Sumthing Else have long been publishing some amazing game soundtracks however they are usually the huge symphonic top dollar explosive soundtracks. You could almost call them film soundtracks something in the way they are put together. However Sumthing Else has taken a great step to partner with Wadjet Eye Games to publish some indie game soundtracks. Names included are Resonance, Proteus, The Shivah & various Blackwell games. I’m so pleased as usually these kinds of soundtracks would appear on Bandcamp if at all. One step forward for VGM!
Mortar and Pestle have been on my radar since earlier this year and their latest single “Pristine Dream” confirms I’m excited for their new EP which comes out next Tuesday (7th May). You can listen to the lead single from the six track EP below:
Jordan Reyne returns next month with her latest album “The Annihilation Sequence” and HPM is a huge fan. Jordan popped up a preview track showing some of the songs and well… I’m chomping at the bit. Her unique blend of Industrial Rock and Celtic folk always draws me in.
Take a listen here: http://soundcloud.com/jordan-reyne and then go pre-order the album over on Bandcamp.
Oh Kuma-chan is quickly becoming a celeb! Utada Hikaru’s beloved Kuma (teddybear) is the titular character in Utada Hikaru’s latest project. “Kuma Power Hour” is a completely home made radio programme on InterFM which will showcase songs she specifically wants to play, artists she wants to promote and push forward and a talk segment too. Hikki has always had a fun sense of humour but always looked cutely uncomfortable when talking on stage so we’re really interested to hear how the show (sadly in Japanese) will come out. It will air from 16th April and be on each third Tuesday of the month.
Game music continues to spread its wings and blur into all kinds of mediums. It’s strange but in 2012, in some ways I’ve struggled to find soundtracks that I think “Yes, that is instantly a game soundtrack”. I guess I still hanker for and enjoy those 2 minute loops of pure fresh melodies that catch your imagination and stay in your head. That said, when the soundtracks I loved hit me – they really clouted me and for that I am reminded exactly why I love VGM.
There’s a couple of honourable mentions I’d like to make before the list starts. One is Ben Landis whose chip story album is fantastic but isn’t really a game so can’t make the list. The other’s go to Jessica Curry’s “Dear Esther”, The SQ Chip series and to a lesser extent the Final Fantasy Chip series which I’ve not had the time to digest yet. TheSword & Sworcery arranged album misses out purely because I only bought it on New Years Eve! Finally the “Dustforce” OST sat in 11th spot after a massive tussle for 10th so sorry Dustforce! Onwards then…
10) Jasper Byrne – Lone Survivor OST
The Lone Survivor soundtrack is a strange one because it is very low-fi but has an aura around it that likens it to a MIDI Silent Hill soundtrack. There’s plenty of guitar and bass and the track “Survival” has such a tense keyboard arrangement on top of the rest, you really get where the ambience is coming from. It really hits its stride with the big tracks and tries some interesting low-key stuff too.
09) Chikayo Fukuda – Asura’s Wrath OST
A few of his Hack works, Asura’s Wrath is a soundtrack of epic scale containing all the elements I like in game music. Strong melodies, plenty of drama, a wonderful fusion of Ancient Instruments and orchestrations to boot and a traditional Japanese singer going nuts in despair over the top. Seeing themes come up with different versions – all of which are beautifully accented is always a plus.
08) Various – Beer SQ
Square Enix went arrangement mad in 2012 and this is my second favourite of the ones they released. Beer SQ takes themes from Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Live A Live, Saga Frontier, Unlimited Saga & Seiken Densetsu and turns them into Irish jigs, gypsy travelling music, a good sing-along an eastern boogie. It’s one of the most adventurous arrange albums they’ve done and I absolutely loved it. Having only had the album a week, it’s already risen to number 8 and would have been higher if I’d had more time with it. Now when can they follow Suikoden’s lead and start doing Celtic and Asian collections?!
07) Winifred Phillips - Assassins Creed 3 Liberation
Often I enjoy cinematic soundtracks but then they don’t stay with me beyond that listen because they aren’t as memorable even if the musicians craft is superb. For once, Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation proved me wrong. Strong melodies and a wide range of genres keep things moving as well as recurring signatures and a very percussive push with the album. Phillips finest to date.
