Sometimes an artist does something that I think showcases everything they are about. Their quality, their emotion, their commitment to their work. For Winifred Phillips this is her latest work “Assassin’s Creed III Liberation”. From start to finish its an utter joy to behold.
From the opening “Liberation Main Theme” that borrows from different soundscapes the soundtrack has this knife-edge point that makes everything seem very grande yet very intimate at the same time. Juxtaposing gentle vocals and piano plinks with soaring strings for example. “Stealth” too has the claustrophobia and the bubbling power running side by side. “Virtual Pursuit” on the other hand is a blood pulsing fast paced electronic percussion and sawing strings escape-fest. “Abstergo Ops” reminds me of Ladysmith Black Mambazo with all the vocal samples interwoven with Harry Gregson Williams style dramatic tension.
Another way the soundtrack merges things side by side is in cultures. Ethnic instruments are wheeled out for “Secrets of the Bayou” and “Mayan Labyrinth” with wonderful tuned percussion leading the way and “Poverty” has some beautiful interaction between the strings and olden instruments. There’s such a depth in even the quieter places – it really feels like every nuance is alive.
The dramatic pacing of “Aveline’s Escape”, “Chasing Freedom” and “The Hunt” (which to me gives a sly nod of appreciation to Clint Mansell) is something blockbuster movies are made of whilst “Society Suite in 4 Movements” harks to a baroque period with Harpsichord and the daintiest string arrangements giving you something you’d hear at a ball. Military music fans are catered for with big brass and drum rolls of “Bayou Fortress” too.
However there are quieter places in the soundtrack for melodic reflection. “Safe Harbor” is a warm and quietly rousing piece with an emotive chord structure and some wonderful woodwind instruments to get you feeling whimsy. It’s one of my favourite parts of this epic soundtrack. “Mayan Ruins” is particularly rousing – like an underplayed snake charm – really drawing you in. When played back to back with “River of the Mayans” they are like brother and sister in their presence. “Animus” too is a great abstract piece of sound effects and uneasiness that I’m really glad is included in the soundtrack as it holds its own space.
The soundtrack closes with two epic orchestral pieces “Agate’s Power” and “In the Service of Humanity” which demonstrate Winifred’s ability to command everyone into battle on the audio field with pizzazz and charm and then “Virtual Reality Room” leaves you slipping away into deep sleep with its ambient structure.
Put simply – this is a Tour De Force. I have always thoroughly enjoyed Phillips’ work before but this is something else. Definitely a contender for one of the best soundtracks of the year – there’s a certain roundness and emotion that has filtered through to me. Maybe its the merging of lots of different cultures and thoughts all together. I tend to go for the more straight forward melodic game soundtracks instead of dramatic soundscapes that become like a movie soundtrack. This does a brilliant job of merging the best of both worlds. Stunning.