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TRON: Uprising by Joseph Trapanese (Review)

posted Jan 13, 2013, 10:00 PM by Christian Loescher

Usually when mention is made of the score to the 2010 film TRON: Legacy, blissful ignorance yields only that film’s composers in one’s mind: electronic duo Daft Punk. TRON: Legacy’s score has to date sold over a half-million copies, and has been highly praised for its perfect musical fit to the TRON universe with its electronic and orchestral sonic palette. Though Joseph Trapanese didn’t compose any of TRON: Legacy’s songs per se, he was present with Daft Punk members Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter for the two-year-long process of scoring TRON: Legacy, and all arranging of and orchestration for TRON: Legacy was done by Trapanese. Given these facts, it therefore makes Trapanese the perfect musical fit to the score composition for TRON: Uprising, the animated Disney XD TV show whose events are set between the original TRON from 1982 and TRON: Legacy.

And right from the start, Trapanese displays his vision for TRON: Uprising, utilizing derivative influence from TRON: Legacy’s score yet painting his own sonic canvas. Opening track “Beck’s Theme – Lightbike Battle” presents the eponymous and recurring theme that sets the stage for the album, an enveloping melody wrapping in orchestral and electronic flourishes that coalesce in a powerful conclusion. “Paige’s Past,” one of the most varied yet grounded tracks, introduces shimmering electronic motes and soft pulses which pave the way for a calm and melancholic backdrop, before breaking into rousing guitar effects and reverb layered with orchestral touches. It becomes evident very early on that Trapanese is highly skilled at layering TRON: Legacy’s inspirational elements atop other wavering effects and sequences. For example, take the angelic female vocals (courtesy of the prolific Lisabeth Scott) in “Lux’s Sacrifice,” the quickening electronic programming and male/female choral sections in “Price of Power,” or the militant and percussion-led track “Rescuing the Rebellion,” bringing to mind such similar tunes from Mass Effect 3 as Sam Hulick’s “Mars” and Christopher Lennertz’s “The View of Palaven.” But with so many layers, and in spite of how remarkably all the aforementioned elements are performed and portrayed, Trapanese’s music wavers too quickly from one sound to another, somewhat degrading the emotional impact upon the listener from track to track.

The next several songs are taken from the episode “Scars,” and gain cohesion much more easily and eloquently than on those that start the album. The “Scars Suite” begins with “Dyson Drops In,” capturing the slight Hans Zimmer accents present on The Dark Knight Rises and alluded to in TRON: Legacy. “Tron’s Promise” begins with a slight yet resolute electronic foundation of calm before incorporating horn-driven orchestra, electric guitar riffing, and programmed drum-like percussion, before melting into an electronic-based assembly. “Tron’s Turn” reintroduces Beck’s theme being assaulted by electronic warbling and cascading effects, before funneling out in various directions and setting up “Beck Betrayed,” which though short, lovingly brings back the pure electronic sound of TRON: Legacy, yet with the slightest guitar riffs and stunning, emotive orchestral blankets layered on top of it. “Torture” is an unexpectedly oppressive track, reminding of Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan’s “Arrival on Aratoht” from Mass Effect 2: Arrival, and begins to feel like a track culled from a horror film score with its deep pulses of percussion and juxtaposed string work. While “Revenge” then sets the ever-quickening pace of horn foundations, background guitar and male choral vocals, the omnipresent electronic effects continue to prod the suite along, culminating in “Redemption,” where at first, all electronic sound is stripped and replaced with a deeply emotive orchestral sequence, before watery piano notes are introduced that prompt a finish on darker themes once again.

With the “Scars Suite” over, Trapanese’s material again reminds the listener of its power and awesome inspiration, as “Goodbye Renegade” capitalizes on the techno-inspired sounds of TRON: Legacy’s “End of Line” and “Derezzed,” before the dust settles again on Beck’s theme, casually producing one of the more inspirational and weighty moments on the album. “Compressed Space” is another malevolent-oriented track, touching electronic bass and atonal keyboard effects before squeezing into electronic beats and laser-precise horn work ending in an electronic noise resolution. “Renegade’s Pledge – End Credits” closes out the album proper, throwing a stark redemptive track ending with Beck’s theme once more yet simultaneously displaying a forward-thinking continuance. The score’s last four tracks are comprised of three external and electronic/techno-based remixes of Trapanese-composed material and one track by 15-year-old DJ sensation Cole Plante. They’re somewhat out of place, but are easily ignored if not necessarily aurally pleasing, and Trapanese’s 16-track score clocks in at a very sufficient 56 minutes, with the last four remix tracks accounting for roughly 20 more.

Overall, even the most casual fans of Daft Punk’s TRON: Legacy will absolutely love Trapanese’s score for TRON: Uprising, as will fans of other electronic-based scores like that of the Mass Effect series, Harry Gregson-Williams’ Total Recall, or Michael McCann’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Unfortunately, once it’s over, the same elements that make TRON: Uprising such a rewarding listen, its dizzying array of electronic elements, orchestral outings, and layers of other conventional instrumentation, are also what make it an only slight second place to TRON: Legacy. Joseph Trapanese has done an incredible job creating a companion piece to the TRON universe, and his score for TRON: Uprising, though overtly derivative of TRON: Legacy and in spite of its capricious nature, is a very highly recommended listen.