06) WiL Whitlark – Snapshot OST
“This soundtrack took 22 months to make” says the note attached and you can certainly see the labour of love involved. About as close to an old skool soundtrack as we’re getting in this top 10, the epic 46 track collection stays firmly in the electronic zone but proves many catchy riffs and melodies, never sitting still and always entertaining. There’s always something interesting going on with the instrument frequency levels too, like some are imprints fading away and others are freshly pressed. Superb.
05) Skyler McGlothlin – Retro/Grade OST
Retro/Grade’s excellence comes in the form of its 10 tracks, all of which sound like a complete synthpop album even without having a game to play shooting with. Each one has its own song structure and catchy riffs. Each song clocks in around the four-minute mark too and feels perfectly complete. Other tracks finish off the album too but this is chip-snyth at its finest!
04) Casey Ormand – Final Fantasy XII Piano Collections
I’m such a sucker for piano and wondered why FFXII had been missed out, much like VII on the piano collections front. I struggled with the original soundtrack as was curious to see these arrangements as I found the melodies were so hidden in the original works, I didn’t have the interest to find them. They certainly are there and are brought to life dripping in emotional in what is more an ivory suite than a collection. The way each track seems to have passes and movements shifting from euphoric climaxes to the gentle plinks of high minor keys in a breath – it’s a joy to listen to and a far superior work than its source (for me at least).
03) Brian D’Oliveira – Papo & Yo OST
This soundtrack oozes Brazil. From the native percussion to the intricate guitar work to the hushed singing child, it’s all shimmering and perfectly balanced. It has a tone where things are playful but underneath you can still tell something is wrong – much like the game and its narration itself. There’s a sadness and a mystery in the mbira and woodwind – an emptiness even though there’s a warm tone to all the instruments. It’s clever and engaging and each time I hear the soundtrack I’m lost in its world.
02) DVA – Botanicula OST
Narrowly missing out on the victory (the top 4 are way clear of the rest) DVA put together an absolute blinder of a soundtrack from Botanicula. Sounding like a happy Sigur Ros on helium is no small accomplishment and once passed the magical main theme you’re into obscure percussive beats, double bass melodies, weird vocal ticks, industrial noises and animal sounds over god knows what. It’s a work of art that will stay in my heart for many years to come.
01) Austin Wintory – Journey
I’m not sure what can be said about the Journey soundtrack that hasn’t already been said before. It simply breaks my heart, rips it to pieces and then mends it with eye watering beauty. Coupled with the game its moving to the core. As a standalone musical work it is still one of the most impressive, important and emotional hours of music I feel like taking time and time again. Timeless.
All of the soundtracks here deserve your attention. I can’t wait to see what 2013 offers us.
Atticus Finch is a new band I came across last night. The band are from Perth, Australia and this wonderful live acoustic version of one of their tracks “My Release” is beautiful. I really enjoy the timbre of the lead vocalist:
Kara McGraw makes some wonderful piano/vocal based music and I absolutely admire her new album “The Hound & The Hare”. Like an old vinyl songs are divided between the two animal sides and each song is aligned to a charity. The proceeds of each song on certain weeks will go towards the charity associated with each song. You can also just buy the whole thing – very worth while as Kara’s an excellent musician – in a very similar vein to Vienna Teng. Check out the album and grab the two free tracks at least from her website.
We are big fans of Ian Narcisi here and he has so much musical ability in so many instruments it’s actually amazing to just sit and watch him go on some of his videos he posts. His latest video is about a Kickstarter project however for a new album – a concept one! One that involves a web comic?!
Where do we sign up? (Ed: Oh… here!)
OCR continue to break new ground as they release their first album covering the original Final Fantasy NES/Famicom titles. Some of the arrangements sound absolutely bonkers as we veer from the usual hard rock to some awesome vocal sample trickery. I love that OCR still manages to surprise as the community expands time and time again. The album is out soon and as always, we can’t wait!
Tori Amos certainly has gone all things orchestral lately and it seems to suit her. Now she’s revisiting old songs for a fully orchestrated re-imagining. The album to be entitled “Gold Dust”, which in itself is a heartfelt string drenched number, is to feature songs reworked such as Silent All These Years, Precious Things and Jackie’s Strength. It also appears to have Flavor and Snow Cherries From France on it too.
To go with it will be a small tour and tickets/dates are available at http://www.toriamos.com as and when, although three dates are already up. The album is due October.
We here at Higher Plain Music love ourselves some indie games and as an avid game music collector, this latest indie game music bundle is an absolute steal!
