From all the other arts, music could best be compared to painting. A painter is able to communicate emotions through the images he creates. Sometimes, these are very complex, filled with all sorts of details, shades and colours and sometimes, they are very simple, just a few lines and yet they are still as strong, if not even more. In this respect, songs are very similar to paintings. Some are multilayered, with all sorts of sounds an instruments filling the sonic space, while others are very minimal, played on one instrument or composed of one melodic episode. The music of Vangelis is a good way of exemplifying this theory. He has plenty of tracks that use dozens of sounds and create an universe which offers something new to discover at every listen, but he also has very simple compositions which are very effective in creating moods.
The soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s SF classic Blade Runner contains both of these types of songs and a lot in between. First of all, I will make it clear: this review is about the first official release from 1994, the one we all grew up with, even though the 2007 anniversary edition does contain some interesting new material, both from the movie and inspired by it (Vadavarot sounds quite intriguing). It is one of the most influential instrumental albums, actually creating the concept of Blade Runner sound, meaning dark and futuristic and very synthy. Liam Howlett quoted Blade Runner as an inspiration for the track Omen Reprise, Massive Attack did a reworking of the score with the help of the Heritage Orchestra, but this material is not available. Unfortunately. Linkin Park are talking about a Blade Runner influenced future album, as well as Editors and their upcoming In This Light and On This Evening.
The thing is you just can’t have the movie Blade Runner without all the sounds provided by Vangelis. He should have been credited for doing sound effects, too, not just the music. A track like Main Titles (though it doesn’t feature on the movie’s opening titles) offers so much more than just the massive oberheims and synth orchestra which create that image of something grand and yet very creepy. The constant layer of chimes and bells and engine effects give an ineffable contour to the dark world of Rick Deckard. Just as the loneliness of these strange characters is so beautifully infused by Love Theme (featuring sax by Dick Morrissey) or the Blade Runner Blues. In the same territory we find Memories of Green, which is the very definition of a haunting piece of music. Originally from a previous Vangelis album, See You Later (definitely try the epic Suffocation from this one), Memories of Green, besides being able to take the listener to every possible mood with simple piano keys, also features various sound effects that fit the movie like a glove. It’s one of those weird cases of musical premonition.
Vangelis also makes great use of some vocal samples from the film, lines that will bring a corner smile to every fan of the soundtrack when they are watching the movie. Blush Response and Wait for Me, both remarkable for their groundbreaking beats at the time, begin with conversations between Sean Young and Harrison Ford, while Tears in Rain contains what is probably Rutger Heuer’s best movie moment ever. Speaking of voices, you also get a little bit of Demis Roussos in there (Tales of the Future), Vangelis’ former bandmate from Aphrodite’s Child. This track and Damask Rose help enhance the multiculturalism feel of the dystopian 2019 Los Angeles.
But, there is no point in fooling ourselves, when it comes to voices on the Blade Runner soundtrack, Mary Hopkin’s melisma on Rachel’s Song is by far the best moment. It’s also one of Vangelis’ best two tracks. Constructed on some dripping sound, this song is one of those things that just can’t be put in a box. At least, not in an already existing one. It’s a world of its own. If someone would be crazy enough to claim that there is such a thing as the best song ever, Rachel’s Song would be a strong contender. Why it never made it on the film remains a mystery, but, in a way, it just adds more to the myth. And I’ll conclude, of course, with End Titles, the most influential track from the album, endlessly remixed by trance and house projects around the world, a song that has the sadness of Barber’s Adagio for Strings with the energy of The Prodigy. It’s also a good way of getting acquainted with the master. If you don’t already know Him…