Blade Runner – Vangelis

blade runner OST cover

If you’re talking about film scores, the name Vangelis really should come up eventually, and nowhere better than his ground-breaking work for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, Blade Runner.

The movie has *the* sci-fi noir (practically-invented-the-genre) feel going on, and the score captures and enhances that perfectly. It includes dialog from the movie, heavy use of synthesizers (from when electronica was still rather new), clever ‘alternative’ percussion, but an underlying orchestral feel, too. And a random 1920s-esque ragtime jazz song, actually written for the movie, but totally jarring with of the rest of the mood – and yet somehow fitting perfectly because of that.

Different tracks conjure different moods. Blade Runner Blues is appropriately wistful and lonely, as is the nostalgic Memories of Green. Tales of the Future, however, has Arabesque-chanting that brings an exotic flavour married with unsettling windchimes and minor chords that just oozes atmosphere. The End Titles are sci-fi action series, dun-dun-dun-dun and everything, almost at odds with the delicacy of the rest.

Rachel’s Song, for instance, features an ethereal voice, plinky almost water drip electronica, and I’d swear I’ve heard meditation music that sounds 90% the same. It’s one of my favourites on the album, full of pathos and very otherworldly, in a mystical kind of a way. It’s followed by the much warmer (bar a few chillingly electronica chords in the middle…!), more contemporary (saxophones, really?) Love Theme – but, when you remember the awkward ickiness of one particular scene of the movie, the sleazy lounge room vibe is all the more appropriate.

Oddly, most of the score doesn’t actually conjure up scenes from the movie for me – not surprisingly, I find, as it was written somewhat independently of the visuals (but not the themes and mood). But then the dialog inclusions tie it wholly back again, particularly at the end with the futuristic electronica rebuffed with the poignant Tears in the Rain speech; a gentle, uplifting finale.

It took 12 years for an official release of the score to appear after the movie came out. There are now more special releases than I’ve counted, perhaps fittingly for a movie that also has so many versions. It still sounds futuristic, still utterly atmospheric, and still very worth a listen.

My rating: 9/10

Genre: sci-fi noir
Released: 1982 (movie) / 1994 (official score release)
Length: 57:53
Number of tracks: 12

Track listing:

  1. Main Titles
  2. Blush Response
  3. Wait for Me
  4. Rachel’s Song
  5. Love Theme
  6. One More Kiss Dear
  7. Blade Runner Blues
  8. Memories of Green
  9. Tales of the Future
  10. Damask Rose
  11. End Titles
  12. Tears in the Rain
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Avatar – James Horner

avatar ost cover

James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) received mixed reviews. 3D had never been used so well, it all looked amazing, but was the story a cliche – or worse? Whatever your opinion on the film, the score fits perfectly – in my opinion – with the look and feel of the piece, becoming a regular in my listening rotation.

There’s an expansive, eerie sound to the opening that fits perfectly with the distance travelled across the emptiness of space, and can send a tingle up my spine. The second track includes the first use of a motif of major chords in ascension, that convey a swelling of joy, or hope, that again fits well. It then picks up an action pace with a tinge of other-worldliness that I don’t even have to read the title to know is Jake taking his first steps in his ‘avatar’, and into the world of the Na’vi.

Pure spirits of the forest introduces an ethereal quality, as the name sort of suggests. Can’t you just picture the scene of the light-fantastic creatures floating around Jake and Neytiri? The horns then come in and everything gets a bit more majestic, and bit more fierce.

If there are complaints to be made, it might include the fact that James Horner has a recognisable not just style, but set of sounds. I wasn’t quite as familiar with his work 10 years ago when this came out, but I have since listened to a lot of his other work and yes, there are bits that seem ‘lifted’ wholesale. Still, that doesn’t matter if you only listen to this one, and even otherwise the re-used sounds still ‘fit’ well where they are here.

I like this score when I’m in the mood for something uplifting, a little bit other-worldly, and somewhere between sci-fi and wild nature – in other words, exactly what the movie represented.

As a weird aside, I was standing at the train station not so long ago, and the noise of the incoming train sounded almost exactly like the long ‘aaaaahhh’ vocalisation used throughout this soundtrack. Weird!

My rating: 8/10

Genre: sci-fi
Released: 2009
Length: 1:18:52
Number of tracks: 14

Track listing:

  1. You don’t dream in cryo
  2. Jake enters his avatar world
  3. Pure spirits of the forest
  4. The bioluminescence of the night
  5. Becoming one of ‘The People’, Becoming one with Neytiri
  6. Climing up Iknimaya – the Path to Heaven
  7. Jake’s first flight
  8. Scorched earth
  9. Quaritch
  10. The destruction of Hometree
  11. Shutting down Grace’s lab
  12. Gathering all the Na’vi clans for battle
  13. War
  14. I See You (Theme from Avatar)