Lights, Camera... Music - When Electronica Meets Film

Words by: Cila Warncke
Posted: 6/10/11 11:27

Lights, Camera... Music - When Electronica Meets Film Electronic music in films is more than sonic wallpaper – it can be life changing. My first introduction to dance music wasn’t in a club. It was when I was 18 years old, sitting in halls at university, drinking beer and watching Trainspotting.

Suddenly my ears perked up. What was that sound? It was BedrockFor What You Dream Of’. The name didn’t mean anything; I didn’t even know how to describe what I was hearing, but I was hooked.

The relationship between film and electronic music is multi-faceted. Some movies are straight up party films. Others rely on electronic scores to create subtle moods. Then there are some which don’t have anything to do with dance music, per se, yet the use of sound in the film captures something of the spirit of electronic music.  Here are a few notable examples of each.

Party Films

It’s All Gone Pete Tong It’s All Gone Pete Tong:
A tragicomic tale about a fictional DJ whose excess-all-areas lifestyle finally catches up with him, IAGPT boosts a very Ibiza-friendly soundtrack . The chilled half has aged best: it opens with 808 State’s hypnotic ‘Pacific State’ and includes the Beach Boys, Beta Band and a lovely Goldfrapp remix of Depeche Mode ‘Halo’. The clubby CD2 is a mixed bag though. Jaydee ‘Plastic Dreams’ is a classic; Ferry Corsten’s ‘Rock Your Body Rock’ is better forgotten.
Human Traffic Human Traffic:
It spawned the catchphrase “reach for the lasers, safe as fuck!” and the Human Traffic offers a one-stop-shop of late-90s British dance. Massive trance anthems like System F ‘Out of the Blue’ and Café Del Mar ‘Energy 52’ mix with slightly edgier cuts from Dillinja, Death in Vegas and Public Enemy, and of course Underworld, Orbital and Fatboy Slim. You have to skip through a lot of unnecessary dialogue snippets to get to the good stuff though.
Go Go:
wanted to be an American Human Traffic but the soundtrack proves that, as is often the case, Yanks just don’t quite get the dance thing. Fatboy Slim appears with ‘Gangsta Tripping’ and Canadian trance maestro turned Britney Spears producer BT contributes ‘Believer’ but it also includes songs from Lenny Kravitz, Steppenwolf and one-hit alt-pop wonders Len. And ‘The Macarena’ – which should be enough to get it banned from any dance lover’s DVD collection.

Electronic Masterpieces

Blade Runner Blade Runner:
Beloved by sci-fi geeks and DJs everywhere, Blade Runner is the apotheosis of symphonic electronic soundtracks. Greek composer Vangelis won an Oscar for his Chariots of Fire score in 1981, the year before he composed the music to Blade Runner, and the music is suitably ambitious and triumphant, mixing classical instruments with walls of synthesised sound. It sounds bombastic now, but its innovative use of machines and air of dystopian futurism was a clear influence on Detroit techno.
A Clockwork Orange A Clockwork Orange:
The central character in A Clockwork Orange is obsessed with Beethoven but the soundtrack is a head-spinning mix of classical pomp and the kind of electronica that creeps up your spine and infests your head. Fittingly, the main composer, Walter Carlos, later had sex change surgery and became Wendy Carlos – a touch of real life oddness that mirrors the surreal nature of the soundscape. Wendy Carlos was one of the first composers to rely on the Moog synthesiser. Twenty years later electronic artists would catch up and join the trend.
Requiem for a Dream Requiem for a Dream:
An anti-drugs morality tale, Requiem for a Dream nevertheless boasts a score that makes you want to run out and score. The man behind the pulsing electronic madness is Brit composer Clint Mansell, former member of the band Pop Will Eat Itself. This dubious guitar-based past is nowhere in evidence in the stirring, and disturbing, soundtrack to Requiem, which charts the simultaneous descent of a mother and son into catastrophic addiction. Getting fucked up has rarely sounded so fucking good.

In The Spirit:

24-Hour Party People 24-Hour Party People:
A movie about the triumphs and tragedies of Factory Records – one of the greatest imprints to ever see the light of a cold, foggy Manchester morning – was always going to be impressive. 24 Hour Party People blends bits of punk, baggy, electronica and full-on rave anthems from the likes of Joy Division, Moby, New Order, Marshall Jefferson and A Guy Called Gerald into a euphoria-inducing mix that makes you wish for a time machine to take you back to the Summer of Love.
Trainspotting Trainspotting:
Sex, drugs and desperation never sounded so good as in Trainspotting which sees New Order’s club thumper ‘Temptation’ playing over a horrific comedown, Lou Reed’s ethereally wasted ‘Perfect Day’ soundtracking a smack overdose and Iggy Pop’s riotous ‘Lust for Life’ offering an ironic counterpoint to a bunch of Scottish skagheads ruining their lives. Intoxicating in every sense, especially Brian Eno ‘Deep Blue Day’, Underworld ‘Born Slippy’ and Leftfield ‘A Final Hit.’
Fight Club Fight Club:
The sound of a soul disintegrating, with added blood spatters, the Dust Brothers’ score for Fight Club is a supernova explosion of nihilistic energy. The music speaks to an obscure netherworld where the lines between fact and fiction whirl into obscurity. Fight Club is the antithesis of peace, love, unity and respect but it strikes a nerve that continues jangling long after the final images have faded and the final note has played out.

DJs pick their favourite film score:

Kate Simko Kate Simko:
My favourite is Bernard Herrmann's score from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Another favourite is Nino Rota's score from The Godfather.
Mondkopf Mondkopf:
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis' job for The Road. So simple but so emotional. The recording of the instruments is pretty raw and yet very soft. I love this organic texture, as opposed to the HD Dolby Surround scores you hear these days.
Cubenx Cubenx:
My favourite soundtrack is from the film Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage), directed by René Laloux and music by Alain Goraguer. It's a beautiful film but the soundtrack was so inspiring, simple and deep.
Scratch Massive Scratch Massive:
Jay Chattaway ‘Maniac’ – an extract from 80s cult director William Lustig. when you listen those synthesizers you’ll never forget it, ever. It’s scary, deep and dark.
Darkness Falls Darkness Falls:
Wim Wender’s ‘Paris, Texas’ score by Ry Cooder. It´s a fantastic movie. The soundtrack captures the essence and mental state of the lonely main character, Travis, perfectly.


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