Jan '11

The Matrix soundtrack – first part

It’s quite usual that a blockbuster film is accompanied by an outstanding soundtrack: this is the case of all the films included in The Matrix trilogy.

The science fiction-action film trilogy created by Laurence “Larry” Wachowski and Andrew Paul “Andy” Wachowski, also known as The Wachowski Brothers, American film directors, writers and producers, consist in:

  • The Matrix, released in March 1999
  • The Matrix Reloaded, released during 2003
  • The Matrix Revolutions, released during 2003

This post talks about The Matrix soundtrack in two parts, and additional posts will follow in the future regarding the other two films. This soundtrack is made by a selection of songs of various artists like Massive Attack, Rob Zombie, The Prodigy, Lunatic Calm, Propellerheads, Rage Against the Machine and others, plus a group of tracks specifically composed by Don Davis, an Emmy winning American composer. This is the list, maybe incomplete, of the most important tracks used into the film in chronological order:

Tracks from various artists:

Tracks from Don Davis:

  • Trinity Infinity
  • Unable to speak
  • The Lafayette mirror
  • The power plant
  • Welcome to the real world
  • The Hotel Ambush
  • Exit Mr. Hat
  • A virus
  • Bullet time
  • Ontological shock
  • The subway fight
  • Anything is possible

In this first part we talk about the selection of songs from various artists.

Dissolved Girl – Massive Attack

You can hear this song in the scene where Neo sleeps in front of his PC, and newspapers titles about Morpheus’s manhunt are scrolling on the screen. The song is playing into his headphones, while he starts receiving messages on the screen from Trinity: wake up, Neo ….. the matrix has you …. follow the white rabbit.

The atmosphere created by this song in the beginning is very inspirational, cool, something that invites you to dream and fly away, while in the middle explodes a powerful guitar energy. The bass line is the backbone of all the song, sophisticated guitar parts add personality and energy, while particular keyboards sounds give a sense to everything. The lovely voice that sings belongs to Sarah Jay.

Massive Attack describe themselves on their website as “a musical collective from Bristol, UK, widely considered to be progenitors of the genre known as trip hop, as well as effectively being a wider collective including other musicians that they assemble“. Actually the stable components are Robert Del Naja aka 3D, an artist and musician, and Grant Marshall aka Daddy G, a musician.

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Dragula (Hot Rod Herman remix) – Rob Zombie

This song plays at high volume in the discotheque scene, where Neo has arrived following the white rabbit. He is alone, close to the wall, while Trinity approaches him and they start talking together.

The version of the song used into the film is the “Hot Rod Herman remix”, and there are no doubts that it is pure energy. It is a sapient mix of heavy metal style and electronic music sounds and techniques, plus the unique and powerful voice of Rob Zombie. Probably its style could be defined as big beat. I particularly appreciate the drums line and tones.

Rob Zombie, born Robert Bartleh Cummings, is an American music artist and filmmaker. He is best known for his music, formerly as the founder and front man of the heavy metal band White Zombie and after as a solo artist, being a 7 time Grammy-nominated recording artist and having sold over fifteen million albums worldwide.

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Mindfields – The Prodigy

This song plays still in the discotheque scene after Rob Zombie’s Dragula, while Neo and Trinity are talking together.

In my personal opinion, it is nice but nothing outstanding. I find it a little bit repetitive, after two minutes of listening you have heard anything that is worth to. The most appreciable elements of the song are the keyboard tones.

The Prodigy are an English electronic dance music band. They have sold over 25 million records worldwide, and current members are Liam Howlett (composer/keyboards), Keith Flint (dancer/vocalist) and Maxim (MC/vocalist).

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Leave you far behind (Lunatics Roller Coaster Mix) – Lunatic Calm

You can hear this song in the scene where Neo challenges Morpheus for the first time in the “sparring program, similar to the program reality of the Matrix“.

A very interesting song, energetic, involving, you have to move your body when you listen to it. A well done example of big beat style, I like very much the distorted bass line and the pushing drums line. Keyboards parts and sounds are appreciable while vocal parts are just accessories, the force of this track resides into music. A sapient usage of slow down parts that break the beat make the song energy rebirth again and again.

Lunatic Calm were an English electronic music group known for their high impact big beat compositions. Its members were Simon “sHack” Shackleton and Howard “Howie” Saunders.

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Clubbed to death (Kurayamino mix) – Rob D

This song plays in the training program scene, where Neo and Morpheus are walking in the middle of a crowded avenue. Morpheus talks about the Matrix, “The Matrix is a system, Neo ….. that system is our enemy ….“, while a red dressed girl appears and soon became a sentient program.

This sophisticated song creates a special atmosphere, I suggest to listen to it at enough volume to surround you or with headphones, and close your eyes. It will make your mind fly, and maybe escape from reality. If you analyze it, it is made of very simple instrumental parts, nothing complex to play or understand, but everything happen at the right time, progressively and with the right tone. The result is outstanding, an example that special compositions can originate from simplicity. This reminds me Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s ones, for which can be often said the same thing, what a common aspect for such a diverse artists. According to an article published on Wikipedia, seems that “The short strings intro is an excerpt from the first movement of Edward Elgar‘s Enigma Variations, and the piano solo is improvised around enigma variations as well“.

