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Jim Guthrie & JJ Ispen – “You Me and Gravity : The Music of Planet Coaster” Review

The soundtrack of imagination and dreams
Planet Coaster
Planet Coaster

Planet Coaster is a game that finally looks to be bringing the amazing teenage years of my life back by providing a fantastic theme park building simulator full of emotion and joy back to our PC’s. With a new era of fun ahead, its apt that Jim Guthrie and JJ Ispen bring together a nuanced sound to its joyous soundtrack. Taking the very best of euphoric indie pop rock and mixing it with the simplicity of catchy theme park zone tropes – its heaven to the ears.

Opener, and trailer music “The Light In All Us” catches the mood to perfection. Whimsy whistles and Wild West nods are apparent behind the bold brass and euphoric vocal cheers of joy from crowds of singers. The magical thing about the track is it feels mature but tapped into your childhood imagination when everything feels fresh, new, fun, innocent and all possible again. I won’t deny I’ve had this track on repeat and singing along with its rapturous chorus. Where things do borrow from older tycoon games are in its clever percussive use at times. “Theories of an Eager Heart” is a breezy acoustic guitar led mid tempo rock track. You can hear the ticking of the clock, or in my mind the construction of paths and queue lines with its tick/tock nature. Guthrie’s influence on the guitar inflections here is really noticeable, as is mini nods to ethereal dream worlds with its spacious choral “oohs”. “Breakfast of Champignons” is more grass-roots and homely. The guitar and piano are so warm and the drums have a beautiful roll to them. It’s bass is turned down low so the vocals, which never speak words but instead evoke feelings of wonder and excitement, really do feel like they’ve experienced magic. My take on the vocals is that it’s an audio channelling of the park visitors feelings because they always create wonder, awe and joy.

“With Friendship & Peace” carefully blends ukulele and electric piano into the mix for this foot stomper with a honky-tonk ragtime twist. “Small Hands Make Big Things” shuffles guitar and soft electric piano riffs at you in a way that evokes the wonder of the Sims 2 era of music at times which is a great thing. I think there’s an acoustic blend of music that works with project management and planning and Ispen and Guthrie hit the spot with catchy but not annoying riffs that switch up quickly. Piano and strings haven’t really featured on the soundtrack until “Dream. Build. Repeat.” enters the foray with a beautiful waltz. It’s the first track that doesn’t go straight for a theme and instead creates an atmosphere of calm before “Aspect Imaginarium” takes plucked strings to create a mesh of riffs and building inspired fun. I love that half way through it bursts into a jaunty indie pop number with seaside undertones and some beautifully underscored brass arrangements that have a hazy production to them to bring a vintage edge to things.

“Clever Candles Steal the Light” brings tuned percussion to the fore with some sumptuous melodies and marimba. It showcases another aspect of the soundtrack I love – it’s warmth and fullness of sound. Every instrument is warm and fuzzy and even when the flutes join in, they are there in full thickness – not filtered out. It makes the whole soundtrack feel alive. “Sink Cat” also displays the interplay between instrumentation as it builds up from an ethereal synth and vocal based beginning into something resembling a Christmas anthem. “You’ll Know When It Turns Invisible” also marks the first time a tune isn’t entirely happy. It has an introspective vibe and judging by the title, I wonder if its what is played in delete mode! It’s calming but slightly downbeat tones also feel very natural and so it also makes me think of landscaping the world around me too or even the end of the day. However theme parks can go well into the wee hours and “Theme Parks After Dark” has a muted stargazing quality to it as gentle guitar tinkers behind Coldplay like motifs on piano. The atmospherics of electric guitar wail across your ears also gives the track a special kind of excitement too.

“Things To Consider During Freefall” is surprisingly calm and relaxed too as if it captures the moment in slow motion rather than the thrill of the rollercoaster itself before the title track “You, Me & Gravity” returns to the opening theme and provides a beautiful acoustic rendition of it. It’s full of grace and actually made me a little emotional having come full circle in many ways. It’s funny how a previously euphoric piece can evoke emotions of a different kind when arranged differently in games and this is no exception. “Pride of Pimlico” begins the end cycle of the soundtrack with an airy beauty to its arrangements that is slowed down further with the harp and reversed piano edges of “Heisenbergs Entryway to Matrix Mechanics” which feels like the musical equivalent of jumping between clouds like a giant.”And So We See the Truth and Beauty” is a soothing piece that slowly builds over time like it’s reminiscing over the day that’s just passed. It’s a lovely way to close the soundtrack out.

The warmth, complexity of arrangement and organic beauty of the soundtrack makes “You, Me & Gravity” one of the easiest recommendations of game music in recent years. I fell in love on the first listen. I’ve had tracks on repeat. I have wondered many dreams to this soundtrack already in my life. It’s a magical piece of art and put simply, is the best soundtrack for dreams and imagination since LittleBigPlanet’s music. Buy it!

Recommended Track : “The Light In All Us”

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