Stripped back 16 bit chip music crossed with laid back folksy rhymes.
There is a beauty in the innocence and simplicity of Ikenfell’s soundtrack. In 75 tracks and 110 minutes it manages to run the whole gambit of emotions whilst rarely having more than three or four layers of melody and sound playing in a track. aivi & surasshu show total restraint in their compositions and together they’ve created a focused piece of light and airy game music to make you smile and relax.
The first thing I gravitated too with the Ikenfell soundtrack is the sound palette. It mixes up 16-bit era chipsets and synths with PS2/Saturn era acoustic instruments. This means you’ll often have some hazy and cute bleeps and bloops phasing in and out around a much richer guitar, piano, string or harp sound. Nowhere is this best showcased than with one of only two plus four-minute tracks in the collection ‘Memories in the Mist’. Here lush and tranquil piano embellishes rich harps that double down with old school harp synths and gently bubbly retro synths. This kind of merger of retro and new is also brought to vocal themes such as the excellent ‘Yearn to Bloom – Aeldra’s Theme’ and the rap from ‘Paint the Future – Ima’s Theme’. The latter track has a genius Bob Ross reference for good measure too.
Although there are tracks of mystery, intrigue and beautiful sadness, Ikenfell is largely upbeat and rarely threatening. For video game music fans I think it sits somewhere like a cross between Secret of Mana’s lush rounded synth vibe and Legend of Legaia’s more folksy tendencies. The folk influence is seeped in heavy in the first quarter of the soundtrack before giving way to something more ethereal and mystical for the middle section and then a mix of the two for the final section. It is worth pointing out that even the battle tracks take on this relaxed playful guise too. ‘Rhythm of the Wild’ and ‘Toil & Trouble’ set the battle moods early on with bouncy synths and light arrangements. ‘My Happy Place – Petronella’s Theme (Battle Version)’ is more like a dance lullaby than a battle theme. It isn’t until the final three battle tracks arrive that things feel a bit more dramatic. ‘Rose Thorns’ is a superb piece and along with the equally gothic ‘Demons Tears – Final Battle Pt 1’, aivi & surasshu finally give anything remotely like a standard battle theme. It isn’t a complaint – more of an upfront declaration. Ikenfell is created to make you feel wholesome and hopeful.
It is wholesome and hopeful that I feel whenever I listen to the soundtrack. Songs loop once and disappear quickly for the large majority of the soundtrack so you always feel like you are moving through an audio travelogue. aivi & surasshu, by streamlining their melodies and sound palette to just a few key instruments, created an uplifting and focused journey that will leave you a little misted eyed and your heart full of joy.
Recommended track: Memories in the Mist
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