Tag Archives: Paul Leonard-Morgan

Soundtrack Review: Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

Along with the long awaited release of Cyberpunk 2077, there was also the release of the game’s lengthy (and I do mean lengthy) soundtrack. Stretched out over 37 tracks on TWO CDs, the soundtrack for Cyberpunk 2077 was a collaboration between Marcin Przybyłowicz, P.T. Adamczyk, and Paul Leonard-Morgan.

The Cyberpunk 2077 video game is an open-world, action-adventure story set in Night City, a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification. You play as V, a mercenary outlaw going after a one-of-a-kind implant that is the key to immortality. You can customize your character’s cyberware, skillset and playstyle, and explore a vast city where the choices you make shape the story and the world around you.

If music in Cyberpunk 2077 would have to be described with just one word, it would be attitude. No matter the style, sound palette, or specific genre Przybyłowicz, Adamczyk, and Leonard-Morgan worked with, attitude is the cornerstone of every cue they composed for the game. Night City shimmers with colors and so does the music – not limited to one specific genre. Instead, the composing trio drew from all sorts of styles to craft a unique mix that drives the narrative and provides additional layers of context to the story. Expect a wide range of music styles from jazz, through downtempo, hip-hop, metal, industrial, to various incarnations of techno.

You know, after listening to a number of orchestral soundtracks for video games in recent months (The Ghost of Tsushima and Godfall most definitely come to mind), it was actually refreshing to take in a soundtrack that is not based entirely on strings and traditional orchestral instruments. Oh, you can hear them in the mix of Cyberpunk 2077 if you listen closely, but the base of this soundtrack is 100% synthetic. Or, better put, synthesized and electronic. This immediately puts you in the world of the future that is Cyberpunk 2077, where anyone can get their bodies modified and technology has reached levels we can only dream of. An orchestral score like the one used for Godfall would simply not do in this situation, it wouldn’t fit. I expected something of the sort even before I listened to the soundtrack, so this fit my expectations perfectly.

And then, as I was listening through the tracks, it occurred to me that all of this sounded very familiar, but I couldn’t quite figure out why, as I haven’t gotten to play the game yet, nor have I seen any gameplay where I might have heard the music before now. Finally, it hit me. I’ve heard music in this style before, though it’s been a few years. The music for Cyberpunk 2077 reminds me very strongly of the score for Blade Runner 2049. Both have heavily synthesized scores laced throughout with deep bass BWOOMS that just reverberate through you. And, if you consider the larger picture, they’re based in eerily similar locales: the not so distant future, a dystopian setting, body modifications abound…I’d be very interested in asking the composers if they took direct inspiration from Blade Runner 2049, or perhaps even the original Blade Runner.

I also really like how the music subtly shifts for different locales (or what I assume are different locations). Which is to say, all of the tracks exist in the same musical family, but they’re altered in such a way to give the impression of being on the streets, up high, even underwater or in an abandoned building, if that makes sense. The composers are absolutely making the most out of this sound world (as they should be).

There is an element of repetition throughout the music, but I’ve long since learned that this is to be expected in video game scores. Having not played the game yet myself, I don’t quite know what controls when the music changes from one track to the next, but I know that at a certain level there needs to be some level of repetition in order for the music to seamlessly shift from one track to another without making it noticeable (especially since gameplay can differ wildly between one player and the next).

One final thought: I frequently amuse myself by glancing through the track listings of soundtracks (be it film, television, or video games) and try to see what details I can glean regarding the story strictly by looking at the listings. Sometimes, depending on how they’re worded, you can actually learn quite a lot. But, and this is a good thing, while I can work out a basic story outline from the track listing, I can’t detect any major spoilers, or at least no obvious spoilers. That’s tricky to do, as track listings need to be descriptive but not in a way that gives plot details away if it can be helped.

All in all, the music for Cyberpunk 2077 sounds like the perfect score for this type of game. It fits the story perfectly, but is not so overwhelming that it distracts you from gameplay (indeed, I’m certain there are many times the music will largely blend in to the background). I’m well aware that the game has numerous issues on PS4 and Xbox One (speaking as a PS4 player, I’m scared to see how the game plays if/when I get it for Christmas), but at least I can safely say the score isn’t one of them.

