Category Archives: video game

Soundtrack News: Far Cry 6 Original Game Soundtrack Available Now

Ubisoft Music has digitally released the FAR CRY 6 Original Game Soundtrack from the highly anticipated sixth main entry in Ubiosft’s critically acclaimed Far Cry franchise. The music was composed by Pedro Bromfman. Pedro has composed scores for MGM’s RoboCop; three seasons of the hugely popular Netflix series Narcos; the EPIX feature documentary Deep Web, narrated by Keanu Reeves; the 6-part series The Story Of Us With Morgan Freeman for Nat Geo; Jessica Sanders’ Sundance hit End Of The Line; the 8-part series Chain Of Command and Alex Winter’s Panama Papers, narrated by Elijah Wood.

The soundtrack features 21 tracks from the highly anticipated sixth main entry in Ubisoft’s critically acclaimed Far Cry® franchise – set to release October 7 worldwide on Xbox Series X, PlayStation®5, Xbox One, PlayStation®4, Stadia, Amazon Luna and for Windows PC exclusively on both the Epic Games Store and the Ubisoft Store.

Composer Pedro Bromfman said of the soundtrack release:

“The album is based on a very modern score, drenched in lush soundscapes, driving percussion, processed organic instruments and a ton of synthesizers…We tried to capture the soul of Yara, and its characters, by rooting the score on traditional Latin American and Caribbean music, while being completely free to experiment with contemporary sounds, elements and techniques, in hopes of creating something very fresh and unique…The score for Far Cry 6 overflows with distinctive, haunting melodies and character themes, accompanying and further immersing the players in their amazing journey through Yara. A journey full of beauty, violence, adrenaline and passion.”

Pedro Bromfman discussed the importance of “Libertad” – the soundtrack’s focus track and main theme, within Far Cry® 6:

“‘Libertad’ came about as a theme for Yara’s revolution. We needed a powerful melody, full of beauty and longing like the island itself, that could also encompass the grit, darkness and pain of a bloody war. With heavy percussion and electric guitar “Libertad” quickly builds and explodes into an anthem for Yaran’s, young and old, fighting for their freedom.”

Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Far Cry® 6 immerses players into the adrenaline-filled world of a modern-day guerrilla revolution set in Yara, a tropical paradise frozen in time in the heart of the Caribbean. Playing as local Yaran Dani Rojas, players will explore an entire island nation and join the revolution to liberate its people from the oppressive rule of dictator Antón Castillo and his teenage son Diego – brought to life by Hollywood stars Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian, Breaking Bad) and Anthony Gonzalez (Coco).

Track List

  1. El Presidente**
  2. La Espada
  3. Libertad*
  4. The Tourist
  5. Rebuild Paradise
  6. Batter Up
  7. Valle de Oro
  8. Viva Clara
  9. We Are Lions
  10. Fist of the Revolution
  11. ’67
  12. Supremo
  13. Madrugada
  14. The Guerrilla
  15. Tiger and Cub
  16. The Poison
  17. Los Montero
  18. El Este
  19. The Lion and the Lamb
  20. Balaceras
  21. Antón

Will you be checking out the soundtrack album for Far Cry 6?

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Around and Around We Go: Talking with Composer Tom Salta about Deathloop (2021)

Just recently I had the chance to speak with composer Tom Salta about his work on the hit video game Deathloop. Salta is an award-winning composer, who writes music for film and television as well as video games. Aside from Deathloop, his past work in video games includes work on Wolfenstein: Youngblood, the HALO games, and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, just to name a few.

For Deathloop, Tom Salta had to create music for a world where the player controls Colt, an assassin tasked with killing a series of targets before a time loop activates at midnight, undoing any progress made. With that premise in mind, I was very excited to speak with Tom Salta about his work on this game.

I hope you enjoy our conversation about Deathloop!

How did you get started as a composer?

Now that’s a loaded question! [laughs] Back in 1990 when I started on my professional path, I never imagined getting into composing, no less composing for video games. I started in the music industry fully intent on becoming a famous record producer. My first shot in the big leagues was going on tour with Bobby Brown as keyboard tech and sound designer. After touring for several years, I spent the ‘90s working in the studio on almost every kind of music you could imagine for a variety of both up and coming and major artists. In 2001, there was a paradigm shift in the music industry and in the world. High speed internet became widely available and music piracy took over. No one was buying music anymore. Mainstream artists were becoming “manufactured” by huge labels and I felt creatively restricted in the area of pop music. All my dreams and aspirations of becoming a record producer started to crumble.

At the same time, the original Xbox was released and a game called ‘Halo’ redefined the first-person shooter. I was also an avid gamer since the ‘70s but it wasn’t until 2001 that the music in games started to resonate with me. And then one day, a day that I still vividly remember, I had an epiphany… “That’s it! Video game music! It combines the two things I love the most… music and games! But where do I start?”

It was a difficult transition… Imagine throwing away fifteen years of experience in music and starting over in a new industry entirely with absolutely no connections. Scary to say the least. After a lot of dead ends, I got the crazy idea that my best chance of being noticed was to go through music licensing channels, rather than trying to start as a composer. So, I created a new moniker for my artist persona, “Atlas Plug” (Atlas is Salta backwards) and created an entire album on my own of big beat electronica that would be perfectly suited for licensing in games, television and film. I connected with a publisher who represented the album and before I even finished, Microsoft heard it and wanted to license four songs in a new game called Rallisport Challenge 2. And that is where it really all started. That year, my debut album “2 Days or Die” took the industry by storm with every track being licensed in games, television, and film.

At the same time, I signed with an agent and began getting opportunities to pitch myself as a composer in games. My first original score was a PC adventure game called “Still Life”. Shortly after that, I established myself as a composer when I was hired to score major titles like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Need For Speed Underground 2.


How did you get involved with Deathloop and what did you think about the game’s time loop premise?

I was approached to work on Deathloop by the audio director that I had just finished working with on Wolfenstein Cyberpilot. When I heard about the unusual time loop mechanism and even more unusual music style, I was definitely intrigued.

How involved were the game’s directors/producers in collaborating with you on the game’s soundtrack? Were you given a lot of direction or was a lot of it left up to you?

I would say it was a healthy combination of both. Initially I was provided with a very comprehensive 50-page brief that described everything about the game. The audio director was also very specific about the late ‘60s aesthetic he was going for, although he knew that we were entering into uncharted territory with some of it.

I’m a big fan of collaborations so we had many emails back and forth and I did lots of my own research and explorations into potential musical approaches. After several weeks of experimentation, the signature sound of the score began to emerge.

I’ve read that this game was inspired by the Swinging Sixties, how did that inspiration play into the game’s soundtrack? 

