Given it’s stature as both an iconic soundtrack and an influential piece of electronic music, messing with Vangelis’ original Blade Runner soundtrack may seem akin to sacrilege. Nevertheless, that’s precisely what Los Angeles-based Haloed (aka Barrett Richards, who also DJs under the “Kastle” moniker) has done here, reworking Vangelis’ sweeping electronic score into a new “companion piece” for the film. And the results are far from sacrilegious.
Off-World is described as a “non-linear approach” to the soundtrack — which makes sense given how Haloed breaks down Vangelis’ original compositions and weaves them back together in new ways along with samples (e.g., Rachel’s “owl” speech on the aptly titled “Do You Like Our Owl?”) as well as some original textures and atmospherics (like the This Mortal Coil-ish synth melodies on “Dreaming Real” and “Cityspeak”). And filling in the gaps is the omnipresent sound of rain, which feels appropriate given the film’s constantly overcast vision of the future.
As a result, Off-World is more abstract and ambient than Vangelis’ soundtrack — which was already pretty moody and atmospheric — but it remains faithful to the tone and vibe of both the soundtrack and the film itself.
I’ve always been of the opinion that truly good ambient music can leave stronger emotional effects and impressions than more “structured” music. Whereas structured, song-oriented music remains in the forefront of the listener’s awareness, thanks to definable melodies, hooks, etc., ambient music’s formlessness initially consigns it to the background as “aural wallpaper.” From there, however, it can bypass the listener’s awareness despite being background noise — which allows it to create a more enveloping and encompassing sonic experience that plays more subtly, and powerfully, on the listener.
In other words, by surrounding the listener and becoming a part of their environment, ambient music becomes more difficult to ignore, if only on a subconscious level.
This holds true for my experiences with Off-World. Because of its more ambient, impressionistic nature — as if Haloed applied a giant gaussian blur effect to Vangelis’ compositions — Off-World does often sink into the background. But the resulting effect is as if I’m actually meandering through the film’s visually stunning, fully realized vision of the future rather than simply following someone else’s narrative (good as it may be).
Or, to put it another way, whereas Ridley Scott’s film, and by extension, Vangelis’ soundtrack, told a particular and singular story, Off-World suggests a bigger, more expansive world, one existing at the rain-soaked levels far below the cyclopean structures, police spinners, and golden pyramids of Los Angeles circa 2019. It’s a haunting and compelling listening experience, and it leaves me very intrigued for Haloed’s first original album, due out sometime next year.