Recording information: Henson Recording Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Newman Scoring Stage, Twentieth Century Fox.
As M83, Anthony Gonzalez's music has always had an epic, movie-worthy quality to it, whether on the soaring heights of "Midnight City" or the moody passages on Saturdays=Youth. For his first actual score, for Joseph Kosinski's dystopian sci-fi film Oblivion, Gonzalez collaborates with composer Joseph Trapanese (who worked with Daft Punk on the score for Kosinski's Tron: Legacy), and together they blend the M83 sound with more conventional orchestral elements. A handful of tracks here could have appeared on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, most notably "StarWaves," where the sweeping synths and intense buildup are a distant cousin of "Midnight City," and "Oblivion," which closes the score with a dramatic ballad sung by Susanne Sundfor. For the most part, though, Gonzalez tempers his usual neon romanticism to fit Oblivion's post-apocalyptic action: the pulsing synths on "Odyssey Rescue" hark back to such classic sci-fi music as Vangelis' Blade Runner score, while the somber, slow-building orchestral epic "Waking Up" is far from M83's euphoric heights. With Trapanese, he moves from electronic to orchestral and back again with a minimum of effort, and finds eloquent ways to compose with both. "Tech 49" begins with turbulent brass and drums that are mirrored by deep arpeggiated synths as it closes, and "Earth 2077"'s strings are as lavish as the keyboards usually are in Gonzalez's music. Even if there are times when the score errs a little too far on the side of conventionality, Oblivion still has several standout moments, including the revved-up suites "Canyon Battle" and "Radiation Zone," both of which sound very different than any of Gonzalez's previous music and also bend the rules about what highly charged movie music should sound like. Similarly, the score's quieter cues also provide some of its most memorable tracks, including the elegiac "I'm Sending You Away" and "Undimmed by Time, Unbound by Death." That Oblivion resembles a blockbuster soundtrack more than an M83 album may disappoint some of Gonzalez's fans, but it means that he and Trapanese succeeded in making the film's music what it needed to be. ~ Heather Phares