Deathloop has a wide array of inspirations, including, but not limited to, the swinging sixties. The music of one of the fictional targets (visionaries), Charlie Montague, was definitely inspired by the swinging sixties and in particular, the superhero cartoon music back then, especially the original Batman series that I used to watch after school as a kid. That was a lot of fun to create.


On a related note, with the 60’s pop art style engulfing the game world, how much of the music was Inspired by films like James Bond.

The late ‘60s James Bond music was definitely an ingredient in the overall recipe of the score’s style, especially in key areas where I had to bring out the ‘secret military base’ vibe. The sixties were a very colorful time and so I had a lot of fun channeling that period in a myriad of ways.


What type of instruments are used in this score, I wasn’t expecting a game called Deathloop to sound like this but I absolutely love it. Also, do I hear a theremin in the mix?

[laughs] Yes, you certainly do. You can’t do ‘60s sci-fi and not use a theremin, right? [laughs] The approach I took for creating the palette for this score was imagining that I found a room of musical instruments that was locked up for fifty years. Then I would take those instruments and create a ‘60s inspired score through my own modern lens.

You’ll hear instruments such as Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3, Farfisa, Clavinet, Mellotron, Electric Harpsichord, Marimba, Vibes, Orchestra, Guitars, Bass, Drums and lots of other sixties inspired ear candy.

I noticed that there is a separate track/theme for each of Colt’s targets and those themes sounded strikingly similar to me. What went into creating the music for each of the targets and did their themes have anything to do with how each needs to be approached in a specific order to ultimately beat the game?

Yes, they should sound similar as they are all based on the same composition. In fact, they were supposed to be even more similar than they are now.

The original idea was to have a single suite of music (Exploration, Fight and Escape) for all targets and then just introduce one or two different elements to identify the character. Eventually, some of the target tracks evolved to be more unique arrangements of the same music. But they are all structurally identical.

The differences between the arrangements for each visionary are based around the instruments used that would come to represent each of them. So, for example, Aleksis (the arrogant eccentric) featured some sophisticated jazz styles, Harriet (the ruthless, yet pious mystic) features a dark church bell and eerie gothic choirs, and your theremin makes an appearance for Wenjie Evans, the program founder who studied supernatural phenomena.


How much of a role does the time loop play in the music? For instance, Andrew Prahlow, the composer of Outer Wilds, another video game that features a time loop, mentioned that he crafted music that begins to speed up and become more insistent the closer the player got to the loop restarting. Does anything of that nature occur in the music of Deathloop?

Yes, but instead of the tempo changing, the music gets livelier. This parallels the activity of the island’s inhabitants since all the partying really gets going in the evening. Each of the four main areas of the island of Blackreef have their own musical suite. The Exploration phase of each of those suites has four different arrangements based on the four different time periods… midnight, morning, afternoon and evening.


How much time did you have to work on Deathloop? Were you brought in early in the process of game development or late?

I worked on the score for six months, starting in January 2020 and ending in June. I suppose it was somewhere in between but there was still over a year of development after I finished.


Do you have a favorite piece in the score?

I’d probably have to pick the main theme, “Welcome to Blackreef.” It was an interesting journey getting there though. The original theme idea proposed to me was to create a very mysterious theme, more in the spirit of the 1961 classic “Mysterious Island” and the “Lost” series. The audio director really liked the theme but about a month into the score, I began to feel that it didn’t quite match the vivacious personality of the game. So I secretly began working on a new theme. I wanted something catchier and, well… loopable. [laughs] Eventually I found the four chords and three notes I was looking for and spent a week putting the final touches on it. Once I had a finished version, I sent it over. Naturally, the audio director wasn’t quick to just replace what we had, but several weeks later he agreed that it worked better for the game and so, that became the new theme that most of the score is based on.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and I’d like to say thank you to Tom Salta for taking the time to speak with me about Deathloop.

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Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack News: Hildur Guðnadóttir & Sam Slater Announced as Composers for EA’s Battlefield 2042

Electronic Arts and DICE has announced that two-time Grammy Award, Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy, and BAFTA Award-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (JokerChernobyl) alongside composer Sam Slater (score producer JokerChernobyl) will score the latest entry in the Battlefield™ franchise, Battlefield 2042. Worldwide digital release of the album will be via Lakeshore Records. Lakeshore Records and Invada Records will co-release the vinyl edition.

Hildur Gudnadóttir is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, Emmy-, two-time Grammy-, and BAFTA-winning Icelandic artist, who has been manifesting herself at the forefront of experimental pop and contemporary music. In her solo works, she draws out a broad spectrum of sounds from her instrumentation, ranging from intimate simplicity to huge soundscapes.

Two-time Grammy Award-winning composer, sound designer and music producer Sam Slater is known for his roles as both score producer and musical sound designer for Joker and Chernobyl. In addition to his two Grammy Award wins for Joker and Chernobyl, he has also won an Icelandic Music Award as “Producer of the Year” and a MASA Award for “Best Sound Design in Television Program”.

President of Music for Electronic Arts, Steve Schnur, is no stranger to securing A-list Hollywood composers to create epic original scores for landmark EA games, having previously worked with the likes of Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight), Mark Mothersbaugh (Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist), Paul Oakenfold (The Bourne Identity), Bill Conti (Rocky), Chris Lennertz (Hop), Sean Callery (24), Christopher Young (Spider-Man 3), Tyler Bates (300, Watchmen), Steve Jablonsky (Transformers), John Debney (Iron Man 2) and Oscar winner Mike Giacchino (Star Trek, Up, Lost).

“From the very beginning, Hildur and Sam set out to craft a score like no other, in which music and sound design meld to create an extraordinary soundscape experience,” says Schnur. “I can say unequivocally that the original score for Battlefield 2042 is the most significant cinematic achievement in the franchise and an absolute game changer for the medium.”

Battlefield 2042 is a groundbreaking first-person shooter set to revolutionize the modern multiplayer sandbox. Powered by cutting-edge technology that pushes the capabilities of next generation hardware, the game drops players into a near-future, all-out-war experience. Featuring matches filled with up to 128 players on the latest consoles* and PCs, this unprecedented scale adds a new dimension to multiplayer battles. Battlefield 2042 also ups the action with the inclusion of real-time events that reshape the battlefield and tactical combat. All-new weapons, vehicles, and gadgets give players the freedom to be strategic and create jaw-dropping, only-in-Battlefield moments.

