Jessica Curry’s “Dear Esther” soundtrack is one that soaked heavily in emotion and stands on its own two feet apart from the game. The reason I think it is one of the most interesting soundtracks on 2012 is because having played the game – played being a figurative thing as its more of a graphic novel than a game – I am reminded of certain scenes and emotions for each track. When I played it to somewhere whom hadn’t played the game – they where telling me of a story similar to the one in the game. It’s like everything is mapped from the music.
Opening with the eerie piano of “Dear Esther” it transitions to the dark piano and strings of “I Have Begun My Ascent” which also uses warped low male vocals in places to creep you out. The mood is suitably sombre. “Remember (Donnelly)” is a strong string interlude before the rolling piano chords of “Twenty One” sounds like the opening of a Silent Hill soundtrack. “Golden Ratio” feels like a macabre Renaissance piece before the twisted vocal ambience of “Remember (Paul)” pulls you back to a more ghostly presence which is alluded to further in “On the Motorway” which plays out mostly around a sing note that hangs and hangs on different instruments before “Standing Stones” returns to the main theme as a broken gentle arrangement.
The soundtrack then takes a shift for “Always (Hebridean mix)” which is a nine minute collection or culmination of a lot of what we’ve heard with added sound effects and vocal ad libs. It feels tense and strained despite its relatively underplayed nature. Dis-quietening.
The second half of the soundtrack rejoins with “The Bones of Jakobson” which is similar to track 2 but this time things are slowly ramping up in the eerie ambience department, as does “Remember (Jakobson)” too. “This Forsaken Aerial” reminds me for some reason of the film Koyannisqatsi with its Philip Glass feel. “Moon in my Palm” utilises strings perfectly like the old Koudelka sountrack before the short “Remember (Esther)” brings the second act to a regal close.
“Always (Sanford Mix)” is a seven minute slightly different version of the previous Always but is more melodic and brings fully fleshed vocals to the fore. It’s painstakingly empty with the strings very high-pitched and airy whilst the female vocalist Clara Sanabras has a lower tone which sounds otherworldly against its backdrop. It’s great to hear her sing real words here after lots of murmurings earlier. “The Very Air” returns to previous themes almost like a conclusive outro before “Ascension” fittingly closes things with a slow rise in instruments, vocals and whispers over two rotating piano chords.
Its beauty is in the underplaying of the charms it has. “Dear Esther” is a strange beast that has the power to effect many and the music is beautiful with and without a gaming platform to sit beside.