Hey folks. Just wanted to say thanks for another terrific podcast. I only just managed to nab it last night and have been listening to the first part this morning. Perhaps it’s his background as a composer for a scripted and passively-consumed format of late (although I do dig some of the games he’s worked on), but I found Tilton’s view a little inflexible. But hey, more to listen to, though I’ve not any thoughts of merit on the topic other than there’s been some killer soundtracks in the past…
My favourites include the following:
Paul Ruskay – Homeworld OST (1999) – If it weren’t already right up my alley in subject matter and visual design, the soundtrack would have pushed it over the line. Like Dead Can Dance meets Biosphere, the spine-tingling middle eastern tinge worked magically in conveying the journey home; some sort of trial in the wilderness by the remnants of a chosen people. Thing is, this both works and goes against Tilton’s initial views…it works because it defines the space itself, rather than the “characters” moving through it. I think the actualisation of gamespace means its dimensions are far more important than that of TV and cinema. However, at the same time, Homeworld’s OST is evocation of time and space, whether it’s a campaign mission or a skirmish muck-around. All I know is…my little fighters in their sweeping delta formation arcing against the gentle yellow hues of immense Oort-esque clouds was burned into my audio-visual recesses thanks to Ruskay. To quote Kenneth Brannagh as the abominable Reinhard Heydrich, “The adagio will tear your heart out.”
Examples: Tears of Karan (Adagio for strings) – http://bit.ly/dgFziW / Imperial Battle – http://bit.ly/aGE4NM
Stéphane Picq – Dune Spice Opera Exxos (1992) – This was the reworked CD release of the original Cryo Dune game soundtrack, along with some unreleased tracks. Without a doubt, one of the most amazing game soundtracks of all time, an organic and rich tapestry that seemed to evoke the barren wastes of Arrakis, yet retain that gorgeous post-Jean Michel Jarre sound that Picq was known for. Sadly, when Virgin Records was sold to EMI, the rights were retained and no re-release permission was granted. However, Picq himself said regardless of the legalities, he encouraged everyone to find it by any means on the internet. The physical copies are still in the wild in limited numbers, but it’s well worth a listen – even if it’s only on youtube.
Examples: Water – http://bit.ly/bBEVZi / Sign of the Worm – http://bit.ly/cKeTXH
Stéphane Picq – Lost Eden OST (1995) – It’d be true to assume Picq is up there for me. However, as you could always count on with Cryo games, the soundtracks were killer. Lost Eden no exception. A strange amalgam of tribal ambience and subdued string accompaniments, tied down wonderfully by luscious vocal echoes. If anything, it’s like Banco de Gaia meets Deep Forest, and is a real joy to listen to.
Examples: Lost Eden Theme – http://bit.ly/csQAs2 / Mother of Energy – http://bit.ly/bFuhrT
Warp Records Various Artists – Hardw[a]r: The Future Is Greedy OST (1998) – Featuring LFO, The Black Dog, Autechre, RAC and Squarepusher, this Sheffield-in-spirit Designer’s Republic-drenched sci-fi sandbox game was, for my money, one of the coolest products on the market at that time. If you’re familiar with any of those names that provided the tunes for this despairing, wonderfully grit-Brit effort, you’d know just the kind of mood the game revelled in. Bleak and edgy, I used to throw the game CDs in my player and skip the data track to get my fix.
Examples: Autechre – Second Bad Vilbel – http://bit.ly/9D4blg / The Black Dog – Raxmus – http://bit.ly/bUGca2
Anyway, enough rambling. Thanks again and looking forward to more from the podcast with the remainder queued up for the afternoon.
EDIT: @RedSwirl I personally don’t believe you needed to be “of that time period” in the 70s to fully appreciate the depth and beauty of what we’ve come to know of “that sci-fi sound”, but if you want something to listen into for an idea not just on the science fiction route, but the era itself, I’d recommend the following…I’m a huge electronica nut, both of yesteryear and today, so here’s my call:
Early years – Jean Michel Jarre (Oxygene, Equinoxe), Klaus Schulze (incidentally, once a member of Tangerine Dream) and Brian Eno’s “Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks”. Maybe Robert Fripp’s Frippertronics sideproject (of King Crimson fame) is worth checking out, only for the live loop tech that became more mechanised down the line. Of course, Vangelis goes without saying. And anything by Steve Roach will drop you into deep and dark wormholes.
Later years – Stars of the Lid (And Their Refinement of the Decline, especially), Biosphere (incredible Nordic soundscapes – Substrata is incredible), Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works II” is quite an atmospheric release, but it’s a little too warm in places to really effect that science fiction sound. However, big recommendations with the later years would have to include Robert Rich (Below Zero is enchantment, la prière de l’espace lointain!), Robert Henke (Layering Buddha has to be heard in a dark room with headphones to really engage with its monastic awe) and anything by Mike Cadoo – his Gridlock or Dryft projects are things of utter beauty.
It’s the evocation of hard vacuum or alien worlds. An aural picture painting light-years to and from the redshift. The majesty of the deep and distant. Mass Effect’s OST isn’t the pinnacle of this portrayal, but it’s one of the best.