The biggest, most ambitious title in the franchise, Battlefield 2042 offers a depth of multiplayer across three distinct experiences:

  • All-Out Warfare – The next generation of fan-favorite modes Conquest and Breakthrough. Experience the intensity of All-Out Warfare in large-scale battles like never before on maps filled with dynamic weather, dangerous environmental hazards, and spectacular world events that see tornadoes rip across the map and sandstorms block out the sun.
  • Battlefield Portal – An all-new community-driven experience that gives players the power to discover, create and share unexpected battles from Battlefield 2042, and reimagined classics from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3
  • Battlefield Hazard Zone – An all-new, high-stakes, squad-based game-type for the Battlefield franchise that is a modern take on the multiplayer experience that is distinctly DICE but very different from All-Out Warfare’s Conquest or Breakthrough modes.

Battlefield 2042 is set to release on October 22, 2021.

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Loneliness, Hope, and Old Gods: Talking with Sergio Ronchetti About the Music of Eldest Souls (2021)

Last month I got the opportunity to speak with composer Sergio Ronchetti about his work on the recently released video game Eldest Souls. London-based, Spanish & Italian composer and sound designer Sergio Ronchetti boldly crafts scores dwelling within realms of dusky depth, mercurial mood, and aggressive execution, drawing upon his background in heavy metal and combining his lyrical tastes with more traditional, orchestral compositional techniques for a truly singular signature style.

Sergio’s debut score for the 2021 pixel-art, boss-rush, “Souls-like” video game Eldest Souls captures the lonely and desolate melancholy of the game world while also providing vigorous, combative battle music matching the intensity of the challenging gameplay and capturing the personality and essence of each iconic boss fight. He cites artists like Trivium, Machine Head, and Gojira as direct references to his Eldest Souls score – even if his instrumentations are far removed from theirs.

I hope you enjoy our conversation about Ronchetti’s work on Eldest Souls!

How did you get started as a composer?
I left high-school with the sole intention of joining a metal band and becoming a touring musician: which is what i did! I had been playing in bands ever since i was 15, using every spare minute at school to jam with friends in the music rooms. I guess during this time i picked up a lot of DAW production skills without knowing, which gave me a little head start when i decided to pursue media composing after about 4 years of touring. University was then the best place for me to learn exactly what kind of composer/musician i wanted to be, but I learned how to compose behind a computer around my degree. I took short course, extra classes and spoke to as many of my lecturers as possible to understand how to get my career started during my studies, not after. Combine this with saying yes to every opportunity that came my way and everything slowly built up from there.

How did you get involved with Eldest Souls?
I met Jon and Francesco at a free workshop in London hosted by Intel. They were showcasing a super early version of the game whilst taking a gap year during their studies to work on it. Initially they just wanted music for a trailer they were putting out. I sent them a track i thought could work and to my amazement they loved it! Pretty clear from then on that I was a good fit for their project, which is important when collaborating. I don’t think I was anything special, especially back then, but both parties were in the perfect position in terms of experience and skills to work together.

Were you given any specific directions by the game’s creators when working on the score?
The stylistic decisions were made very early on. This meant that I had a direction right from the get go, in terms of style, placement in the game and the scope of the game. The best part as that Jon and Francesco created a very stress-free and flexible workflow, which gave us all the chance to fail and learn moving forward. Sometimes they had reference tracks that they really wanted to hear in the game, other times i just asked for 3-4 words describing the mood, setting and emotions they wanted out of each boss fight.

A related question: was there a lot of collaboration with the game’s director/creators on the score?
As an indie studio, there’s often a lot of crossover within our individual roles. With the music and more so the sound design, we worked very closely and generated as much feedback and testing as possible to get the ideal work out of me. Similarly, I’d always offer to help out at conventions and managing other areas like the socials and marketing, so it really was a collaborative effort from all of us. And I loved every minute of it! We’ve all grown an attachment to this project and we’re all the more happy to see it finally out there for people to enjoy.

I’ve heard Eldest Souls described as “Souls-like” which I assume means it’s similar to the Dark Souls series of games. Is the music for Eldest Souls similar in any way to Dark Souls or did you take a different approach with the music?
In terms of gameplay you could say so. We limited the music to the combat sequences in the game, which left ambience and sound design to govern the travelling in-between. Really this was to reinforce the narrative of the game which is my sole purpose as a game audio professional. I am constantly asking myself “what story am I telling here?” before designing any sounds or music. So when the music hits, you know it’s go time, and everything springs into action. When it’s over, you’re left with the residual consequences of your action adding to the already desolate environment. But in terms of musical sound I wouldn’t say my music is anywhere close to DS or Bloodborne. We felt that overtly gothic and dark style was perhaps a little overkill for the art-style and pace of Eldest Souls. But I love those soundtracks and getting familiar with them during development was super inspiring.

In general, how did you approach scoring Eldest Souls? Were you able to play through early builds of the game or at least observe early gameplay footage for inspiration?
It was very hands on. Again, all praise to the boys from Rome for allowing me to be as involved as I was. I could quite literally jump into the game, test and mix my audio live using Fmod. Then once i was fairly happy, i’d send it over to them for review. It saved a lot of time and effort in the long-run. Being able to experience the gameplay first-hand is invaluable. It’s like scoring a film and getting to play the main character as you do.

Given how important the game’s boss fights are, how did you specifically go about creating music for those moments? Since each “Old God” encounter is different, I can only assume that would affect the music for each fight. Was there any extra pressure to get the music “just right”?
Really, since this was the first project for all of us, there was no pressure at all! Haha. We just wanted to do the best we could, and learn from the process. That being said, some boss fights came together very quickly, others needed more revisions. It was all about focusing on anticipating player emotions and the mini-narratives within each fight: was it fast-paced? How intimidating was it? What are the boss’ unique characteristics? Questions like that. I also often asked Jon and Franco for just 3-4 words describing the scene, and went from there. Each boss had its own personality that needed matching and enhancing with my music.

Did you make specific musical themes for the main character and the Old Gods? Or other aspects of the game?
Eldest Souls had 2 messages which needed conveying: the brutal combat and the idea of loneliness and hope. The former was expressed by each fight being narrated by a unique boss theme to match the style and personality of each God and beast you encounter. The latter is portrayed via the Main Theme. This title track was my way of tying the whole soundtrack together. Since each boss fight was so different, re-working one theme throughout didn’t end up making much sense from a gameplay experience perspective. It also gave me a chance to write in a totally different genre with my post-minimalist interests coming through with the repeating live vocals and haunting solo cello recordings. It was a lot of fun writing that track and for that reason it holds a special interest to me.