Kurayamino” is a Japanese word that in English means “darkness’s“, so the meaning of Kurayamino mix is “darkness’s mix“. Excuse me Rob, taking a look to this translation and to the song’s title, just a question: what happened in your childhood to became so dark an tragic as an adult ? 🙂

Rob Dougan, also known as Rob D, is an Australian music composer. His distinctive characteristic is the ability of blending many genres together in his compositions, and even if his work can be mainly identified as electronic music, often element of orchestral music, trip hop and blues are inserted. He is known primarily for this single for which has produced almost a dozen remixes, and Kurayamino is one of these.

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Prime audio soup – Meat Beat Manifesto

Neo, Trinity, Cypher and all the others are eating together inside the Nebuchadnezzar, while Morpheus enters and says “we are going in ….. taking Neo to see her …..“, Neo asks “… to see who? …” and Tank replies “…. the oracle ….“. Than boom: this song starts. A telephone rings and they appear inside The Matrix, all black and cool dressed except Switch that is curiously dressed white. Morpheus answers “… we are in …

This is an original, energetic, interesting song, whose genre is difficult to define. Of course it is electronic music, and then what else? No doubt that it has a unique, distinctive style, something innovative.

Jack Dangers is the self-defined composer and sound sculptor behind Meat Beat Manifesto, also known as MBM. Born John Stephen Corrigan, he is an English electronic musician, re-mixer, producer and DJ. An acknowledged innovator in the electronic music scene, he has collaborated with top artists and bands like Public Enemy, David Bowie, Orbital, Nine Inch Nails, David Byrne, Bush, Depeche Mode, Tower of Power, Banco de Gaia and DJ Wally.

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Minor swing – Django Reinhardt

This song plays in the background while Neo enters into the kitchen where the oracle is cooking biscuits, and they start talking. The volume is low, so maybe you couldn’t have noticed it.

This track is a jazz standard first recorded in 1937, played and covered by many artists. It is used even inside the film Chocolat played by Roux, the character interpreted by Johnny Depp. Curiously, that film has in common with The Matrix even the actress Carrie-Anne Moss that interprets Caroline Clairmont, a puritan, bigot, repressed woman, absolutely diverse from Trinity.

Jean “Django” Reinhardt was a Belgian pioneering virtuoso Jazz guitarist and composer. Born into a family of Romanian gypsies, he is credited of having invented an new style of jazz guitar technique, sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar.

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Spybreak – Propellerheads

This song is used in the lobby scene, one of the most characteristic of the entire film. Neo enters into the lobby and passes into the metal detector, that curiously beeps. A security guard asks Neo if he had any ordinary metal object, and he opens his coat: “oh, s..t !. Neo neutralizes all the security guards, Trinity joins him while several soldiers arrive, and one of them says “freeze !!!!!“. Than music and action start together.

This song was released in 1997, before the film, but seems to be written specifically for this scene. Another big beat track for this film, with an outstanding bass and drums lines, plus a mix of electronic tones and short voices insertions.

Propellerheads were a British duo, I use the past because they do not seem to be active anymore in this ensemble, whose members were Will White and Alex Gifford.

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Wake up – Rage against the machine

This song is used at the end of the film. Neo is talking inside a public telephone cabin, he hangs up the phone and the music starts. He exits from the cabin, takes a look around, wears sunglasses, watches the sky and flies away.

The impact of this song is really impressive, I love the power that is able to develop. Everything is made with drums, bass and guitar parts, nothing else, essential but effective. Very often bass and guitar play unison, to create a massive, compact front. Guitar tones deserve a special mention, listen to them carefully because are extremely interesting. You can hear many different tones, ranging from clean, warm ones to heavy distorted, but there is no doubt that they give personality and characterize the entire track. And finally the voice line: there isn’t a melody, lyrics are spoken in a sort of shouted rap, but the way, the intention used makes the vocal part emerge from a so loud and powerful instrumental background. Compliments, because it is not a simple task.

Rage Against the Machine, also known as RATM is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California. Its members are vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello and drummer Brad Wilk. They have sold over 16 million records worldwide.

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Rock is dead – Marilyn Manson

This song is played while the final titles are scrolling.

Marylin Manson is the stage name of Brian Hugh Warner, an American musician and artist known for his controversial persona and image, and the name of a namesake band.

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8 comments to “The Matrix soundtrack – first part”

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  5. rocket piano Says:

    It is a real pleasure listen to all these songs in one place. You know, usually you see a film, you notice some good tracks but then you have no occasion to listen to them again. This is the case of this soundtrack.

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  7. Ebru Koksal Says:

    Hi there, compliments for this post !!!!!

    The first time that I saw the film I liked many of the songs in the soundtrack, and have wondered often about their titles.

    I like the organization of this post, it is very easy to read, and the windows where you can listen a piece of every single song are very cool ….. but way only a piece? It would be nice if you could listen to the entire song !!!!!

    Please, write other posts like this 🙂 May I suggest some movies with interesting soundtracks??? For example, Shrek has a very nice soundtrack, or Bridget Jones’ Diary, and the recent Mission Impossible movies too .. 🙂
    Ok, I stop writing 🙂
    Teşekkürler (thank you in Turkish 🙂 )

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