Wednesday 29 July 2020

In My Restless Dreams

Not to be a one trick pony when it comes to content but yet another very important series of soundtracks are now available to stream and I will be talking about them too. Seems Konami are occasionally in the business of making not awful decisions and have finally put Akira Yamaoka's Silent Hill soundtracks up on streaming (Or at least the big 3, Shattered Memories and one of the movie soundtracks were already there).

Yamaoka's work on Silent Hill is incredible; both his work on the sound design and the soundtrack itself, it's a beautiful mixture of Ambient, almost literal Industrial and bits and pieces of Trip Hop. It sounds scatterbrained on paper but in practice it all comes together to make an overall atmosphere that is very apt for the setting: sometimes lush and dreamlike, sometimes relentlessly brutal. We'll take a look at one bit from each of the big three today, see you after the art from the Second OST!

I believe I've said this on the podcast before, but Yamaoka's Silent Hill 2 soundtrack is legitimately one of my favourite ambient albums of all time. Granted it's not *completely* ambient but the parts that are, are at the top of the list when it comes to my personal list. I normally lean heavy on the trip hop side of things when I talk about the Silent Hill OSTs so I thought I'd change it up this time. The Day Of Night is what I think of instantly when recalling this soundtrack and it's absolutely divine from the get go, featuring that 'rising & falling' motif that is present in a bunch of other of SH2's soundtrack pieces. It's awfully pleasant for something from the soundtrack of a horror title, but you can almost make out a little bit of an unsettling atmosphere nested in there too which just makes the whole thing even more perfect. The way it seamlessly mixes into the next track, the much more industrial Block Mind really drives this home, shame there's no real way for me to simulate that on this page. Definitely check them both out back to back if you get the chance.

Silent Hill 3's soundtrack mixes things up as well, there's definitely more trip-hop influence on here than previously, and some of the pieces are now backed with spoken word both ambient and otherwise, courtesy of long time collaborator Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, she even appears on the end of this track, delivering some lines as one of the game's antagonists Claudia (no relation to myself!). I went with another track I've not mentioned in the past this time, Dance With Night Wind. As mentioned before Yamaoka very clearly takes a lot of trip hop influence when composing for Silent Hill; Portishead being the first and natural comparison (and not a baseless one, there's even a texture of a Portishead poster in Silent Hill 1, here's a better shot of it). And while that's true there's obviously more inspiration to draw from, this one in particular sounds similar very early UNKLE when DJ Shadow was involved. More specifically this one reminds me very much of Spylab's The Call from This Utopia, from around the same time as SH3's release actually. The beats very similar for one, albeit a little more rough on the Spylab track, but there are closer examples throughout the SH OSTs. What really makes the comparison even more apt though is the conspiracy theory laden spoken word accompaniment certainly wouldn't be too out of place in Silent Hill.

SH4 has even less ambience to its name, at least on the main album. There are some very short & sweet ambient bits on some of the collector's edition CDs but they are not on streaming so I'll have to skip them unfortunately. The trip hop trend continues onto this album, but with an almost high-tech sound to it in parts, it feels a lot more clean than the rough and rusty beats of before. You can hear it here on Into The Depths Of Self Discovery at around 2:10 where there's a very synthy breakdown type thing, but even before then the whole production is a lot more crisp than before. It keeps that slightly unsettling edge though, and while it does err more closely to traditional 'soundtrack' work than Yamaoka's other productions, it still has a lot of interesting sounds that keep it fresh. This high tech sound isn't a one off either, running through the album in prep of writing this I was reminded of Remodeling which I almost posted instead. It almost borders on Techno in parts (and I would argue the outro is 100% techno with those isolated beats), and could have easily fit into something like Warp's Blech tapes. The whole thing is still very Yamaoka in it's execution, but it's refreshing to hear this kind of experimentation regardless.

Well that's quite enough soundtrack speech from me for this week. Again apologies if this is just re-treading old ground for you, or you're just not interested, I'm just very excited that these soundtracks are now much more accessible to people. The Silent Hill soundtracks helped me define what I liked not only in terms of the hip hop come trip hop stuff but also for more ambient pieces too, I'm of firm belief you don't have to have played the games or have any knowledge about them to appreciate the OSTs. If you do decide to check them out off this post, unlike other soundtracks out there, none of the track titles are spoilers so you should have a good time! As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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