What was your process for deciding which instruments to use in the game’s score?
Keeping with the Souls-like vibe, i took a touch of inspiration from the From Software games. I remember a few years back going to a video games exhibit at the V&A museum here in London. There was a fabulous insight into the Bloodborne music and even previews of the score they used during recordings! The likes of Cris Velasco and Yuka Kitamura decided to cut out any typically high frequency or bright instruments, like trumpets or high violin lines. All with the intention of keeping it as dark sounding as possible. Aside from that, I still take great inspiration from my days of writing and playing heavy metal music which is hugely reliant on rhythmic ideas. For that reason the percussion in my tracks is always front and foremost. Metal drummers like Mario Duplantier and Joey Jordison are huge inspirations to me, even when i’m writing for melodic instruments.

How much time did you have to score Eldest Souls?
The project was initially meant to be a 13 month stint. But through the process we picked up a lot of momentum from wishlists and conventions that we ended up scaling the scope of the game up as we went to about 3 years of development. For that reason I had the opportunity to go back and re-write some of the initial tracks that weren’t quite up to scratch by the end of it. You can improve a lot as a composer in the space of just a year, so after 3 I was at a totally different level. However, I’m not a fan of going back and constantly re-writing and improving work. I’d rather just finish a project and move on to the next. Being prolific is the only way to progress as an artist.

Are there any musical details in the game you hope players notice?
If there are, they are VERY well hidden haha. But for example, towards the end of the project I started to lean into my metal roots even more. I even exercised taking my favourite metal songs and re-arranging the rhythms and melodies. It might be most obvious in The Imperator, if there are any fans of Machine Head out there. Also the intro to that track was super fun to write too. I often like taking classical and romantic pieces of music and re-orchestrating and arranging them. It’s a great way to use existing material and create something totally new by the end of it. The final boss intro had to be epic, so I used epic material. In my opinion it doesn’t get much bigger and grander than Carl Orff’s, O Fortuna.

Do you have a favorite musical theme in the game?
I’m quite partial to ‘Ov Fire and Water’ which I think came out great. Equally ‘Main Theme’ and ‘Lunar Descending’ are still some of my favourites.

I want to say a big thank you to Sergio Ronchetti for taking the time to speak with me about his work on Eldest Souls.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack News: Composer Inon Zur to score ‘Starfield’ video game

EMMY award-winner and 3-time BAFTA nominated composer Inon Zur (‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’) is scoring ‘STARFIELD’, the first new universe in 25 years from Bethesda Game Studios, the award-winning creators of ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ and ‘Fallout 4’. Set hundreds of years in our future, STARFIELD is an epic about hope, our shared humanity, and answering our greatest mystery. In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom.

Inon Zur is internationally renowned for his emotionally dynamic original music scores for blockbuster video game franchises including ‘Fallout’, ‘Dragon Age’, ‘Prince of Persia’, and ‘The Elder Scrolls’, as well as the EMMY-winning documentary ‘Saber Rock’ and animated television shows including ‘Power Rangers’, ‘Digimon’ and ‘Escaflowne’.


Zur’s iconic themes and avant garde scores for the ‘Fallout’ video game series have been described as “Sophisticated and atmospheric” (Classic FM) and received two BAFTA nominations. His best-selling soundtrack for ‘Fallout 4’ is celebrated as one of the best original video game scores by BAFTA, The Game Awards, and Classic FM. Recently his original score for ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ received top honors at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards.

Zur previously scored the ‘Fallout’ series and ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ for the studio. The official teaser trailer for STARFIELD was released at a joint Microsoft Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase held during E3 2021, followed by a video introduction entitled ‘Into the Starfield: The Journey Begins’ – both featuring original music compositions by Zur. ‘STARFIELD’ will release November 11, 2022.

Are you excited to see what Inon Zur creates for Starfield?

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Into the World of Video Game Music: Talking with Composer Gareth Coker about Immortals: Fenyx Rising, ARK: Survival Evolved, Ori and more!

Just last week I had the pleasure of speaking with composer Gareth Coker about his work on a number of video games, including Immortals: Fenyx Rising, ARK: Survival Evolved, and the two Ori games: Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Gareth Coker is a British composer and producer working out of Los Angeles. He is known for his melodically driven scores, unique soundscapes, and attention to detail and execution in the application of how music emotionally relates to the gamer as they are playing. His scores have garnered numerous awards, including the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Award for Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition, two SXSW Awards for Excellence in Musical Score, multiple Game Audio Network Guild awards. 

I had a lot of fun speaking with Gareth Coker about his work on these video games and I hope you enjoy our conversation about them 🙂

How did you get started as a composer for video games?

My first game projects, they all kind of started when I was a student at the University of Southern California. They have a film scoring and game scoring program that is quite extensive. And they do a really good job of hooking you up with a lot of students, you score a lot of short films, and you end up doing student game projects as well. And that gave me a small experience into what goes into producing a video game.

My first commercially released project was a game that didn’t do very well. And that I did for free called inMomentum, which is this hardcore virtual reality racing game. Even though the game didn’t do very well, it did give me an idea of exactly what was involved in producing and shipping a game soundtrack. My big break came from doing a lot of these student game projects. Eventually, the director of the Ori games found me on a website which I was using, and he listened to one of my tracks and thought it might work for the game. And we ended up connecting. And obviously, here we are two or three games later, and several other things later. But at the beginning, I did a lot of small projects and got as much experience as possible.

In general, what’s your process for scoring a video game? I’m sure it varies from one title to the next, but in general what does the process look like?

Generally speaking, and I’m different from other composers, I like to play the game as much as possible while I’m working on it. I think that’s no different conceptually to a film composer watching the film in an early edit with late writers and how things change, games are built in a similar way. The reason I do that, I need to know exactly what the player is going to be experiencing in terms of the moment to moment gameplay. How can I possibly do my best work if I don’t know exactly what the player is experiencing at that moment, especially if the game is trying to tell a story.

You think about a film. You know how the film is going to play out every single time you watch. But you could play the same game three or four times and it might play out slightly differently. So what I’m looking for, it’s the equivalent of spotting in films. Where does the music start? Where’s the music moment? Games have that too. But the difference with games is that music might not change in exactly the same place each time. So what I’m looking for are the best possible points to change the music in a way that isn’t distracting to the player. Because to me, that would break the immersion of the story. But I can only do that if I’m playing the game and understanding exactly what the the player is going through. And it’s from there that pretty much all of my decisions are made.

There are three aspects to the music production process. For me, playing the game allows me to get a feel for the tempo and rhythm of the game. I believe that every single game has a basic tempo and rhythm. If we compare two shooter games, there’s HALO, one that I’ve worked on, and it’s pretty well-known, and compare it with Doom, which I didn’t work on, but it is also a shooter. However [Doom] has a completely different tempo and speed to [HALO]. If you compare the two games and put them side-by-side, you’d recognize that these are the same genre of game but the tempo and rhythm is completely different. If you listen to the music [for each game], the tempo and rhythm and purpose of the music is also very different. So that’s one of the first things, that’s what playing the game gives me, an idea of the flow, and the rhythm and tempo of the music.

