Do Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo – more widely known as Daft Punk – even care anymore? The duo’s notoriously disappointing Human After All showed a couple of French guys unsure how to top the career-defining Discovery, but their unquestionably disappointing soundtrack for Disney’s TRON reboot showed a couple of French guys who had stopped trying. Cynics might observe that it’s hard to expect new creative directions from anyone so dependent on others peoples’ music (as if nobody else had ever become wildly popular by sampling hooks wholesale). Optimists might rebut that creative stasis doesn’t necessarily precede lifting pages from the Hanz Zimmer/James Newton Howard songbook, writing one dance track that could be a C-side on Homework if C-sides existed, and calling it a day.
Okay okay, this isn’t a review of that soundtrack, but a review of its remix album. So we have a roster of hired hands, ranging from fledgling (Com Truise) to venerable (Paul Oakenfold, Moby), to blame for its content, and the stuffed shirts at Disney – all beneath contempt – to blame for its existence. We can, however, trace its listlessness back to its source, which only the most committed remixing work could possibly vitalize. Suffice to say that such commitment is in short supply on this cash-in release.
The remixes that depart sharply from the originals, and sound more like their creators than like Daft Punk, often sound the best. M83’s take on “Fall” demonstrates this most blatantly. Fellow Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez abandons any pretense of reverence, which is just as well, as the original was about a minute and a half of tuneless potboiler music anyway. Gonzalez’s version is anything but, featuring a solid glo-fi hook sung in the multilayered, childlike vocals distinctive to M83. It’s hardly brilliant – it goes nowhere fast – but it certainly stands out.
The best track belongs to German native Boys Noize, née Alexander Ridha, the closest clubland has to a direct aesthetic descendent of Daft Punk – if only because he makes a denser, more club-friendly version of the fuzzy electro mainstreamed in arenas by Punk protégés Justice. While “End of Line” bears a bit more resemblance to its source material than M83’s “Fall,” it’s still distinctly the artist’s work, which is probably the only reason I like it. Like the M83 remix, it’s hardly brilliant, or even that good, but Boys Noize’s unsubtle pleasure-center overdrive is effectively hard to resist, even at its most disposable.
Elsewhere, the pickings are slim. Zero multiplied is still zero. Most of Reconfigured takes the standard approach to dressing music up for the dance floor: add a 4/4 and a bass-line and voila. Some parts sound like every dollar of a major studio paycheck. Other parts sound embarrassingly slapdash, as when orchestral snippets appear jarringly like nearly-forgotten contractual obligations in the Crystal Method’s contribution. Hardly any of it is compelling music, but do dance floors require compelling music? Do soundtracks? At its most strictly functional, music for both is composed to be dramatic but not distracting, which reads like more of a paradox than it ever actually is. Just as the TRON: Legacy soundtrack was sometimes stirring, then, these remixes are sometimes danceable, but despite what their rote efficacy might trick your ears into believing, that doesn’t make any of them worth a damn.