grace and regal stature. It’s as groundbreaking as it is spleen-shaking.

Tron plays on a rich seam of nightmarish fantasies about the gap between humanity and technology, and the threat of digital sentience. But this is no Terminator-style wrecking ball. On the evidence of this stunning piece of music, we’d all do well to give a bit more of ourselves over to the machine.

Dan Martin

Click here to get your copy of Daft Punk’s ‘Tron Legacy Soundtrack’ from the Rough Trade shop.