The next part, and this usually happens later on in development, but visuals become more established for me to help define instrumentation, and the palette, what instruments we’re going to use, what’s the orchestration going to be? Do I want to use anything a bit more esoteric or want to use any world instruments. All of that, for me is informed by the visuals.

And then of course, the last part is character themes, or story themes and melodic themes. And ideally, you’ve established these fairly early on, so you have your character themes, the instrumentation, and then the tempo, and combining those three pillars, then you can hopefully produce an effective score.

So you would be scoring to gameplay footage as much as possible, then?

Yes. So my process is that I will play the most recent version of the game that I can get hold of that is stable and record myself playing it. I then import that into my music software and I write to that, and I simply keep going until I feel like I have something that works well for me. I also make sure that I have the sound effects and no music, obviously. But I have the sound effects so I can get an idea of how busy the sound effects might be, so I I’m not competing in certain areas of frequency ranges. If we take Ori as an example, there are several different environments in the game. In the first game [The Blind Forest], there’s the volcano environment, it’s obviously going to sound completely different to the frozen environment. They’ve got different sound effects, ambiences and different monsters, etc. But for each one, I just bring them into my music software, and I write to it, and I just keep going until I feel the music works for me. And then we put it into the game almost immediately, and I can get instant feedback from the team to see how well it’s working with gameplay.

At what point in the game’s development are you usually brought in to create the score?

It depends on the developer. I think the game’s composer needs to be brought on earlier, especially if you’re telling a story. In a game, the gameplay mechanics and the rooms are generally built alongside the story because the story needs to work with gameplay. And so that means the story can be rewritten very, very late [in development]. In the case of the second game, we made some story changes four months before the game released, not huge changes, but still a change which had some impact on on the narrative. And I’m very glad we made the changes. But that means you need to have a little bit of flexibility. The reason why I like being involved early is because sometimes decisions that I make with the music can actually impact the story in small ways, because it affects the storytelling. For example we might do a cutscene really early, and they might like the music for the cutscene.

Or we could use that again, somewhere else in a different emotional scene or something like that. It’s much more freeform than film or television or any any linear format, there’s a lot of back and forth, which can be quite difficult to manage, because things are constantly changing. But the earlier you’re bought on, it means that when you get to the end of a project, you basically know the entire game inside out. When you consider how long games are these days, even a short, triple A game is 10 to 12 hours. Sometimes they last much, much, much longer, like 40-60 hours.

So I think that when it comes time to push the accelerate button at the end, in your last year of development when you just need to write a lot of music, if you know the game inside out, you’ve kind of made all of those decisions in the two or three years prior. In the case of both Ori games, I was working on them for four years each, I wouldn’t say I was working on them full time because they’re broken up to give me the space to come in and out of the project as it was being made. I stayed familiar with it. But then as I needed to accelerate, I knew the game really well by the end, so I could just crank out the keys.

For Immortals Fenyx Rising, excluding the DLC, what was your approach for scoring the world of that game? Was any of it based on what real music from ancient Greece sounded like or were you going for a fantasy version of ancient Greek music?

It’s definitely a fantasy version of that world. When you look at [Immortals: Fenyx Rising], it’s so colorful, it’s very exaggerated, going all-out authentic would not work. It would just be too serious for the game. And if you’ve seen any footage of the game and seeing how the characters interact with each other, it’s not taking itself very seriously. It’s meant to be fun. So that gives me room to have fun with the music. That said, I wanted to make sure there was some aspect of ancient Greece in it.

To that end I had several lyres commissioned and built from scratch for me. I also bought another ancient instrument, an aulos. And that sound [of an aulos], it’s one of the most horrendous sounding instruments I’ve ever heard. It’s a really ugly sound. But it was perfect for this section of the game set in the Underworld. So I wanted to make the aulos work in a setting that sounds like the perfect mystery instrument, but I can’t have it sound like it would be played in ancient Greece. So my philosophy with the aulos was, let’s take these sounds, produce them in a modern way to kind of take the edge off and make them a bit more accessible to an audience that is probably going to be playing this game.

But then the other aspect of Immortals is that this is a fantastical game about gods doing very, very epic stuff. And it’s not taking itself seriously. We’ve got the orchestra element and the style I would say is as if we were doing Greek mythology crossed with Fantasia and maybe a bit of DreamWorks.

For the Myths of the Eastern Realm DLC, what is the big difference between using Qin dynasty instruments as opposed to Tang dynasty instruments for the music, as I see the difference is noted.

I mean, first of all, the two dynasties themselves are completely different time periods. I think there’s about 800 to 900 years between them. The Qin Dynasty was from 221 to 206 B.C.E and the Tang Dynasty was from 618 to 907 CE. So many of those instruments [from the Tang Dynasty] didn’t exist in the Qin Dynasty.

So the most ubiquitous instrument that is heard, in literally every Hollywood Chinese themed soundtrack ever is the Chinese violin, the erhu. It’s completely saying, hey, we’re in China, let’s play the erhu. Though you can’t actually use that because it wasn’t around [in the Qin Dynasty]. So I thought this was great because this means I have to do a bit of research. But honestly, they did the research for me, they gave me this amazing list of instruments to use. This is an instrument that is used commonly in modern media but it didn’t exist in the Qin Dynasty. And this is an instrument that is less common, this instrument is never used in modern media. And this is an instrument that didn’t exist during this time period. So the studio was immensely helpful with doing music research, but honestly, it was a learning experience for me, because I thought, wow, there are actually so many different kinds of Chinese music and traditional Chinese music within. One of the things that Hollywood often does is they really like to pare it down to the bare essentials.

For example, how many times have you seen a movie where we get a panning shot of Paris, and then an accordion plays. I understand why they do that, because of the stereotypes and tropes, it’s a thing. But, it’s kind of what I was talking about, we’re going to make it authentic. Let’s at least get the right instruments, let’s get the authenticity and we can still produce it in a modern way. So it was nice, just going that little bit of an extra mile. And not having the erhu makes it sound like its own thing rather than just every other Chinese soundtrack. And funnily enough, if you compare it to my Minecraft Chinese mythology soundtrack, which is set during the Tang Dynasty, you can literally hear the difference. It’s night and day between the two.

Given the role dinosaurs play in ARK: Survival Evolved, I’m surprised more of the music doesn’t appear to focus on the dinosaurs. Was any of it written specifically with the dinosaurs or other prehistoric beasts specifically in mind?