For just $10 minimum you can purchase 15(!)game soundtracks including Plants Vs Zombies, Terraria, GunGirl 2 and NoituLove!
In something that has completely passed me by, Balders Gate is getting an Enhanced Version. That’s awesome news in its own right. Interestingly, Sam Hulick – composer recently of Mass Effect’s 1 2 and 3 is on board scoring new material for the new gameplay segments. Its uncertain as to whether the music will only appear there and the old music from the original games will appear in their original places but I shall keep a beady eye over the project and watch with intrigue.
Lauren Edman has some beautiful music that straddles fragile electronic led piano pop and introspective thoughts. She has a wonderous voice too. There’s very little available on her online at the moment but hopefully that will change with her new CD “It’s Always the Quiet One”. Here is the song “Be the Light” taken from her CD from her YouTube channel.
With their début album God of Love about to hit the stores in the next few days, we grabbed Stereo Alchemy’s Christopher Tin for ten minutes to go over what is undoubtedly a smashing album in waiting and all the juicy bits behind it:
Stereo Alchemy is a collaborative effort. Tell us how you came into being and what attracted you to working together?
Kametron and I have known each other since college. Over the years, he’s worked on a number of projects with me, playing Japanese taiko, programming beats, etc. We’d always talked about doing some sort of collaborative project together
Two years ago, I was contacted by a fashion photographer named Yu Tsai, who was doing a video for Lindsay Lohan, and needed something that was dark and trip-hoppy… sort of like Massive Attack. I gave Kametron a call and said that this would be a great way to kick off a project, and so within a matter of a few days, we wrote our first song (“A Rapture”), had it placed in the Lindsay Lohan video, picked a band name, set up a website, and basically launched the project. Since then, we’ve been pecking away at the full release while juggling our own commitments (I have my scoring work and solo orchestral work, he has his world-fusion bands that he plays in and produces). Finally this winter we were able to finish off the album and launch it.
Working together as a duo, you’ve created your début album “God of Love” – tell us about the fun concept behind it, as we here at HPM do like a concept!
We’ve basically taken Renaissance and Romantic Era poems about love and death, and turned them into dark and melancholy electronica! It all started with the aforementioned Lindsay Lohan job… we were in a rush to get a song together, and didn’t have any ideas for lyrics. Then I remembered a poem that I read in college (I was an English Major) called “A Rapture” by Thomas Carew, a Renaissance poet. It was highly erotic, and worked brilliantly in the context of the video. We then decided that the rest of our songs would follow a similar pattern, and started scouring old anthologies for poems that fit well into the context of our album.
The Lindsay Lohan video, by the way, can be seen here:
With each of the ten tracks on the album veering off into different types of electronica, how did you work together? Would say Kametron supply a rhythm for you to work from or would the melodies come first?
It went both ways, really. Sometimes I’d come in and Kametron would play me a beat or a synth riff that he was working on, and I’d say, hey, that’s great, let’s add some verses and chorus to that. Then we’d crack open a few books, look around for something that fit, and then make it work. Sometimes I’d be sitting at home reading a book of poetry, and I’d find some fragment of text, and a melody would immediately jump into my mind. Then I’d sketch that out and send it over to him, and he’d add a beat to it. It was a very fluid process. Some songs got reworked over and over and over. Some ideas got initiated in one song, then ported over to another. The idea of a dubstep wobble bass, for example… Kametron was really insistent that we try to incorporate that somewhere, and at first I was hesitant. He put it into “God of Love” first, which was a song that I initiated. I sort of freaked out at that point… I’ll admit, I hated dubstep when I first heard it, and I was thinking to myself “What is that god awful noise that you’re sticking into my beautiful song?” (I’ve since become more of a dubstep fan.) Then we ported the dubstep sound over to another song and tried it out there, but that didn’t work either. Finally we ported it over to Monster of the Sky, and that seemed to be the most natural place for it. And now I’m a fan, and I’m glad he was so insistent that we incorporate it somewhere. (I’m still glad that it’s not in “God of Love”, though.)
Tell us about the guest vocalists that came on-board with the project as they really add a depth to the album too, almost as a separate voice to the work.
We have a trio of great vocalists: Melissa R. Kaplan (of the bands Splashdown and Universal Hall Pass), whom we turn to for our darker, more trip-hoppy songs. Mozez (from Zero 7), who handles all our male vocals. And Lia Rose (singer/songwriter) whom we turn to for our more pure, innocent, and dream-poppy songs. They’re all great singers, and each brings a different energy to their songs. It’s nice to have variety.
