There’s just something gloriously mad about Blade Runner, as it’s a film that is almost impossible to explain to anyone who has never seen it, especially if they start asking awkward questions like “so, why is he called a Blade Runner then?”
It’s one of those films that has very slowly and carefully created a legend around itself, largely by being utterly baffling until a Director’s Cut appeared several years later to explain it without need for a voiceover and a terrible happy ending. But even when we had to rely on Harrison Ford sardonically spelling the plot out, Blade Runner had that unique something to keep the audience spellbound, which was that there was simply nothing like it. And now, even though the images have been (ha!) replicated ad infinitum, there’s still almost nothing that sounds like it.
That this is a newly-remastered version of the 1994 release of Vangelis’ soundtrack is somewhat fitting for a film that has seen more than its fair share of revisions and updates. This lovely 180g of translucent red vinyl contains almost an hour of some of the most beautiful synthesised music I can ever recall listening to. In a film where almost every scene, every line and every image is iconic, the music that holds it all up is staggering, from the very first rush of that swell in the opening theme when the flame towers flare up to the utterly dystopian end credits that sound like the beginning of a whole new film, the score’s long cues are perfect in translating the rainy neon purgatory of Ridley Scott’s downbeat vision of a future that’s not really that far away any more.
Suitably for a noirish thriller (and something that – here’s something that’ll irk the purists – works very well with the voiceover of the original), some of the tracks have a typical ’50s gumshoe Film Noir feel hidden within it’s exotic electronica: Wait For Me and Blade Runner Blues in particular having an almost traditional feel to them; and the memorable saxophone of Dick Morrissey in the Love Theme has all the bitter, lonely (welcome to love in 2019!) yet tender hallmarks of a bygone era.
Of course, when I say that there’s almost nothing that sounds like it, it’s almost impossible not to hear its influence in almost everything that followed by picking bits here and there, but the whole remains unique to this film largely thanks to background chatter that seems to exist separately from, but inextricably linked to, the melodies played over the top. The static drone sitting at the back of the aforementioned …Blues provides a strange foundation, as does the curious bleeping found lurking through the gentle Memories Of Green‘s deliberately artificial-sounding piano. Imagined sounds of a future city can be found all the way through Blade Runner’s soundtrack, coming through loud and clear in this version to the extent that you cannot help but feel part of the film’s environment as it plays, and something that comes to the fore when Roy Batty delivers his strange, joyful and wonderful Tears In Rain speech.
My favourite piece on record is also my favourite piece in the film, as it perfectly captures the alienation felt throughout. Perennial Light Entertainment star Demis Roussos adds an unearthly vocal to Tales Of The Future, while electronic bells chime behind huge washes of weird sounds that combine to pretty much terrify the listener. It is one of many parts of the soundtrack that gripped me when I first saw the movie, and continues to thrill all these years later.
Like another favourite film of mine, The Wicker Man, much of the charm of Blade Runner stems from the conjunction of the Fates – if it was made at any other time, at any other place, by any other people and without the strife and adversities that everyone was up against before, during and indeed after release, then it would have been a completely different (and possibly lesser) experience. Also – again, like The Wicker Man – much of the beauty, atmosphere, drama and corruption of the intangible environment of Blade Runner has the music to thank for it. It’s timeless because it never really had a “time” to begin with other than the one it created for itself.