For the original ARK game, the soundtrack came out in 2017, and most of that is combat music for when you’re facing other humans in your territory. The dinosaurs are a feature of ARK, but you can contain them and make them part of your army. So, [with the game and music] it’s less about discovery and more like you can build your own dinosaur army. It’s less Jurassic Park and more “Oh wow, I can ride my own dinosaur.” That’s the difference.

And you have to remember this is an unscripted multiplayer game, which means any footage you’ve seen is unscripted, which means it can result in some truly wild things happening. There’s no limit to the game, but the music is really designed to not convey the wonder of dinosaurs, but actually the awesomeness of controlling a dinosaur army.

Generally speaking, the music that was done for the early part of the game was really just geared towards combat. Now moving forward, that’s going to change particularly with the animated series (author’s note: ARK: The Animated Series is scheduled to premiere in 2022). And so now it’s like, oh, my goodness, I get to write all of the music that I wanted to write for the base game. Because the game doesn’t need that. Because you start the game and you could literally run into a dinosaur within 20 seconds and be wiped out. So the early focus was on combat and survival.

With the TV show, we’ll definitely be exploring some of the other aspects of dinosaur music and the sense of wonder that one would have when encountering them for the first time. And yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing people’s reactions to the TV show, because it has an unbelievable story, which a lot of people don’t fully uncover, because it’s quite a grind to experience the full story in the game. I think my hope is that the animated series kind of condenses the story into into a format that people can digest that would be a really good companion for the game. But also, I think it will stand alone, because the story is so unique. It’s also a new format for me, because I’ve never done a TV series before. And it’s also one of the rare occasions where the game composer actually gets to do the TV show [adaptation].

I know you can’t discuss anything overly specific but, I do have a general question about ARK II, which I understand you’re working on now. In general, what’s it been like returning to the world of ARK? Will the new game’s score be based on the first game or do you start from scratch?

That’s a really good question. So we’ve already shown one trailer of [ARK II]. And if you watch the trailer, it’s an incredibly primitive setting. And there’s ARK Genesis 2 also, which is the final expansion for the first game. If you compare the two settings, ARK Genesis 2, which is the expansion that came out three weeks ago, it’s very futuristic, very sci-fi, for reasons that the game story will reveal. And then ARK II is completely primitive. So going back to the music, we were building on the ARK world and the ARK universe, but you can take just from the visuals, that it will probably be a very primitive sounding score. And a lot more violent. Whereas ARK I is about, “Where are we, it’s a sense of adventure. Oh, I contain dinosaurs,” ARK II is more, “Oh my goodness, this world is harsh.” And everything is very primitive. So it’s more taking what we have and expanding on it. And also trying to give it a different feel where ARK Genesis 2 gave the ARK world a sci-fi feel, ARK II is going to dive into some very, very primitive sounds. I’m doing research on the oldest sounding instruments that I can possibly find.

So unlike Immortals Fenyx Rising and ARK: Survival Evolved, the Ori games are platformer games. Does that format change how you score the game at all, compared to other open-world games you’ve worked on?

It’s funny because Ori is a platformer, but it is also quite open, you can explore quite extensively. The difference is you’re on a 2D plane as opposed to 3D. So you’re always limited to what you can see on screen. And that actually makes it a bit easier. Remember what I was talking about earlier, I play the game to see how the game flows and where music can change. It’s actually easier because there’s less going on, on the screen. So I can be much more granular and specific about what’s going to happen where, but fundamentally the approach is still the same. I play the game, I figure out the tempo, I figure out the rhythms, then the artwork comes in and I choose all the different instruments. And you have a set of themes, Shriek the villain has a theme, all the peripheral characters have themes, and it still gets put together in the same way. It’s all about just finding what clicks with the game in terms of the music, and the only way I know is just to play the games. But I think Ori was the first game where I figured out that was the approach that worked best to me.

What was the inspiration behind the overall sound of the Ori games? It’s a very different sound from the Immortals game and ARK: Survival Evolved and I was curious how you came up with it.

The game has an incredibly unique art style, it’s hand-painted. There’s also the general tone of the game. Other than the truly epic moments, of which there are a handful in each game, it’s generally quite a soft game in comparison to Immortals and Ark, which are, as you know, blood and thunder all the way. And, one thing I found with the Ori games, is that music gives you a little bit of space. It’s difficult to describe, but there’s got to be space in the music to invite you into the world, there’s always going to be something that keeps you hooked in. So most of the Ori music that you hear when you’re exploring the environment, it’s these soft, beautiful, ethereal beds of sound. There are two constants in the exploration music. One is like a gentle motor or rhythm constantly in the exploration music. The reason for that is it’s a platform, and you’re always constantly moving, those little footsteps are constantly pitter pattering away. And the music is designed to push the player forward, because in a platform game, you really always should be moving, you’re generally not standing still in a platform figuring out where to go next.

Now the other thing that you hear on top of that, there’ll always be some kind of melodic element in the exploration music. But the melodic element comes in and out in an exploration track there. And that kind of draws the ear in. If it’s there for too long, then the ear gets tired of it and it starts to distract from the overall gameplay experience because we’re throwing so much at the audience, it’s sensory overload. With new visuals, you pick up a new ability, and you want to try that out. Or now you’ve got to fight a monster. And I don’t want to be throwing too many things where the melody comes in just often enough to keep the music interesting to listen to, and then it goes away. And then you hear a new texture or a new instrument.

A related question, and similar to the one I asked about ARK II, is the music for Will of the Wisps directly connected to the music you created for The Blind Forest or is this wholly new?

So the main connection was with the main theme. I mean, we learned pretty quickly that the main theme is key. I don’t want to compare myself to the great man [John Williams] but if I didn’t use the main themes of the first game it would be like Star Wars not using the main theme for the title role. You like that the main theme was so popular from the first game, so when you started the second game, it’s a new arrangement of the main theme, but it’s still very definitively the main theme from the first game. But other than that, it still feels like Ori but what the comparison I like to make is in the first game, he’s naive, he’s just being born, he’s discovering this world and everything is brand new to him. So it’s kind of a naive, much more gentle sounding score, and it’s got a unique charm, whereas in the second game, Ori’s grown up, and he’s discovering his true purpose in the world.

And what I like to say about the second game is it’s not just Ori that’s grown up, Moon Studios, the developer has grown up into a more mature studio, the themes of the game are more mature. And honestly, myself, I would say I grew up as a composer too. If you compare the two soundtracks, it’s very clear that one is more mature than the other. That doesn’t mean to say that the first soundtrack is not as good, it’s just very different. And it’s funny because I probably wouldn’t write Ori and the Blind Forest the same way, in 2021 that I did in 2014. I’m a different person now. We’re always developing. I think that was it, because that was my big break. And it was the studio’s big break. And we were just kind of figuring it all out as we went along, much like Ori is in the game. So I think there’s that unique synergy and that same unique synergy happened on the second game, because we knew what we were doing. And that led us to be able to better tell the more mature themes in the game, because we were more confident in our storytelling.

