Earlier this year, DFA Records affiliates Factory Floor were commissioned to re-score Fritz Lang’s Metropolis for a special series of live performances at the Science Museum in London. A visionary piece of science-fiction filmmaking, the silent epic depicts a futuristic dystopia where wealthy industrialists enjoy a life of privilege while an underclass of workers toil away in subterranean factories powering the city above. It’s visually breathtaking, mainly thanks to special effects that were way ahead of their time – of course a staggering cast of 37,383 and the largest ever budget for a silent film played a part, but alongside its message about social divisions, Metropolis remains relevant through an aesthetic that still inspires 90 years on. Esteemed musicians can’t wait to try their hand at re-imagining the soundtrack, with Factory Floor far from the first to take on the presumably daunting task. It was, after all, one of the first times a robot would appear on screen.
Giorgio Moroder (1984):
This attempt, courtesy of Italo disco and synth-pop pioneer, Giorgio Moroder, wasn’t exactly well received upon its release in 1984. Nominated for not one, but two Golden Raspberry Awards (an award recognising the very worst in film), many think Moroder’s version should be confined to the annals of history, and it’s easy to see why. Just a year after experiencing critical acclaim for his work on Brian de Palma’s definitive gangster flick, Scarface, the colourised restoration came coated in a cocaine sheen, pairing it with an gauche and ungainly synth-rock soundtrack that features Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler and Adam Ant. Safe to say it adds practically nothing to the original. Moroder’s ambitious effort is a curiosity of the ’80s, albeit one that should probably remain there.
Jeff Mills (2000):
In between co-founding militant techno outfit Underground Resistance and recent endeavours that include touring live orchestral performances of his seminal productions, Jeff Mills found the time to write a soundtrack of his own. Released on his Axis label in 2000, the composition draws on Mills’ personal experience of growing up surrounding by the vast urban wilderness of Detroit. A crumbling industrial wasteland that had been in decline since loosing its place at the heart of America’s automobile industry, it bears many parallels with the film’s dystopian aesthetic.
A stunning reinterpretation, it isn’t the only time the Detroit native affectionally known as ‘The Wizard’ experimented with soundtrack composition: last year we saw Mills take on some more Fritz Lang material in Woman In The Moon; performances in 2014 at iconic venues like London’s Royal Festival Hall witnessed the live-score a montage of clips from various pieces of sci-fi cinema and he has delivered full-length soundtracks for a number of other films, including Harry Kleiner’s bizarre science fiction flick, Fantastic Voyage. Unfortunately, there isn’t anywhere online to enjoy the soundtrack complete with its intended visual accompaniment, but you might be lucky enough to catch a live rendition, as many did at venues around the world earlier this year.
Richard Davis (2015):
Our favourite and probably the most fitting comes from Cybotron co-founder Richard Davis. An enigmatic personality, the Vietnam veteran has fallen into relative obscurity despite writing a great deal of the material released as one half of the seminal Detroit project he started with Juan Atkins. Before music, film was Davis’ primary fascination, even going as far to claim that his work as Cybotron was only intended to pay the bills so he could pursue his desired career as a filmmaker. Word is he has been working on modernised adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III, and if his Metropolis soundtrack is anything to go by, it’s going to be well worth the wait. The soaring synth lead provided by Davis’ Korg Kronos is hugely cinematic, indicating what might have been if Moroder hadn’t been bent on turning his reinterpretation into a cheesy disco opera.