With all the success from your previous solo work “Calling All Dawns” being rooted firmly in the classical/world genre – this is a completely different side to Christopher Tin we’re seeing. Do you see the projects as completely separate? Is there anything you prefer being part of Stereo Alchemy over being a solo artist or vice versa? Or is it just about being free to express each layer of music you’d like to explore?
The two sides don’t have much to do with each other, really. I’m just exploring something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile, and having fun doing it. At the same time, I’m still working on my orchestral/world releases. I just need a change of scenery from time to time, that’s all. There are pros and cons of working in a collaboration, and working as a solo artist. It’s just nice to be able to balance both.
As a team of many genres of music – are their any particular influences that set up the “God of Love” sound, because in a very fresh way, it feels like a homage to a certain period of music?
I sort of see it as an homage to maybe a mid-90s way of doing things. We sometimes joke that the name ‘Stereo Alchemy’ is really more of a 90s-sounding name… a little bit pretentious, a little bit on-the-nose.
Now that the album is finished about about to be released, where can we find it and will we be seeing you at any promotional events to support it?
It’s online at iTunes, Amazon, and our own website http://www.stereoalchemy.com. It’s also on my solo website, www.christophertin.com. We’re looking into some potential live possibilities… some of which might really appeal to HPM fans, in fact. Hopefully more will develop. We’ll see.
On a personal note, how does it feel to be a Grammy winner?
Pretty good, man. Pretty good.
Thank you so much to Stereo Alchemy for giving us their time and we wish them best of luck with God of Love.
In a lovely twist, Tori Amos has released in digital format only an instrumental version of “Night of Hunters”. Removing all the voice, all that’s left is piano and orchestration. It was released without fanfare today in America but strangely holds an April 2012 release for us in the UK. I think that may jump forward however. Samples are available on amazon and iTunes.
Kate Bush returns with the fantastic single “Wild Man” from the upcoming album “50 Words for Snow” and despite being a Christmas album of sorts, there’s only some sleigh bells for about three seconds. Instead with have a sultry Kate’s hushed tones purring over a flickering guitar string and a joyously loose chorus full of vocal delights. A real surprise in the best way. 2011 sure has had some fantastic new music! The single is out today.
Featured as a new band a few weeks ago UK based rockers Down the Machine return with a new single “Know Your Place”. A perfect blend of adult rock and infectious chords that roll and roll, it’s an excellent introduction to a band that’s certainly on the rise!
Dirtblonde are a UK rock duo that hammer their sound right up to the speakers and chug away like the 90′s grunge and 80′s overkill guitar we all love. Their new EP “Token Rose” is a great introduction to the band.
Opener “Token Rose” showcases them at their best with a real blasting with power chords blasting through the speakers and ethereal wavering vocals. It reminds me slightly of a more coherent Cocteau Twins that’s more focused on power than melody. “Broken Glass” goes more for the melody with an acoustic/vocal number that sounds like it’s been recorded purposefully away from the microphones as it has an airy mystical quality to it. “In Furs” however is dirty and seedy with its almost organ like guitar picking over the main three chord riff. What Dirtblonde show in all the five songs is their effortless ability to weave just a couple of chords into something that is much more than the sum of its parts. The vocals are so sad and lethargic and juxtaposed against the harsh guitars and stomping drums, it’s nailed a certain whimsical given-up feeling. “Lonesome Girl” is an overdriven guitar fest with a tambourine attached for good measure. Dank and dirty from beginning to end, I felt like I needed a bath afterwards. The EP closes with “Machine” which is the most produced track with a nifty bass riff and eerie guitar feedback bleeding from ear to ear as the vocal echo on repeat. It creates a great atmosphere.
This is a great EP from a new band that I’m now very much excited over. Dirtblonde show diversity and a knack of making a space of their own. HPM would like a full album please!
The Kyd’s certainly got it. Jesper returns again for the new Assassin’s Creed game subtitled Revelations. Jesper’s previous scores for the series have garned a collection of awards and we here personally loved the music when it was in full flow. Judging by the press releases it looks like more of the same so that can’t be a bad thing at all. The game itself comes out November with the soundtrack expected to follow shortly after.
Bring me the Greek instruments!