Customer Reviews: Looper (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
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on September 30, 2012
While some of the songs on this soundtrack are throwaways when not listened to within the context of the movie, others like "Time Machine" have amazingly unique drum rolls and clicks overlayed on top of some haunting orchestra. Great movie and a great soundtrack to go along with it.
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on October 10, 2012
Looper is a high-concept science fiction action movie, directed by Rian Johnson and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. The film takes the concept of time-travel and mixes it with organized crime; in the future, when the mob wants to take someone out, they use the newly invented but highly illegal time-travel technology to send someone back in time, whereupon they are immediately killed by a Looper - an assassin in the past. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper, and is good at his job - until he realizes that his latest victim, just sent back in time, is the future version of himself... Critics have called Looper one of the most intriguing science-fiction movies in several years, and young director Rian Johnson is quickly becoming heralded as a new and exciting cinematic visionary.

Providing the score for Looper is 37-year-old Colorado-born composer Nathan Johnson - the cousin of the director - who spent a great deal of time living and working in the United Kingdom in the 2000s, and is a founder member of the touring band The Cinematic Underground. Nathan made his film music debut comparatively recently, when he scored Rian's first two films, Brick in 2005 and The Brothers Bloom in 2008, but Looper is by far his most high profile and ambitious project to date. For Looper, Johnson took a standard small orchestra, featuring mainly strings and piano, and augmented them with a massive array of sampled sounds and processed percussion effects, ranging from trash can lids, an oscillating fan, and gunfire to hammered PVC tubes and fire alarms. The end result is cacophonous, unsettling, but weirdly fascinating music that somehow manages to bring together these seemingly random and incoherent musical collisions of sounds into a propulsive, unconventional, but exciting score.

Most cues feature one or more orchestral instrumental combinations - piano and strings, strings and brass, all three - with the sampled and percussive elements laid on top to give the score its other-worldly feel. In many cues, the internal rhythm of the score is the main driving force, with melody taking a back seat to rumbling sound effects, disjointed percussive elements, and curious collisions of noises that sound jarring and alien. Cues such as the opening "A Body That Technically Does Not Exist", the eerie "Seth's Tale", the relentlessly mechanical "Time Machine", the jarring "A New Scar", and parts of the conclusive "The Path Was a Circle" adopt this style, and are more interesting than they are enjoyable, but do establish an unusual sonic atmosphere for the score to inhabit. Some of the percussion rhythms Johnson creates are fascinating in their complexity, and show a real sense of how to drive a movie onward with insistent, vigorous forward motion.

The best cues tend to be the ones where the orchestra takes center stage, at least for a short time. Cues such as the pulsating brass blasts and string stingers of "A Day in the Life", the dark and throbbing "Closing Your Loop", the brooding and menacing "Run", the thrilling "Hunting the Past", the surprisingly romantic "Her Face", the thunderous "City Sweep", the crackerjack second half of "Revelations", and the ball-busting "Showdown" have a more organic edge, despite still containing a great deal of Johnson's processed sound effects. The level of orchestral composition heard in these cues is pretty top notch, with action music elements that don't sound like they come from the pen of a man with less than 10 film score credits to his name.

There is a theme of sorts - a recurring piano motif that gets its first prominent outing during "A Life in a Day" and appears later in cues such as "Mining for Memories", the unexpectedly tender and intimate opening portion of "Revelations", the surprisingly warm and lyrical finale in "Everything Comes Around" - but generally speaking Looper is not a score that will appeal to those who need a strong thematic presence in their scores. This reason alone is why it really surprised me how much I enjoyed the electronic soundscape Johnson created, and appreciated its effectiveness in conveying a disjointed dystopian future, which is very impressive indeed.

Parts of Looper remind me of Elliot Goldenthal, especially the orchestral sections, but the samples and electronic elements seem wholly unique to me, and it's very rare that you hear a soundtrack where the two competing elements mesh so well together. Often, when a composer tries to marry a live orchestra with a whole cache of electronic techniques and industrial textures, the result is a headache-inducing mess; Looper is different. Yes, the sounds are harsh, and sometimes seem almost obnoxiously aggressive, but the creativity and technique that went into their creation cannot be ignored. Nathan Johnson is a composer to watch.
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VINE VOICEon October 5, 2012
When Rian Johnson made his feature debut with Brick he brought along his cousin to write the score. That family partnership continued on The Brothers Bloom and now on Looper. Nathan Johnson has very quickly established an identity for himself in the 5 features he has composed (3 of them directed by his cousin). Looper puts him to the test with a science fiction thriller, and those score are always tricky. However, Johnson nails it with this textured, percussive, and intriguing score. The entire sound has a sense of intrigue and mystery infused in the energy, which is never over the top or loud. It's definitely a lean and solid score.

The score doesn't have any excess to it, and by that I mean that it really is stripped down to a few distinct elements. The percussion is the most notable characteristic of the music. This is backed with pulsating strings that drive most of the score. The score isn't all propulsive action though, and much of it in the second half is quite brooding. There is bubbling tension throughout and the music really grows on you as you listen. The intricate textures are always there, but Johnson pulls them back on some tracks to let the strings stew for a bit. The one thing that is missing from the score is emotional depth. I know this is more of a conceptual film than a contextual one, but I felt like there wasn't enough character in the music. The track "Her Face" does a nice job of teasing us with a touching motif, but it quickly fades away and we're back to tick-tacks and strings. The ending is very nice though as everything comes full circle and is wrapped up superbly.

There is some emotion in the music, but not enough for me to really grasp onto this score. It was very enjoyable and a nice entry from Johnson, but it comes at face value. For the narrative the score works terrifically and you're there for every beat in the story. Long tracks allow the music to flow and build nice arcs. It's definitely worth a listen, but it won't stick with you very long.
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on October 21, 2012
A great addition to my collection of outstanding film scores!! Listen to it regularly. The soundtrack tells a story on its own!!
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