A few weeks back we presented the first, in what I hope is many, visual art pieces off of Back to the Future the Ride’s newest album Tron Legacy. Do not read this review or download Tron Legacy (for free on Deathbomb Arc) without watching the video for “CGI Fridays”. “CGI Fridays” takes us back to the pre-Matrix 90’s when futurism and science fiction stopped being utilitarian and started being…shiny. With the advent of computerized graphics being a fixture in our visual landscape, we stopped dreaming of mechanized technology replacing human workers or metallic spacesuits or even spaceships. We replaced outer space with cyberspace and futurism in the early nineties started existing for its own sake. We stared for hours at shape-shifting screensavers, dreamed visions of honeycomb-like of modem ports that hacked us directly into the glowing nexus of the web. We created entire landscapes that resembled our own only flattened and more contoured, reconstructed entire pixelated cities and national monuments to fit our computer screens.
If “CGI Fridays” feels familiar it is because it draws heavily on this idea of retro-futurism. We look back on our antiquated ideas of technology and feel a warm tinge of nostalgia at how naive we were. Tron, perhaps, predates this all. It is hard to even mention retro-futurism without at least scoffing a little bit about lightbikes, disc wars and those jumpsuits…oh, those jumpsuits. BTTFTR’s fondness for the godfather of tech-kitsch makes sense. Brian Miller (of Foot Village) is attempting to reach for a technology that was once deemed inaccessible and huge but is now retro but is part of our subconscious and within our power as consumers to reappropriate and create.
I realize that this exposition was way too long and most of you have stopped reading. If not, just follow the link and download this album. Musically, Tron Legacy is what I imagine being stuck in the grid is actually like. Everything all the time all at once. A first listen sucks the listener down the rabbit hole into a fiber-optics rush of maximal jet-engine suck drones and heavily Eno-esque pawed synth chords. It is easy to be jarred a bit by Tron’s perceived limited tonal range. Close listens dampen any harshness associated with the droning noisescape and reveal a gorgeous sound palate Miller is working with. While destined to be the more overlooked Tron related project, it is difficult to listen to “Full Moon on an Empty Planet” and not get the idea that Miller is scoring something. Vintage keyboards are played with such timing and intention, with something akin to a vocal melody underpinning the entire piece, that it one wonders what visuals it was meant to accompany. In terms of outright beauty “Sleep on Stars Tonight” stretches notes to their almost-breaking point before recycling them back into a massive back end.
In a year of almost-harsh noise albums reaching for moments of unrestrained beauty, Tron Legacy is one the most likable and ultimately one of the most important.