Often imitated, never replica(n)ted
Blade Runner is among my favourite films ever made. And so much of what makes Blade Runner great and allows it to continue to endure today as one of the greatest of its genre is its iconic, incredibly realised vision. To anyone that has seen or even heard of Blade Runner the mere mention of the film evokes such an array of sensory imagery; puddles in deserted alleys between monolith-like towers, cars flying past huge digital Coca-Cola advertisements, a smell of damp amongst hazy neon and amongst it all, the drifting mellow melodies of a synth ambient score.
The soundtrack to Blade Runner is a stroke of genius, pure magic from the hands of the Greek wizard Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou. Possibly his most famous score after the previous year’s Academy Award Winning Chariots of Fire, it seems incredible that it took until 1994, 12 years after the film’s release, that Vangelis could release his official, definitive version of the soundtrac and it really is something special. From the moment the synth kicks in around a minute and thirty seconds into “Main Titles”, the score sweeps you away, blending together evocative yet subtle melodies as exemplified on “Blade Runner Blues” and one of many highlights, “Memories of Green“, a simple piano composition coupled with a background ambience, most often a muted siren-like synth, pushing the listener towards the much larger world the piece exists within.
For a fairly warm ambient soundtrack it’s not exactly one to sleep to either, such haunting vocals on “Tales of the Future” and “Damask Rose” climax the often Middle Eastern-like exoticism present throughout the score, such as on “Wait For Me”, and moreover add a tension to the music finally released by the iconic driving synthesizers that mark the “End Titles“. That being said there are some very pretty vocals here, especially on “Rachel’s Song“, and this mellow nature continues into the saxophone that growls so smoothly and lethargically across one of the more famous tracks, the “Love Theme”. The very 50’s-esque “One More Kiss, Dear” cuts the soundtrack into its two halves, arguably disrupting the flow of the album, though is itself enjoyable enough, with a sadness behind it that allows it to fit within the context of the album. The score itself features audio clips from the movie most notably at the beginning and end, a feature which often nags at me when listening to soundtracks, as it gets hard to separate score and film into two separate entities while listening. With Blade Runner this is impossible, though this does not detract at all from the album, in fact, I would argue it does the opposite.
What better way to prove this than the final track of the album, “Tears in Rain”. After the dark percussive synth of End Titles, the sound of rainfall washes the track into Hauer’s famous soliloquy as Roy. It seems fitting that this track ends the score, with a gentle ethereal and almost wave-like melody that sweeps over Hauer’s flawlessly delivered last lines, evoking an extraordinary kind of melancholy and sadness, which relates perfectly back to the subject matter of the speech itself.
Vangelis has created one of the greatest soundtracks ever composed for film, one that elevates itself from being a great score to being a great album with and without the film’s existence, having a profound impact either way. Blade Runner is a legitimately magical score, one I hope everyone will listen to at least once, one I constantly revisit, and one that I find constantly sweeps me off my feet.
For further listening, do yourself a favour and check out the Esper Edition Bootleg, for Vangelis’ complete score to the film.