I had a great time during the sequel, because it did allow me to explore some of the things that I’d established in the first game as well, and add a little bit more to them. And also developing the main Ori theme just a couple more times, especially in the final scene. The final key scene of the game is really a recap of all the core themes in the game in the space of about three and a half minutes. It actually kind of wrote itself, because I thought, well, everything’s here, I just need to put it in the right order. So it matches and the end of the game was quite fun. Literally, the last vocal notes are pretty much the exact same ones as “Ori Lost in the Storm” from the very first game.

I had an amazing time speaking with Gareth Coker about his work on these amazing video games and I hope you enjoyed reading this interview. I want to say thank you to Gareth Coker for taking the time to speak with me and I hope everyone has a great day!

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Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack Review: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (2021)

Milan Records has released Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (Original Soundtrack) with music by Mark Mothersbaugh and Wataru Hokoyama.  Available everywhere now, the album features music written by Mothersbaugh and Hokoyama for the latest installment in the PlayStation® video game franchise that released on June 11, 2021.

Of the soundtrack, composer Mark Mothersbaugh says:

“It takes an army to create a soundtrack for a video game these days, and there are a number of writers, arrangers, orchestrators, players, synth programmers that were involved.  For games in general, you have to be aware that a particular level and the music embedded in it will sometimes be around for a long time, so you want to make sure your themes and melodies are iconic.  The video game genre is very satisfying because of the craftsmanship involved and the attention to detail. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is probably the best game score I ever got to work on.”

Of the soundtrack, composer Wataru Hokoyama says:

“It was just so much fun working on such an epic game like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.  The depth of the worlds that the game took place in allowed us to write in so many varieties of style.  Working with the teams at Insomniac Games and Sony Interactive Entertainment was so amazing.  They’re full of great people who love and enjoy what they do, and they welcomed us as members of their big family throughout the project.  The feeling of ‘Let’s have so much fun co-creating the world of Ratchet & Clanksound together’ felt so special, and it became one of the most memorable video game projects for me.  It’s important for me to mention that it was Mark Mothersbaugh who brought me on board with this game project.  Mark has been like a fatherly figure to me in my music career.  We’ve done multiple blockbuster films together, and it’s such an honor to have my name credited next to the DEVO legend.  I look forward to our future collaborations.”

Built from the ground up for the PS5™ console by acclaimed studio Insomniac Games, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a brand new, interdimensional adventure.  Go dimension-hopping with Ratchet and Clank and help them stop a robotic emperor intent on conquering cross-dimensional worlds, with their own universe next in the firing line. Jump between action-packed worlds and beyond at mind-blowing speeds – complete with dazzling visuals and an insane arsenal as the intergalactic adventurers blast onto the PS5™ console.  Join a cast of familiar faces and some new allies – including Rivet, a mysterious new playable female Lombax resistance fighter who is just as determined to take out the robotic scourge.

After listening to this soundtrack, I think I owe the Ratchet & Clank video game series a big apology. Now, to be fair, I don’t know what the earlier games sound like, but I do know I wasn’t expecting anything as epic and glorious as what I hear in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Mothersbaugh and Hokoyama have created some genuinely special music that instantly grabs your attention and pulls you into the story. And it must be quite the story, because this music really does feel epic, perhaps not to the same degree as, say, God of War or Horizon Zero Dawn, but it’s definitely attempting to push the boundaries of where the story can go.

One thing I really like in the music for Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is the musical continuity. There’s a distinctive main theme that recurs throughout the soundtrack, and it’s used to pull everything together. In that way, the music for this game is almost like a symphony in some places, as this main theme opens the soundtrack, appears throughout, and comes back in at the end in climactic fashion. For those reasons, I have to call out “Rift Apart” and “Culmination at Corson V” as two of my favorite tracks on the entire soundtrack. Both feature what is unquestionably the score’s main theme and they’re a lot of fun to sit and listen to (I can only imagine what hearing this music in the game will be like, as the game is a PS5 exclusive and I only have a PS4).

But it’s not all grand and epic sounds in this score either, which is another detail I like. For instance, in “Cascading Enropic Fissure” there’s a musical moment in there that sounds very retro, in fact it almost sounds like the composers are quoting music from an older Ratchet & Clank game (which may very well be the case). I like how this particular track seems to highlight the past. It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the soundtrack.

And then, I absolutely have to highlight “Join Me At the Top”, the final track on this soundtrack. I’m not sure who all is participating in this piece but it sounds like a musical number that is being sung by the game’s villain and it is absolutely DELIGHTFUL. This is seriously like something out of a Broadway musical. I don’t know why this song is part of the soundtrack or how it fits into the game but after listening to it, I could honestly listen to a whole album of songs just like this one. What a fantastic way to bring the soundtrack album to a close.

I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack to Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It’s beautiful and one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve heard so far this year.

RATCHET & CLANK: RIFT APART (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)
TRACKLISTING –

  1. Rift Apart
  2. Festival of Heroes
  3. A Most Nefarious City
  4. Sweet Home Sargasso
  5. Ride Through the Omniverse
  6. Ode to Nefarious
  7. Meet me at Zurkie’s
  8. Urfdah Mesa Major
  9. Blizar Prime’d and Ready
  10. Molonoth Means Paradise
  11. Cascading Entropic Fissure
  12. A Tale of Two Cordelions
  13. Glitch in the System
  14. A Late Arrival
  15. The Battle for Sargasso
  16. Urfdah Mesa Minor
  17. Y’Ardolis
  18. Zordoom and Gloom
  19. Culmination at Corson V
  20. Join Me at the Top

Let me know what you think of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

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Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack Review: Horizon Forbidden West- The Isle of Spires EP (2021)

Sony Music Masterworks has released Horizon Forbidden West (The Isle Of Spires EP), an EP of music featured in the forthcoming PlayStation® game. 

 Available everywhere now, the EP includes music from the highly-anticipated sequel to 2017’s PS4™ release Horizon Zero Dawn.  With songs by Joris De Man, The Flight, Oleksa Lozowchuk and Niels van der Leest, the four-track EP reunites the original team of composers and musicians who developed the tribal soundscape of the game’s post-apocalyptic setting,

All of the music on this EP is, quite frankly, gorgeous. It feels like I’m back in the world of Horizon, only it’s bigger and more exotic than ever. If you’re going to make a sequel to one of the best video games ever made (in this case Horizon Zero Dawn) then it only makes sense to include the same team of composers and musicians who worked on that first game, which is exactly what Horizon Forbidden West has done and I’m glad for it.