TRACK LISTING

Disc 1:

  1. V
  2. Extraction Action
  3. The Rebel Path
  4. The Streets Are Long-Ass Gutters
  5. Outsider No More
  6. Cloudy Day
  7. Wushu Dolls
  8. Scavenger Hunt
  9. Musorshchiki
  10. Close Probing
  11. There’s Gonna Be A Parade!
  12. Trouble Finds Trouble
  13. You Shall Never Have To Forgive Me Again
  14. Code Red Initiated
  15. The Heist
  16. Streetfighters
  17. Patri(di)ots
  18. Mining Minds
  19. Rite Of Passage

Disc 2:

  1. The Voice In My Head
  2. Modern Anthill
  3. The Sacred And The Profane
  4. Kang Tao Down
  5. Cyberwildlife Park
  6. Consumer Cathedral
  7. Juiced Up
  8. Bells Of Laguna Bend
  9. Urban Downunder
  10. Atlantis
  11. Cyberninja
  12. The Suits Are Scared
  13. Tower Lockdown
  14. To Hell and Back
  15. Adam Smasher
  16. Hanako & Yorinobu
  17. Been Good To Know Ya
  18. Never Fade Away (SAMURAI Cover) feat. Olga Jankowska

See also:

Video Game Soundtracks

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Soundtrack Review: Tales From the Loop (2020)

Fox Music/Hollywood Records has released the digital soundtrack from the Amazon Original series, Tales from the Loop. From executive producer Matt Reeves and based on the acclaimed art of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the town and people who live above “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things possible that were previously relegated only to science fiction. In this fantastical mysterious town, poignant human tales are told that bare universal emotional experiences, while drawing on the intrigue of genre storytelling.

 

The album features original themes by Philip Glass and score by Paul Leonard-Morgan. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. Glass has expanded his repertoire to include music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra and film. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). Paul Leonard-Morgan’s unique cinematic style of fusing orchestra with electronica has put him in high demand as a film composer, a producer and arranger for bands, and has led him to win a BAFTA award, and receive Emmy & Ivor Novello nominations. In 2016, Leonard-Morgan began working with Academy-Award winning director Errol Morris on a string of projects including the documentary feature The B-Side, the award-winning Netflix series Wormwood, and the newly-completed motion picture on Steve Bannon, American Dharma. Other credits include The Quiet One–the story of Rolling Stones founding member Bill Wyman, the feature Last Breath, the hit series reboot Dynasty for The CW, and Designated Survivor on Netflix.

Leonard-Morgan said (on working on Tales from the Loop):

“Collaborating with Philip Glass on Tales from the Loop was an incredible experience. Philip and I had a discussion with Nathaniel Halpern (showrunner) and Mark Romanek (executive producer) about their vision for the show, the incorporation of unusual instruments, and their shared desire of wanting the soundtrack to be an integral part of the show: ‘Music which could be listened to by itself, melodies which could be hummed, a soundtrack which will stand the test of time apart from the series.’ Philip went and scored a bunch of initial ideas, as did I, and we discussed where they all might work together. Both of us playing off each other’s sounds and melodies to create a truly unique score. Over and again, we kept coming back to the original idea: to make beautiful music, which would work hand in hand with Nathaniel’s brilliant visions and beautiful cinematography. The 8 episodes are so unique—they’re like nothing we’ve ever seen, and hopefully the score stays true to this. Melodies come back throughout the show, each guiding us through the world of the loop. During recording sessions every 3 weeks, the natural sounds of the solo violin and the solo cello gave a beautiful, haunting sound to the loop, becoming an integral part of the sound.”

Glass added:

“I’ve always tried to collaborate with people from many disparate perspectives; everyone from indigenous musicians to electronic musicians have expanded my musical sensibilities. Working with Paul was no exception and the intersection of our two styles has produced a score both unexpected and familiar that accompanies the series beautifully.”

The soundtrack for Tales From the Loop is like nothing I’ve ever heard for television before, and I don’t say that lightly. Television music, in my experience, is either quite minimal or very grandiose (think Game of Thrones for the latter). But Tales from the Loop strikes a middle ground that I don’t think I’ve ever heard until now. Everything, every single track, is perfectly symphonic, like something you’d hear in a concert hall. And I can’t emphasize enough how much of a good thing this is. This is music that can be enjoyed completely separate from the show as well as while you watch each episode. It takes phenomenal skill to make music that can thrive outside of the show and with Philip  Glass and Paul Leonard-Morgan in charge of the score it’s little wonder it worked out that way.

In hindsight, it actually makes a lot of sense that the soundtrack for Tales From the Loop would feel symphonic in nature. After all, Glass is well known for his concert works, and it’s only natural that that would bleed over into his work for film and television.

If you’re able to, check out the soundtrack for Tales From the Loop. It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing, and it’s like listening to a long, quiet symphonic work in a concert hall (and that’s a good thing).

Let me know your thoughts on Tales From the Loop (and it’s soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

TV Soundtracks

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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