05/09/2021

๐Ÿ“€๐Ÿ’ฟ๐ŸŽผ Machinarium Vinyl Soundtrack Review ๐Ÿ“€๐Ÿ’ฟ๐ŸŽผ

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In my recent articles on Amanita Design’s Creaks (video game review – https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2021/06/creaks-review-xbox-series-x-910.html, vinyl soundtrack review - https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2021/08/creaks-soundtrack-on-vinyl-vinyl-vgm.html) I referenced how my introduction to them – 2009’s Machinarium – had a real impact on me. I think it’s safe to say, games that present themselves wordlessly really fondle my cheeks and ruffle my hair, I adore them – when done correctly. 

As with Creaks, the atmosphere, presentation and style here take centre stage, tied to accessible gameplay that fits seamlessly with an engaging narrative that creeps up on you with its whimsy. I played Machinarium several years back on PC and it remains a game that brings a smile to my face whenever it pops up in conversation. That said, let’s dig into the music!

The cover art depicts the protagonist and some other characters from the game on a scrap heap outside of the city in which Machinarium takes place. It is beautifully rendered on a glossy cover with that familiar scribbled font at the bottom. The rear depicts one of my favourite scenes from the game – fittingly, an in-game robot band – with the tracklisting and credits below.


The first thing that struck me is that this is a long album in terms of a vinyl release. The six tracks that makeup side A are around the 24-minute mark with side B racking up a whopping 25 minutes. GOOD.


Presented on a perfectly-pressed 180g grey ‘oil-slick' vinyl, as with Creaks, Machinarium comes with some beautiful art cards that, if you’ve played the game are very evocative but also provide a mental landscape for newcomers who have picked up the record without any prior knowledge of the game. 


Before we go into the track-by-track breakdown, I just wanted to share a thought that hit me as I was conversing with the man behind the stunning artwork for Creaks – Radim Jurda – who mentioned that Amanita has three separate teams on the go at any one time, focusing on different titles.  It dawned on me that there was an over-riding connection on general style but the epic vegetation of Samarost; the dusty, antique, kooky Creaks and the rusted, riveted and archaic robots that makeup Machinarium all feel distinct in their worlds and, having listed to the Creaks vinyl for dozens of hours, it was really interesting to see how Floex (Tomas Dvorak, clarinet on the Creaks soundtrack) approached the music of Machinarium in a way that reflects the world in which it is set, using radio static, discordant chimes and percussion whilst also maintaining a melodic sensibility and deftness of touch.

Side A:


The Bottom A mellow opener, this has eastern inflexions and singular, punchy bass notes over which keys and punctuations of various effects wander. Simple, almost hand-played drums here, synthetic steam release noises there, they all weave together without overwhelming each other. It feels expressive and difficult to pin down due to its momentum and, whilst listening I had the sensation of descending into a different world. At five and a half minutes, it’s a great atmospheric track and perfect scene-setter for the album.


The Sea – This opens in an extremely pretty way, like someone seeing a beautiful, alien landscape for the first time, synths galore! Very much a mood piece, whilst scattered drums played with brushes enter the track at a later point, along with a beautiful, shimmering keyboard riff - this is pure atmosphere.


Clockwise Operetta – A favourite of mine, I love the radio tuning used as ambience over the ‘electronic glockenspiel’ styled tone that bubbles through the track. There’s melancholic use of a synthetic vocal that adds poignancy before a piano and clarinet duet towards the end of the song. This was an early standout piece for me.


Nanorobot Tune – Straight into another favourite of mine, this continues the radio tuning effect but is tied to a seriously funky beat. The keyboard and bass jams here are what can only be described as trouser removers. If this album were to release a single, this would be it. And I would buy it...and so would you.


The Mezzanine – A change of pace here as we return to a more atmospheric sensibility. The first time on the album that there’s a sense of ominousness, all is not well. A short track at just over two minutes, the crackling sonar that comes in towards the end is a nice touch – even if for a second I did think my record player was on the blink!


By the Wall – Another achingly melancholic track with a focus on gentle atmosphere, piano and chiming notes drop in and out over echoing electronic notes, like an extremely distant mechanical whale singing through the fog. Low, held bass notes and subtle clarinet work add to this sleepy, mellow track. It’s the audio equivalent of gently having your face stroked.



Side B:


Mr Handagote back to the funky side, the lightly distorted keyboard notes that kick this song off are glorious and the crisply recorded snare work tied to a funky beat calls to mind Nanorobot Tune, good. There are some gorgeous string runs in this that sit behind that beat as well as flashes of almost 16-bit style tunes delicately in the background, a classic.

GameBoy Tune My partner described this as a track that could easily be from the Pixeljunk Monsters soundtrack and, as she loves that soundtrack dearly – is a definite compliment. Saucily deep bass anchors an 8-bit tune with a real spring in its step. The swirling electronica at the tail end of the track gives it personality and a flourish. If this was a Game Boy game, I’d buy it...or at least the soundtrack to it on vinyl.


The Furnace – Quite the initial tonal shift here! From the funkiness and lightness of touch of the first two tracks from this side, The Furnace kicks off with a 4/4 midi-style, looping bass with discordant percussion feels and almost like a sneaky tease as this three-minuter opens up to be far more jovial, a subtle and cheeky number that almost makes you think that it’s darkness from here on in. I also loved the dusty, nylon guitar notes that peppered the track.


The Black Cap Brotherhood Theme – The swirling radio dial makes a welcome return here, over a looping bass riff. This short track reminded me of the tongue-in-cheek theme that drops in Landstalker when the group - ostensibly the antagonists - catch up with Nigel and Friday and That’s absolutely fine. A great theme that gives character to those it represents in the game and perfectly thematic with the rest of the album.


The Prison – Possibly the most esoteric song thus far, it’s very much a mood-driven track in which sparse electric bass, twinkling chimes, light percussion and touches of that Eastern vibe combined with robotic speech roll over each other, as if a camera is slowly moving across a scrapheap of broken robots, very evocative.


The Glasshouse with Butterfly – Beginning with plinking piano, soothing, atmospheric notes and artificial vinyl crackle, this feels like someone awakening from a dream. The main piano notes that guide the song are backed by further, ethereal piano runs and long, distant string notes. When the bass and drums join, it almost feels like a  key scene in a seminal, dramatic film. This track could go on for twenty minutes and I wouldn’t care.


The Castle – This feels all about bass and guitar. Whilst repeated, beautifully distorted notes act as the track’s backbone, it’s the upright bass and returning dusty nylon guitar strings that held my attention. This last handful of tracks really leaning in on mood and atmosphere was very much up my Strasse, I can tell thee.


The Elevator – This is it, the final track and it continues that sensibility towards gentle unease, with various instruments, almost punching in and dropping out over ambient strings and music that, quite frankly, wouldn’t be out of character in a gothic horror. The album ends on a thoughtful, melancholic note. As the album faded out – I almost wanted to YouTube the last scenes of the game to get back into the world of Machinarium and see what visuals drive the audio.

https://merch.amanita-design.net/products/machinarium-soundtrack-by-floex-on-vinyl

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