Sunday, 29 April 2018

Rezurrection

Time for me again to slip on my nerd glasses and talk at length about videogame soundtracks. This time with another important one in the development in taste for the younger version of myself, you see when I've talked about Graeme Norgate's soundtracks for Timesplitters being formative for me because there weren't many games incorporating electronic music in their soundtracks I've actually been telling a little lie because he isn't the only one around that time responsible for that. There are two other main sources I can think of off the top of my head, Grand Theft Auto III with it's Drum & Bass and Trance radio stations in MSX and Rise FM respectively and the other biggy which is the delightfully trippy on rails shooter known as Rez



Unlike the other game soundtracks I've talked about though, I think Rez has earned it's place in the history of electronic music. To understand why you have to look at the development of the game itself, starting with the original inspiration for the game itself, shamlessly quoting wikipedia:
"In 1997, Tetsuya Mizuguchi (ed: Producer/creator of Rez) was on travel(sic) in Europe and had been taken to the Street Parade in Zurich, during which there was a large electronic dance music concert attended by around 300,000 people. Mizuguchi was taken in by the sights and sounds around him from this, and recognized how this experience was similar to the inspiration that Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter, had used to "[paint] a canvas of the sounds that he saw".[8] He saw this tie to his previous ideas and envisioned a game where one would shoot down enemies in time to the beat of music that would put the player into a trance, forming the basis of Rez."
But that's not all, during development the game was being worked on with placeholder tracks from the likes of Underworld and Fatboy Slim, and the team reached out to all kinds of techno and electronic musicians to get them on board for the game and rumour says that even Aphex Twin was on board for a while, but none of his work appears in the final game. It's a shame that not all these artists made it into the final version of Rez, if it had I think it would rival the early Wipeout games soundtracks as home of electronic powerhouses of the time.

And that's basically the gist, and if you look up gameplay (with helpful subtitles by ChipCheezum) I think they did a bang up job. For a young Foxbat who was super into tech, electronic music and cyberpunk sci-fi (but didn't know it yet) I was drawn to it for reasons I couldn't explain. The soundtrack to Area 1 as seen in that video remains my favourite out of the whole thing, and everytime I hear those opening stabs I fall in love all over again. Those of you who've watched the video will notice that the album mix here is slightly different than in game due to it adding more elements as the level goes on, I do actually prefer the album version truth be told. But you know how the archivist in me is, I have both the album version and a rip of the in-game versions just in case I ever feel like switching it up.

Keiichi Sugiyama - Buggie Running Beeps 01 [click to download] |HTML5|




And while I think it's the opening level's music that defines Rez, and even the marketing material makes reference to the trance-like nature of the game and audio (see above), it does stray from the Trance genre from time to time. The other big hitter from the Rez soundtrack is Adam Freeland's Fear which is more in line with the kind of stuff I imagine they were using from Underworld as placeholder tunes, it plays out more like a Big Beat tune from the era, something more akin to The Chemical Brother or the like. It's a little repetitive for my tastes, but it really comes into it's own past the halfway mark, the introduction of that super smooth backing around 2:50 really does it for me. And of course, bonus points for the quite obvious Dune references with the "Fear is the mind killer" samples.

Adam Freeland - Fear (Rez Edit) [click to download] |HTML5|


Unfortunately a few of my other all time faves don't appear on the compilation, and I'm not really comfortable posting the gamerip because the quality ain't great and I have no idea who to credit with the songs. To round things off we have a little bit of a wildcard. Now it wouldn't be a game influenced by electronic music culture if it didn't have a comedown section now would it? Well, Rez pulls no punches in this area, there's no post-dancefloor lullabies here. Instead you're treated to the abstract glitch of Oval, it's a tough listen I'll give you that, but ride it out and it actually all becomes quite pretty starting around 43 seconds or so. I'd say it's not really my cup of tea but I've actually grown to love it over the years, it would certainly explain some of the more abstract pieces in my collection from the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never.

Oval - P-Project [click to download] |HTML5|


Speaking of influence I find it funny that there's so many references to the demo scene and VJs in the history of Rez's development, as some of you may or may not know, I actually do that kind of work freelance on the side, and there's been many a time I've watched a little bit of Rez gameplay for some colour inspiration, or ideas on how to merge audio + visual that much better. Much like the music video for Daft Punk's Around The World, each element in Rez is linked to a piece of the overall composition which is pretty spectacular when used in an interactive experience, and the music video for The Chemical Brothers' Star Guitar also has each element of the song represented by a visual cue. And it's things like that that continue the cycle, always know your roots, and always give props to those who've inspired you and so on. It shouldn't have taken me this long to write this all down but better late than never I suppose.

-Claude Van Foxbat

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