03/10/2021

๐Ÿ’ฟ Video Game Vinyl Fantasies | #2 | Britt Recommends ๐Ÿ’ฟ #Vinyl #VideoGameVinyl

Share This Post On Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share This Post On

My previous Vinyl Fantasies article on VGM vinyl back in May (https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2021/05/video-game-vinyl-britt-recommends.html) resulted in some absolutely wonderful conversations, feedback and comments.

The article appeared to really resonate with a lot of people (thank you to all!) and so it made perfect sense to get hips deep again and talk about other albums that really stand out for me – as well as some recent additions to the GF collection.

Once again, there is so much solid gold out there that I keep coming across music that quite frankly makes my trousers fly off my legs and turn into butterflies that scatter across the universe…so here are more records that soundtrack my days.

Before we tuck into them, though – My love for the soundtrack to Nidhogg 2 Is well-documented on this site, and I contacted the ever-cool Mux Mool to ask if he’d like to make some comments on the soundtrack and he has very kindly reflected on the album:

“In 2017, while Messhof was developing Nidhogg 2, they reached out to Ghostly International about using some of my music for their game. Ghostly asked if I was interested in licensing some of my music to them, and as a game lover, I was very excited for the placement.

From there they asked if I would be interested in producing some originals for the game as well and I was thrilled. Having spent so many years playing games, I was very familiar with themes common in games such as water level music or what to make for a desert level etc. and found that writing to those themes was very fun and I really enjoyed putting a Mux Mool spin on them.

Messhof also invited me out to San Francisco for the 2016 Game Developers Conference where I was able to play an early version of the game which really gave me some solid concepts of what I wanted to write. The satisfaction of throwing a weapon and hitting the opponent, or the frantic excitement of running towards the goal, and I knew exactly what energy to add to match that.

As the project went on I just loved composing for it more and more. I also discovered that all of my music had been informed by my love of video game music all along, a realization that's helped my composing abilities ever since.  

The release process was also very fun. I loved hearing my tunes in the ads and seeing Nintendo and PlayStation posting about the game, and feeling like I'm a part of the gaming world.

I felt that I was adding some interest to the game music world, and helping showcase something I always felt was true, that a piece of game music is much more than just computer loops.

And of course, pressing that beautiful vinyl was just such an amazing bonus, I'm very grateful to have that music pressed. All in all, it's a process I look forward to doing more of.

I hope to compose for games again soon. As for now, I've got an album coming out in September on Young Heavy Souls that I'm very excited about, and anyone who likes the Nidhogg 2 soundtrack is gonna love it.”

Album Title: Watch Dogs

Artist: Brian Reitzell

Label: www.Invada.co.uk/Ubisoft

As much as each game in the series had its merits, the first Watch Dogs stands out for me as the most streamlined and focused. Whilst I have fond memories of Watch Dogs, I hadn’t really revisited the soundtrack until picking it up at an absolutely preposterous price on Discogs last year. When that glitchy, blue skull popped through my door and I cast my eye across the back of the cover, seeing the credits etc. all laid out as if a mix of DOS prompt and system requirement… I was extremely keen. Combine this with a striking blue/black ‘colour-bomb’ vinyl effect that perfectly matches the overall design scheme and my interest was further piqued for this relatively blind, impulse purchase.

Well, Brian Reitzell has really weaved some serious magic here. The whole album has a throbbing, synth mood running through it, punctuated by some standout tracks that roll and subtly build in intensity such as Vigilante whilst others strip back the instrumentation and focus instead on delicate ambient guitar work such as personal favourites; Ded Sec, On the Lake and Hackers. There are also some John Carpenter-esque vibes at certain moments, which is, as the tribes of ancient Peru were so fond of saying, “absolutely fine”. What this all adds up to is an album that never feels the need to over-complicate things or ramp up the beats too much, relying on flow and mood as strengths as opposed to driving force.

I loved Watch Dogs upon the first spin and yet I almost forgot that I owned it until rediscovering it again recently. I feel like it ‘got away from me’ a little as it came at a time when a few records arrived at once and the ones that I had to review for GF took precedence. Over the last few weeks, it’s really crept back into my imagination and been on pretty heavy rotation. Good. 

I managed to catch up with Brian Reitzell, who kindly shared his thoughts on the album:

Watch Dogs was my second full video game score. Ubisoft were keen on hiring film composers to do video game music as a means to make things more cinematic. I think Cliff Martinez did one right after for them as well. 

