Graham Reynolds - A Scanner Darkly: Original Soundtrack

by D R Pautsch Rating:8 Release Date:2017-08-11

Phillip K Dick was a prolific, imaginative science fiction author who Hollywood has loved in recent years.  His works have been used to create some of Hollywood’s most iconic films and series.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has become Blade Runner, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale (a short story) became Total Recall, The Man in The High Castle became the recent Amazon series of the same title and The Minority Report short story was also adapted into a film.  For many, his most brilliant work was A Scanner Darkly.  This is a complex tale of an undercover narcotics detective who becomes so entrenched within his cover that he starts blurring the lines between real and fantasy, as well as not knowing quite which side he is on.  When this was adapted into a film, the approach was to film real actors, famous ones like Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr and Wynona Ryder, and then animate them afterwards in a technique called interpolated rotoscoping, used by the director on a previous feature but not seen in a mainstream film before this one.  This was ground-breaking at the time and lead to a very different animated experience than most animated works before or since.  So, when creating a soundtrack, the decision of whether to similarly break new ground or follow convention was left to Graham Reynolds.  Reynolds decided to go somewhere in between and create character driven instrumental numbers.  His background as part of a jazz trio informed some of the numbers, but he also had some numbers that were very much in keeping with the tone of the film as well as the characters.  Different genres are on evidence and this soundtrack really is one that is loved by fans of the film and cult soundtrack fans alike.  Indeed, it was named as Soundtrack of the Decade by Cinema Retro magazine.

Essentially, this is a soundtrack that compliments the film and its characters and is at times as bat-shit crazy as those characters are in the film.  One of the key elements of the film is the hallucinations of bugs that are caused by the drug Substance D, which is the drug in question throughout the film.  "Abrasocaine" shows this very well with a bonkers and loopy bass and drum part that falls apart in its very short duration.  However, there are also numbers on here that are character oriented and show off the various characters in musical form.  "Strawberry Pie" is a country tinged song that is full of slow guitar and percussion, and that speaks of a sad character that has something missing from his life.  "Your Move, Peterbilt" is a jazz infused number with sax and drums loosely displaying swaggering and confusion, just like so many of the characters that inhabit the film and novel.  There are beats and returning motifs throughout, and if you didn’t know that almost all instruments were acoustic (except bass and electric guitar), with effects used later, you would be surprised.  The shimmer used on many numbers instantly depicts the law enforcement-related aspects of the film. 

Tonally, this is a soundtrack that gets it spot on, and the year and a half it took to record is clearly is evidence, although had the film not hit problems in post-production, this might have led to a very different soundtrack due to time.  This is a soundtrack that has stood the test of time exceptionally well and shows that the composer has truly inhabited the source material.

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