Moss is a wonderful looking VR game which, as I’ve not got VR myself, I haven’t played personally but still watched the trailers thinking not only how good and interesting the game looked, but how the music reminded me of a cross between a Tolkien-esque folk soundtrack mixed with Kumi Tanioka’s Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles soundtrack -but more orchestral in flavour. That’s exactly what Jason Graves has brought to the Moss Soundtrack which came out last month. It’s a lush and evergreen collection of songs that carefully balances all these elements in a whimsical fantasy adventure for the ears and the mind.
Opening with “Dear Reader” and “Twofold” what really strikes me is Jason’s attention to detail with wind and string instruments and how they interplay with each other. Often say a single flute may have its solo and the strings are way further back in the mix but with Moss, the two are much more evenly placed and there is a wash of sound between them which makes everything feel ethereal and light. When the zithers and lutes join in, gently plucking away melodies underneath, things sound celestial and utterly magical, particularly in the second half of “Dear Reader”. Folk and children’s tales are what spring to mind with the warm and welcoming “The Clearing”. It’s a simple melody on the surface but the layers of lutes, wind and string instruments give an understated epic journey touch to the piece and it’s archaic feel is like nectar to the soul because it feels natural and not a gimmick. “Thickets and Bloom” is much more cinematic with sweeping shakuhachi style pipes calling out something more obscure as the string arrangement, which is brooding and dark, erupts out cauliflower like rumbles of sound which are deep but hazy at the same time. It sounds really unique. When followed by “Legends Old and New”, both win because the latter track is epic in its rhythm and melody. The Nordic influences here are full on as the oboe and dulcimers give way to sweeping orchestral billows and huge drums. It’s not often the soundtrack goes full bells but here it does so with aplomb.
“Last Respite” is a gentle folk ballad that calms you down and reminds me of Age of Empires for absolutely no reason at all – but I think its because along with the gorgeous “Cinder Skies” they both have this RTS deep strategy menu vibe where you are either deep in thought, or that tension is slowly rising. Whilst “A Different Story” is cinematic and sweeping, the playful side of Moss appears with “Sarffog’s Domain” which has more in common with a zany Pixar scene where everything is going wrong rather than a cute little mouse on an adventure. What both tracks, and indeed the whole soundtrack does show though is that Jason Graves constantly makes big sounds from small instruments. Most of the instrumentation is made with pizzicato strings, spoons, little tablas and tiny instruments. They are all brought forward in the mix and create a symphonic movement for the tiny people and in doing so embue a cute and quirky offbeat quality you don’t usually get from orchestrations. In closing the soundtrack “I’m Not Alone” is a warming blanket of strings that prepares you for the spellbinding vocal track “Home To Me” sung by Malukah. It’s hammered dulcimer backed orchestration that erupts into a tom drum smashing folk symphony. Vocal themes have had a bit of a rough ride of late but this reminds me so much of when vocal themes were a true game soundtrack highlight of the late 90’s in terms of huge production and emotional impact. This is one of the best game themes in a good while.
Jason Graves, in making Moss, has outdone himself. It’s a perfectly balanced symphonic folk soundtrack and I thoroughly recommend it to all folk and ancient instrument lovers as well as soundtrack collectors and lovers of orchestrations that do something different. This one is a keeper.
Recommended Track: Home To Me
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