After several years of bringing orchestral elements to collaborations with artists as varied as Kelly Clarkson, Linkin Park, 3Oh!3, and Moby, composer Joseph Trapanese ventures out solo with his score to the sci-fi family film "Earth to Echo." The album opens and closes ("Just Kids", "Not Kids Anymore") with tracks reminiscent of the dreamy guitar riffs of Explosions in the Sky; a sound now synonymous with stories set in the modern American Midwest. Everything in between continues heavily atmospheric, blending low electronic pulses with rolling, meandering, orchestral tones. This is old hat for Trapanese who collaborated with Daft Punk on the score to "Tron: Legacy," and co-composed the score to "Oblivion" with Anthony Gonzalez of M83. To that end, it's no surprise that "Echo's" soundscape is cut from the same digital circuit as those previous works. The orchestration in several tracks — including "Mannequin Girl" and "The Key" — is so similar to the "Tron" sound that they could easily be mistaken as cues from that film.
Unfortunately much of "Echo's" score is disappointingly nondescript. The music comes across as surface-level, early sketches of ideas, further hindered by extremely short track lengths that don't give the beats any time to develop. When allowed to delve deeper, though, Trapanese doesn't squander the opportunity: "Here It Goes" is wonderful, featuring strong string-writing reminiscent of James Newton Howard and layered with varied electronic percussion. A short, repeating woodwind "beacon" motif drives the music to the track's end, and bridges it directly into the following track's ("The Way Home") climactic beginning and satisfying, emotional conclusion.
A soundtrack album featuring 11 songs and a suite of music from Trapanese's score is also available.