The soundtrack to Alejandro Gonzalez ’s film Babel — which takes place on two continents and in three countries — is a whopping double disc of cues with original score cuts by the venerable — and prolific — Gustavo Santaolalla, with other material including beautiful folk songs by Chavela Vargas, ambient cuts by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto, original compositions by the great oud master Hamza el Din, urban/soul/funk by Earth, Wind & Fire, house music by Fatboy Slim, Japanese pop by Susumu Yokata, and Mexican popular music by Los Tucanes de Tijuana, El Chapo, Nortec Collective, and others — a truly international mixed bag. This said, other than the tune by Hamza, it was left to Santaolalla to capture many of the other Moroccan moods and themes in his cues — he did a tremendous job. But this is also where the problem lies. These two discs are such a sprawling mass with moods and textures that compete and clash, without the storyline to tie them together, that they don’t always work as a stand-alone soundtrack. Some will have no trouble with great leaps in style over two discs, and for the engaged listener, Babel’s soundtrack is a true delight. A case must be made, however, for a separate recording of Santaolalla’s haunting and deeply moving score, accomplished with a minimum of instrumentation, immediate and intimate production, and plenty of space. This takes nothing away from the rest of the music here; it’s just that the original score comprises 19 different cues in a total of 36 and deserves to be heard as a complete piece. If there’s any doubt, try recording his own cuts to your iPod and hearing the result for yourself. For those who have seen the film, it is true that this set does not carry or reflect the gut-tightening tension inherent within it — and yes, that’s a very good thing. It does serve as a pleasurable listen over one disc at a time. Cautiously recommended.