Playlist: Blade Runner and Beyond

There are innumerable moments in which Blade Runner proves itself to be more than just the measure of its cult status.

The pre-digitally constructed tabletop models of dystopian hellscapes, biblical weather conditions and allegorical narratives, all swilled together with a doleful cocktail of cyberpunk retro-futurism, make Ridley Scott’s original sci-fi noir a classic of cinema. Through its stark municipal plastering of Coca Cola and Atari billboard ads, brightly blinking in the rafters of high-rise buildings, the movie fossilised contemporary pop-culture at its most hyperactive. Originally titled Dangerous Days, this aggressively loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? may have received a tepid reception upon its initial 1982 release, but it would later evolve into an archetypal bar-setter. One that few (if any) have matched in cultural gravitas.

Everyone from producers to fashion and set designers have leafed through Blade Runner’s aesthetic catalogue of influence. And it continues to bleed into all areas of art to this day. Its music was especially powerful in scoring the film’s mood. The eulogised reclusive composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, aka Vangelis had already garnered international acclaim for his work on several French animal documentaries throughout the 70s before receiving an Oscar for his scoring of 1981’s Chariots of Fire. A year later, he would be drafted for Blade Runner and begin work on what has since been described as one of the most important examples of synthesiser music ever to manifest. Its sad pairing of a soaring Yamaha CS-80 synthesised with bluesy brass heightened the somber tonality of the movie’s dark tale of retiring lonely synthetic humans. Even today, when you recount Blade Runner, Vangelis’ droney moans gently seep into the forefront of your consciousness.

Ownership and creative disagreements led to the original Blade Runner score not finding an official release until 12 years later, while an infinite slurry of bootlegs and unofficial recordings remain in circulation in numerous record auction houses. And yet very little stands up to the composer’s workings for the film. The amalgam of spoken word with swooning synth notes and gloomy sax has influenced musicians from a range of fields, from DnB to modern jazz via neo-classical and beyond.

We have the opportunity to travel to Ridley Scott’s fantastical noir-ish future once again in a matter of weeks. In a mournful turn of events, the sequel’s original key composer, Jóhan Jóhansson, has been retired from his duties and replaced by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Despite this minor clanger, Vangelis’ 1982 contribution is sure to resonate and will be as integral to the Blade Runner series as the bounty hunter Rick Deckard himself. As we wait with bated breath to potentially realise the fate of Deckard, take a moment to indulge in the ongoing power and influence of Vangelis’s score from 1982 to 2049 with this synth-heavy playlist.