When a movie like The Matrix is successful at the box office, it's inevitable that there will be a sequel and the door had been left wide open for future plot developments. The creative demands of a sequel are to repeat and reuse the moods, techniques, look and feel of the original so that the films seem to belong to the same family, but still to introduce fresh new material giving value for money and sustaining interest. So it is with the music and the soundtrack to the "Matrix Reloaded" doesn't disappoint. It is firmly rooted in the original's sound world but takes us in new and unexpected directions. The familiar sounds and soundscapes established by composer Don Davis in The Matrix are all present and correct, most especially those alternating brass swells which seem to represent the matrix itself.
So let's focus on the new aspects of the music. Firstly the strategy for releasing the soundtrack has changed for the better. Whereas the first movie had two different soundtrack releases, the second movie has a double album package. CD 1 is again a "from and inspired by" set of tracks, one of which is used during the film and some are played during the end titles. The second CD is the soundtrack which plays during the movie. Another improvement on this release is that a greater proportion of the film soundtrack has been included. This has been accomplished by piecing together a number of smaller cues into the final track called "Matrix Reloaded Suite". This track is 17 and a half minutes long and the shorter segments have been edited together with great care to make a sustained track which flows very well, almost like a summary of the movie.
The other major difference is that Don Davis is not the only composer involved. Davis created the first two tracks "Main Title" and "Trinity Dream" which almost mirror the first track on the soundtrack for the original film, bringing the listener immediately back into the world of The Matrix. "Trinity Dream" in particular serves to heighten the tension and set the scene for the story to come. Then the third short track "Teahouse" brings in a new sound for the intial Kung-Fu battle. This is played by "Juno Reactor featuring Gocoo", Juno Reactor being a group with several South African drummers and percussionists augmented by other instruments, and "Gocoo" is yet another drum and percussion ensemble. The following track, "Chateau" by Rob Dougan, brings us a techno-driven track for the fight scene with the Merovingian guards in the Chateau. More melodic than the Don Davis sections with a recurring rising motif, this is still very much in keeping with the established Matrix sound with its orchestral Brass and Strings sound. Rob Dougan also created the "Furious Angels" track which is included on CD 1.
The next two tracks accompany major set piece action scenes from the movie, and their collaborative composition takes the music in new directions. Ben Watkins is the composer for the Juno Reactor material supplying percussion and electronic effects, and worked closely with Davis on these cues. "Mona Lisa Overdrive" by "Juno Reactor/Don Davis" accompanies the highway chase sequence and is a very effective piece of driving techno drums, percussion and synth sounds plus Matrix-style brass and string motifs. The track starts with a marvellous bass-line from Watkins as the car emerges onto the roads. It would normally be hard to sustain interest visually and aurally in a high-octane sequence lasting more than 10 minutes but the Matrix has a trick up its sleeve when it breaks into slow motion to show off the brilliant effects. The music also pauses in a couple of places introducing a choir singing "Kyrie Eleison" as Trinity makes death-defying motorbike jumps and Morpheus takes on the bad guys before Neo's rescue above the crashing trucks. Then we are immediately thrown into the "Burly Brawl" by "Juno Reactor vs. Don Davis" in which Neo takes on increasing hordes of replica Agent Smiths. Although the tempo doesn't change significantly, the rhythmic changes create the effect that the pace is constantly increasing as the battle becomes more and more frantic. Again there are pauses for voices as the action slows, before setting into new rhythmic patterns. Although these two tracks form an exciting core for the soundtrack, the film is not entirely non-stop action. As previously mentioned, the final track brings together cues from throughout the film into an effective symphonic poem by Don Davis. This is an excellent soundtrack and highly recommended.
This double album is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Note that this CD is the unedited version of the lyrics. If you want to hear the lyrics cleaned up then there is another version available, though a little more expensive. The full track listing is as follows:
We think that the combination of avant-garde orchestral music from Davis and techno electronica from Watkins' Juno Reactor work particularly well on this movie. If you want to hear Juno Reactor on their own, check out the following albums: