Sunday 27 June 2021

The Summer of Soundtracks

It's no secret especially recently that I have a boatload of soundtracks in my collection. There was a time when I was a little shy about it, you know the memes out there about people who only listen to soundtracks and all that, but a while ago I decided to embrace it and just enjoy what I enjoy (see also: my unabashed love for Trance and Eurobeat). But even besides that, I feel like there is a ton of value to be had in them, I've discovered tons of artists from OSTs that I otherwise wouldn't have - and much like how I feel about compilations they're a great way to inject a load of variety into your listening real quickly.

Jimmy Ernst - Night Subway (1948)

So that's the crux of today's post really, just a bunch of cuts from soundtracks for things I'm into recently. We start with Heaven Will Be Mine, a VN that grabbed my attention with it's blurb on the store: 'HEAVEN WILL BE MINE is a visual novel about making terrible life decisions in the midst of a hot-blooded battle between giant robots. Select one of three terribly behaved girls to fight and/or make out with each other in their struggle for the fate of space.' Which certainly makes an impression if nothing else. I've posted my favourite from the OST before here (Terrafomer), but there's plenty of other tracks that stand out here - lots of claustrophobic beats and menacing basslines that will rattle your teeth, to lift a quote from the bandcamp page 'Like being vaporized in a solid beam of light. Like weeping out a blastwave.'.

It's a far cry from the synthwave noodling I had in mind when looking over the art design for both the VN and the OST cover (though there is one that comes close to your more conventional synthwave tune in the final track Joyride), effortlessly flitting between aggression and contemplative ambient with lots of little touches along the way that make it not an all-out aural assault - the way the pounding beat of Electrotoxin (No Mercy) relents, then stutters and stumbles in the breakdown at around 2:10 before slipping back into the groove for one. I've chosen Oxygen Ocean this time as I feel like it strikes a nice balance between the two, not too intense but still carrying that darker sound that defines the rest of the OST - and reminds me a whole bunch of the delicate techy minimal that Monolake employed on Cinemascope.

Going a bit 180 next with a bit from 2064: Read Only Memories. The OST isn't quite what you'd expect from the little plot brief given about it: 'A cyberpunk thriller that explores the social challenges of tomorrow through classic adventure gaming. A journalist-turned-detective teams up with Turing, the world’s first sapient machine, to unmask a conspiracy that will shake the foundations of Neo-San Francisco'. On paper I would maybe expect something like the OST for Snatcher, which as some folks have pointed out in recent years is pretty close to Synthwave in part - no doubt helped by the MSX sound chip. And while the OST for 2064 does take a fair bit of inspiration from soundtracks like that, it's a whole lot lighter than you'd maybe expect, think the more laid back tracks of Mitch Murder and you're most of the way there. It's a little at odds with the actual content of the game at times as it gets pretty serious, but I can't deny that it works brilliantly with the visuals. 2Mello is a real flexible composer and you can very easily enjoy tracks like this completely separate from the content, which is something I always really enjoy in the soundtrack world.

Rounding things out with something even more mellow: else Heart.Break(), with it's beautifully succinct summary: 'A game about friendship, love and technology in a place where bits have replaced atoms.'. It's a pretty techy piece actually, what that description doesn't tell you is that it's a programming puzzle game which makes it extra unique too. It has an incredible look courtesy of art by Niklas Åkerblad, who also does plenty o the soundtrack under his El Huervo alias as well. A frantic mix of Chiptune, downtempo and general chill vibes, if you liked the few El Huervo tracks on the Hotline Miami OSTs you're in for a real treat here - some of them even show up on this OST too, either as-is or alternate mixes.

Not a lot of these tunes are made for the soundtrack (The one I've chosen for example is from the album World's End which came out around the time of the Game) but I don't think that's too much of a negative, if anything it really lends itself to the game's overall feel and makes the whole thing sound more like a mixtape a friend made for you rather than a traditional 'soundtrack'. That's an idea I'm really into and have even experimented with a little in running some tabletop stuff and some pie in the sky ideas I had/have about a Visual Novel of my own. No pun intended, this one was a real breath of fresh air, as much as I love El Huervo's signature lo-fi hip hop twinned with chiptuney synths (a style that gets more than it's fair share of the spotlight on this OST), Air is a beautiful contrast. The lo-fi is still there, but the build up with that sparse piano is lovely, before building to an almost vaprowave style drop at around 1:50 or so but it doesn't stay around for long before the tempo is brought down again.

And that'll be all this time. I could do a whole bunch of these if only more OSTs I really like were on Bandcamp, but I'm happy with these selections today, and I hope that you are too! I'll be back soon enough with another selection of something but in the meantime: as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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