Making a soundtrack for a game where you spend your entire experience staring at a slowly rotating wheel that charts your life for generations is a tricky ask. Going for instantly great yet long-term grating riffs would be ill-advised but Mousechief struck gold with his soundtrack for 7 Grand Steps: What Ancients Begat.
Split into three main sections with transitional tracks between them the Ziggurat Tears section opens with the suitably archaic “Fieldhand” that takes various Middle Eastern instruments and creates a soundscape that does have melodies but refuses to let them linger for very long. Swapping the plucked strings of one instrument for the more percussive chant of a collection of drums for another, it’s refuses to stay still or get stale. “Potter” follows a similar pattern but has more of a chord structure with some beautiful tuned percussive bells giving a quiet shine to the track whilst the woodwind gives a fuzzy top end that I really enjoyed. “Scribe” adds some harp to the equation and takes a more sedate approach reminding me of the Age of Mythology soundtrack that I love so much. Closing the Ziggurat Tears section is the most large scaled track so far “Granary Chief” which uses a large synth orchestra to pad out an epic track that has an American Plains feel to it with the woodwind and wooden drum toms that pound away under the melody. It, along with the entire soundtrack has a wiser-beyond-its-years mood to it and I sink into it fully.
“Intermezzo” is a short minute track of acoustic guitar and woodwind over a near silent harp that signifies the transition to the Kings’ Airs section. “Slave” opens things with a beautiful dulcimer sample and a harsher tone to the production in general. There’s more invasive sounds and changes up in percussion. It also sounds like the very top of a guitar is being used for some of main melody too. “Bronzesmith” is like having a modern pop song beat transcribed back into ancient times. It has a real hop in its step yet is clearly Middle Eastern too – like an ancient pop jig! “Physician” however is a calming and soft track full of woodwind instruments that softly breeze over the speakers. It marks a stark contrast to the oppression that “General” gives with ringing hammered dulcimer and synth strings drenching the rest of the instruments. There’s a raspy synth bass that growls out and really gives the piece a bite.
“Interlude” is a forty-second explosion of joy with rumbling drums and tuned percussion as we then move to the Empire Shards section. “Shepherd” kicks this off with the most straightforward track so far. Clear chords, an absolutely amazing mix of instruments providing a clear melody. Each time it passes round the riff the instrumentation changes. It’s mesmerising and somewhat otherworldly and enlightening at the same time. “Carpenter” has a celestial feel to it and uses a trick heard several times in the soundtrack where a lot of instruments sound quiet yet close to the ear. It’s the clarity that makes you really pick up every pluck. “Tax Collector” has a warm and fuzzy synth and woodwind overlay and a chord structure that makes it feel initially happy but slowly turns into something more epic and less cosy. Good job with that job title… The closing track in “Senator” which follows the same guise as the final track on each segment. Rolling synths, growling basslines and dramatic string stabs it’s the biggest of the tracks on the soundtrack without sounding out-of-place at all.
Mousechief has created an absolutely blinding soundtrack. I’d have loved it to have been longer because I wanted to stay in these times, experience more of the instruments and hear something that I don’t often hear – an amazing clarity in production with ancient instruments. I’m in raptures about it – go and grab it now,