Replicant began as an imaginary soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049 – weirder, noisier, darker, and more futuristic than the music in the film. I watched it and loved it, but kept thinking that they played it safe with the score. I thought I could do better with a mixtape; rather, some of my favorite artists have already mapped this sound out.
But then the mix gained a life of its own as it neared completion. It got more perseonal as it grew. Now I can say that it is simply my cyberpunk dream score for life in 2017 and beyond.
Tracklist appears as the songs play, and at the bottom of this post.
Despite its origin as an alternate-reality soundtrack, Replicant needs no prior knowledge to enjoy. It’s eighty minutes of pitch-black cyberpunk attitude, built around neon synthesizer explosions and ghostly female vocals. Pairs well with reading, long coding sessions, night drives, and even just walking around. The rain hidden in the mix brings plenty of atmosphere, no umbrella required.
At some point, I found myself taking inspiration from my favorite twin peaks of cinematic cyberpunk: the original Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell. I wanted to evoke not just the soundscapes of those films, but the moods the stories put me into. Combine the feelings into something new, my personal color of cyberpunk noir. I wanted something more immediate, more now. It had to be harsher, harder, noisier, darker.
It also had to reflect the meditative flow of the new film, which I saw one week ago and have been aching to see again. To me, the Blade Runner 2049 is a glacial sculpture of contemplative sci-fi, more a descendant of works like Tarkovsky’s Solaris than anything made in the 35 years since the original Blade Runner. While I enjoyed the music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch – all blasted out, ambient echoes of the original score – and thought it fit perfectly fine, it lacked the instantly iconic presence of Vangelis’ pulsating synth masterwork. Instead of wondering what might have come from the film’s originally-contracted composer, Johann Johannsson, I thought about what my own dream soundtrack would sound like.
The idea took hold, and I abandoned a different work in progress to focus solely on this imaginary score. Replicant is the final result.
The idea is that this mixtape evokes the most brightly memorable pieces of the original film’s score while confidently riding the vaporous atmosphere of the sequel, making for something altogether more striking and sharp than what is heard in the film itself. Several tracks arrived as direct nods to the timeless Vangelis score, from the opening massive, sparse drums to the Eastern-tinged vocals saturating the moody passages. As the work went on, I realized I was subconsciously coloring in the dreamlike tones of Ghost in the Shell, folding memories of Kenji Kawai’s hybrid traditional/techno score into the shape of Blade Runner in my head.
There were a few artists I knew needed to be included. First and foremost was UK electronic musician Kuedo (Assertion of a Surrounding Presence was named best of 2015), whose growing body of work seemed to begin as an elaborate tribute to Vangelis’ iconic score. Too obvious, perhaps, but too important to ignore. After that came Oneohtrix Point Never, a personal favorite artist of mine and one of the most inventive composers alive – his work on synths, sampling, and an army of computer aided instrumentation has done more to soundtrack our increasingly cybernetic world than anyone else out there. Finally, I knew that the mixtape needed a taste of the arpeggio-laden dreamscapes of Steve Hauschildt, the midwest’s finest synth wizard. His music in particular have become ground-zero for my futurist infatuations and notably appeared on the list of 32 Best Ambient Albums Ever Made. The foundation was ready.
The real kicker was when I heard the brilliant new mini album Eternal Recurrence from Deradoorian, a vocalist I’d heard on everything from Dirty Projectors to Flying Lotus albums, now making her own spiritualized space tunes. Her mixture of ancient space age organs and massive, open vocals instantly secured a place on a mixtape that was in need of some living, breathing humanity to fuel its cyberpunk adventure. Her appearance is an obvious highlight in the mix, gently matched by another lengthy stunner from Oneohtrix Point Never, Ships Without Meaning. It’s one of my favorite ambient tracks of all time, a gently drifting epic that swallows the listener whole in an ocean of synthesizers. Even better, it neatly mirrors the romantic oblivion of Blade Runner Blues, nine minutes of smoky synth jazz romance that, to many fans, is the aural heart of the film itself.
After the tentpole sequences were in place, I began daydreaming further out from the original soundtrack idea, incorporating deep techno pulse, industrial noise, and experimental ambient sounds. There are a lot of neat surprises hidden within, playing off relations to each other both in the mix and in the real world. While they’re all part of my daily sound world, they also evoke my vision of the future more articulately than anything else I listen to regularly. Taken as a whole, the mix began sounding more like a dream soundtrack for my life than for a specific film made in 2017.
So here we are. I hope you enjoy this mixtape. Suffice it to say that this still works well as an alternate Blade Runner soundtrack, especially to those very familiar with the original. But it’s also just another of my personalized sets, evoking my outlook on music and life. Listen closely and you’ll hear the rain behind it all. Thankfully these sounds will not wash away like tears.
• • •
One final, important piece of this mixtape must be mentioned: the cover art is based on artwork by Josan Gonzalez. He has a new art book called The Future is Now that everyone should own. Gonzalez’ work is stuffed with astonishing sci-fi visuals, packed with detail, passion, and energy. Fans of this music just might find a lot to love in his visual style.
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
– Blade Runner
I believe jumping in blind is best, but if you prefer to know what’s coming, that’s cool. Here’s the full track list:
01. Oneohtrix Point Never – 6th Floor
02. Dedekind Cut – Instinct
03. Kuedo – Boundary Regulation
04. Holden – The Illuminations
05. Steve Hauschildt – Same River Twice
06. Deradoorian – Return-Trandscend
07. Roly Porter – High Places
08. Kuedo – Love Theme
09. Oneohtrix Point Never – Ships Without Meaning
10. Jo Johnson – Words Came After Music
11. Dopplereffekt – Isotropy
12. Broken English Club – Rust Ballad
13. Broken English Club – Wreck
14. Oneohtrix Point Never – Romance Apocalypse
15. Kuedo – Flight Path
16. Deepchord – Campfire
Thank you so much for listening.