Tuesday 23 March 2021

Get Paid

If there were ever a post that was the embodiment of 'Lord help me, I'm back on my bullshit' it would be this. After taking an extended break due to self inflicted burnout (what else is new?), I recently started playing Payday 2 again. See, Payday 2 and it's predecessor really try to capture a cinematic vibe, and they are pretty successful at it too - and a big part of that atmosphere is the incredible soundtrack work by Simon Viklund (and others in later years, but this post is all Simon). It's coming up on around 8 years old now and over those years the soundtrack has been added to pretty much constantly, so I thought I'd take a look over some choice bits from those years.

The sequel saw Simon shift gears to be much much more electronic with his compositions, a lot of these tracks could work absolutely fine as standalone electro tracks for sure. The formula of a Payday track also lends itself really well to the electro/EDM model too as it's split into phases: Stealth, Control, Anticipation, Build, Sustain and Fade. It would be easy to kinda phone it in when it comes to this formula, but to Simon's credit, the released versions of tracks on the Official OST are actually different mixes than the in-game versions. Evil Eye's in game version is quite different from this released one for example, but it still goes hard as hell. Evil Eye was made for a Payday / Hotline Miami crossover deal so that should give you an idea of the kind of vibe to expect - for me back then this was the greatest crossover of all time. I would be lying if I said there wasn't part of my electro-loving self of days gone by that doesn't still get a little hype when this one plays.

The OST sometimes catches flak for being too much EDM and all, which I could understand in the early days for sure, but updates have seen there be so much more variety added to the tracklist I don't think it applies as much anymore - I can totally understand it as a critique still compared to the individuality of each track from the first game. Simon's work is very flexible though, and he knows when to change it up to suit the mood: take the second track from the Hotline Miami collab, Hot Pursuit. As you might have guessed from the title, this one leans heavily in the other direction when it comes to the sound of Hotline Miami, going full retro with the sounds and structure (including a delightfully MIDI bass!). It fits perfectly with the frantic dash through a Motel that happens in the game, but I've only come to appreciate it more hearing it on its own - there are a lot of lovely little touches throughout that get lost in the gunfire during gameplay.

I have talked about both of those tracks before though, so I thought I'd cover another track to close us out. Forgive me for talking atmospheres again but it's something that Simon does really well. Dead Man's Hand is the soundtrack to a Casino Heist, if all goes to plan then you shouldn't even hear the more upbeat parts of this track, but if/when things take a turn south the super powerful intro of this track hits and you have about a minute before it changes into high gear. I'm sure there are plenty of options you could have when it comes to making a track themed around a Casino, and Simon's approach I think has the right amount of hallmarks to signpost that without beign too generic. Having said that, I'm maybe not as into this one as when it came out, but I sure as hell still aprecciate the little touches Simon put throughout to make it not just super generic EDM - the little breakbeat fills and of course the bombastic brass that heralds the big drop - I can't help but grin a bit at them.

I could go on and on about Simon's work - and not just the assualt tracks like you heard here, there's a whole album of B-Sides on that bandcamp as wel lwhere you can hear Viklund really flex his downtempo stuff as well. Simon's no longer at the company behind Payday, but he still swings by to do a bit of soundtracking now and then. I try and keep up with what he's up to these days as his works have been consistently great throughout, and as you all well know I always say the world could do with more full-on electronic soundtracks.

Apologies for the slight repeat of an old topic, but it has been a few years since I dropped a bit of this OST and I'm really feeling it again at the moment! I'll be back soon enough with more - might be a little longer than usual as I've mentioned before but until then: As always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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