Just from listening to this EP, it sounds like we’re getting a decent sample of music from different points in the upcoming game. There’s not a whole not here, it’s only four tracks after all, but it’s just enough to whet our appetites for what’s to come. I especially like the music in ‘Riddles in Ruins’ and ‘Eyes Open’, the latter in particular uses strings in a way that leaves me wanting to see and hear more. If you loved the music of Horizon Zero Dawn, then this EP is a must-listen.

ABOUT HORIZON FORBIDDEN WEST

Join Aloy as she braves the Forbidden West – a majestic but dangerous frontier that conceals mysterious new threats.  Explore distant lands, fight bigger and more awe-inspiring machines, and encounter astonishing new tribes as you return to the far-future, post-apocalyptic world of Horizon. 

The land is dying. Vicious storms and an unstoppable blight ravage the scattered remnants of humanity, while fearsome new machines prowl their borders. Life on Earth is hurtling towards another extinction, and no one knows why.  It’s up to Aloy to uncover the secrets behind these threats and restore order and balance to the world. Along the way, she must reunite with old friends, forge alliances with warring new factions and unravel the legacy of the ancient past – all the while trying to stay one step ahead of a seemingly undefeatable new enemy.

Track List

1. A Steady Breath – Joris de Man feat. Julie Elven
2. Riddles in Ruins – The Flight
3. Eyes Open – Oleksa Lozowchuk
4. To Find What Was Lost – Niels van der Leest

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Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack News: ‘The Longest Road on Earth’ Original Soundtrack Available Now

Sony Music Masterworks has released The Longest Road On Earth (Original Soundtrack), an album of music from the new PC and mobile indie video game.  Available everywhere now, the album includes twenty-four original songs written and performed by game developer & artist Beícoli, marking her first-ever album release. Beícoli (Beatriz Ruiz-Castillo) is a Spanish songwriter and videogame developer based in Madrid, Spain. She has been creating music on her own and for games for the past five years, but The Longest Road on Earth is her first full album-length endeavor.

Created by Brainwash Gang and published by Raw Fury,The Longest Road on Earth is available now on PC and mobile. The Longest Road on Earth is a deeply personal and meditative narrative title. Play in the songs of four short stories featuring stripped down mechanics and no words. Each story is up for interpretation – what story lives inside you for each character and the world around them?

Of the soundtrack, Beícoli says:

­”The Longest Road on Earth has turned out to be something I needed and didn’t even know it. It was a blank slate on which I have learned to use music as a journal. To me it is a long road — One of self-discovery and self-acceptance that I hope to keep walking for the rest of my life.”

THE LONGEST ROAD ON EARTH (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING – 

  1. The Hill
  2. It is
  3. On my own
  4. I can’t see you
  5. BB
  6. Trip to the Lake
  7. The Picture
  8. The Bird
  9. The Dreamer
  10. The Human
  11. The Goodbye
  12. The train that goes Nowhere
  13. The Remedy
  14. Highway
  15. Healing
  16. 100 Miles
  17. Waves
  18. Let it go
  19. Feels like home
  20. Play Pretend
  21. The Shape of Clouds
  22. Break and Make
  23. Forever and More
  24. The Longest Road on Earth

You can check out the soundtrack for The Longest Road on Earth now!

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Soundtrack Review: Returnal (2021)

On May 7th, Milan Records released the original soundtrack to the newest Playstation 5 game Returnal, with the music composed by Bobby Krlic. Best known for his work as the Haxan Cloak, Bobby Krlic brings his experience as an award-winning composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist to Returnal, imbuing the score with a gritty and experimental quality that matches the tone of the third-person shooter game. The album marks Krlic’s first-ever video game title as lead composer and follows his critically acclaimed, award-winning scores for director Ari Aster’s Midsommar, Hulu’s Reprisal, TNT’s Snowpiercer and The Alienist.

Bobby Krlic (aka The Haxan Cloak) is a British artist, composer and record producer based in Los Angeles. Over the past decade, he has created music under The Haxan Cloak, releasing two critically acclaimed full-length albums (The Haxan Cloak and Excavation) and touring extensively as a solo artist, building a devout fanbase. In 2015, Krlic began collaborating with fellow producer and Oscar-winning film composer Atticus Ross on soundtracks including John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 and Michael Mann’s Blackhat. Since then, Krlic has scored a number of major network television shows including TNT’s SnowpiercerThe Alienist: Angel of Darkness and Hulu’s Reprisal as well as a recent collaboration with Swans for Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2. Notably, he wrote the much lauded original soundtrack to Ari Aster’s sophomore feature film Midsommar, for which Krlic received The Ivor Novello for Best Original Score in 2020.

In Returnal, after crash-landing on a shape-shifting alien planet, Selene must search through the barren landscape of an ancient civilization for her escape. Isolated and alone, she finds herself fighting tooth and nail for survival. Again and again, she’s defeated – forced to restart her journey every time she dies. Through relentless roguelike gameplay, you’ll discover that just as the planet changes with every cycle, so do the items at your disposal. Every loop offers new combinations, forcing you to push your boundaries and approach combat with a different strategy each time.

The music for Returnal is, well, it’s really incredible. I was immediately intrigued by the game’s “caught in a time loop” premise and wondered how the game’s music would play into that concept. As far as I can tell, the music does connect to that idea of time repeating itself over and over again, though not in the way I thought it might. Most of the tracks sound warped and distorted, there are sudden, static-like sounds that cut in and out of the music, and my favorite part? There are times when it sounds like voices are cutting in to the music, creating this muddled effect that makes it sound like you really are lost in time.

The instrumental mix is about what you’d expect for a game like Returnal, a combination of electronic instruments and synthesizers mixed in with choral voices. What really caught me by surprise though is how calm the music is for the most part. Given what I’ve heard about this game, I was expecting sci-fi music that was more action-oriented, or at least faster-paced. But it’s nothing like that, and it’s making me seriously reconsider what this game is all about. This sounds like a more cerebral game than I initially thought, and I’m very excited about that. I like games that require you to think and this music makes me think Returnal is one of those games.

If I have one complaint about the soundtrack for Returnal, it’s that it’s surprisingly short, there’s only nine tracks in total. I don’t know if that speaks to the overall length of the game, but I’ve seen some soundtrack albums that are three times as long, and it was startling to see this one be so short.

That minor issue aside, I enjoyed the soundtrack for Returnal, and I think all of you will too.

Returnal Track List

  1. The Crash
  2. The Forest
  3. Helios
  4. Citadel
  5. Murals
  6. Recessed
  7. Motionless
  8. A Mysterious Device
  9. Dream Already Seen

Let me know what you think about Returnal (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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