The last time Underworld’s Rick Smith worked on a project with acclaimed director Danny Boyle, he co-produced the most awe-inspiring soundtrack in Olympic ceremony history. Expectations for their subsequent collaboration, therefore, are much higher than they would have been before the story of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the NHS and an emotionally-stirring electronic score all came together in one giant breath-taking melting pot in London last summer.
There’s nothing quite as majestic as the 17-minute “And I Will Kiss” on the official motion picture soundtrack to Trance, a head-scratching British heist thriller which sees James McAvoy’s fine art auctioneer undergo hypnotherapy in order to retrieve a lost painting.
But if there’s anyone who is able to capture Boyle’s vision in audio form, it’s Smith. The 52-year-old not only composed the entire music for the Oscar-winner’s most under-rated film, 2007’s Sunshine, but alongside his usual partner-in-crime, Karl Hyde, Underworld’s music has also featured in A Life Less Ordinary (“Oh”), The Beach (“8 Ball”) and of course, Trainspotting (“Born Slippy”).
Taking the lead on nine of the 16 tracks which appear on the Trance OST, Smith’s instrumentals are far more than just incidental background music, twisting and turning just as much as the mind-bending plot.
The stunning “Bullet Cut” begins in a similar vein to the gorgeous spacey chillout of Air’s Moon Safari before building up to a dramatic string-soaked crescendo worthy of gracing any Olympic stadium. “Cannon Fall” sees him grab the mic on a brooding Nick Cave-esque ballad which then bursts into a thrilling industrial techno-punk finale. Meanwhile, penultimate number “The Heist” fizzles and crackles with tension as it lurches from bombastic synth-rock to hypnotic minimal techno and back again.
Of course, it’s the track featuring arguably the UK’s most ubiquitous singer in living memory, Emeli Sandé, which will grab most of the attention. Thankfully, the shimmering synths and tribal beats of the soaring “Here It Comes” provide a much more intriguing listen than her usual bland watered-down soul. But one of the film’s stars, Rosario Dawson, turns in just as effective a performance on the understated ghostly ballad, “Sandman (I’ll Be There).”
Elsewhere, the choice of already recorded material will be puzzling to anyone who hasn’t seen the film. Indeed, it’s unlikely that the 50s serenade of Art & Dotty Todd’s “Chanson d’Amour (Song Of Love),” the smoky jazz of Kirsty McGee’s “Sandman” and the 90s coffee-table house-pop of M People’s “Moving On Up” has ever featured on the same record before.
But aside from its slightly random nature, Trance is a worthy addition to Boyle and Smith’s stellar back catalogue.