The game takes place in Chicago. I had recently finished my second season of the show ‘Boss’ which also took place in Chicago. The second iteration of Watch Dogs took place in San Francisco which is where I grew up. Hudson Mohawke scored that one. A few years back I briefly did a radio show for the Red Bull Music Academy. One of the shows was on video game music. I had Hudson down to my studio as a guest and we got to share stories.

One of the early episodes of the podcast Song Exploder - dissected the track ‘Donovan’.

When creating music for a video game there are all sorts of challenges that are unique to its process. The biggest, at least for me is to make music that can loop but never sound like it’s looping/repeating. You get paid by the minute and cannot deliver cues that aren’t precise to the second. 30 seconds, 1 minute and 2 minutes are typical lengths. I found all sorts of ways to cheat and manipulate time. For example the track ’The Loop’ (named after the Chicago elevated rail system) I was tasked with delivering 2 minutes of original music that could loop endlessly as the game was being played in a particular scene.

I made a 2-minute long piece played on analogue synths. I was originally going for something quite retro - mid-period Tangerine Dream / Klaus Schulze. Lot’s of Prophet 5, Freeman String Symphonizer, Korg MS 20, Linn drum, analogue sequencers, etc. After recording a 2-minute piece I then manipulated those tracks into a 20-minute cue by time-stretching, editing, etc… all the individual tracks.

In that way, I was able to deliver a 20-minute cue that could loop endlessly rather than a 2-minute loop. I only got paid for 2 minutes but it satisfied my desire to make music that never felt looped plus I played by their rules in composing the 2-minute cue. I way over delivered doing variation after variation after variation but that’s my style.”

Album Title: Shadow of the Beast

Artist: David Whittaker

Label: Lag records www.lagrecords.com

A technically impressive feast on the Amiga 500, Shadow of the Beast was arguably less about the gameplay than the audio/visual presentation. Whilst the parallax scrolling and super smooth action was well-known by myself, I only had vague memories of the ominous, seemingly alien soundtrack. When @kingdomofcarts bought this for me – completely out of the blue – for Christmas, I was really up for getting lost in those Amiga memories. I mean, Paula was capable of brilliance! Shadow of the Beast was really the first Amiga-centric vinyl in my collection.

This album is very much – ‘glass of wine/slug of bourbon – laying on the couch’ for me. The driving bass drum, almost threatening midi bass and pan-pipe / synthetic vocal lines call to mind everything from Michael Jackson’s Beat it to ID Software’s DOOM but spends more time pulsing, tribally. 

The hand-drawn artwork on the cover feels static and muted in a way that captures the constant drive of the music within, with the vinyl the colour of the titular Beast itself. In the album’s latter half, there are mellower moments – still featuring that sinister bass thud, good – but the whole album ties up into feeling like watching a heavily-robed, bearded man casting a dark spell…and it’s a spell I like listening to over and over again. 

The Amiga had such great audio capabilities and I’m looking to obtain more soundtracks taken from games that graced the system over the coming weeks if there are any out there. In fact, just as I was sending this article off to my raging, uber-violent editor, I picked up a copy of The Bitmap Brothers Odyssey, which I’ll certainly be covering in my next Vinyl Fantasies article.

Album Title: A Short Hike

Artist: Mark Sparling http://marksparling.ca

Label: Stumpy Frog Records www.stumpyfrog.com

My introduction to this soundtrack came from the extremely passionate Stumpy Frog Records (https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2021/05/games-freezer-interviews-stumpy-frog.html - see also ‘The Cat Lady’ in my previous Vinyl Fantasies article) who mentioned that the game was a pure slice of joy. Before reviewing the vinyl, I reached out to game developer Adam Robinson-Yu for a review code and (thank you Adam!) ended up playing one of the most memorable games of my year (https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2021/06/short-hike-vinyl-soundtrack-review.html).

The game tells the story of a bird called Claire who is away for the day with her aunt, a mountain ranger. Ostensibly about Claire’s journey to the top of a mountain to get a phone signal, the game is packed full of little moments during its brief run time. I found myself lost in just drifting around and discovering, the zen of the game completely hitting the mark for me.

The vinyl release of A Short Hike completely matches the game in terms of visual presentation. From the inner disc of the record featuring a cheeky Claire telling you which side is A/B to the breezy blue, ocean-coloured vinyl and the cover art – which is expansive – puts you in the same gentle and exploratory frame of mind that the game successfully does. Further enforcing the zen / background/relaxation aura is how several tracks are renditions of the same melody through different instrumentation and lengths, cementing this as a mood piece.

The rich, organic instrumentation and positive vibes that ripple out from this soundtrack are hard to ignore and really revitalise the listener. @kingdomofcarts described it as the soundtrack to ‘taking our son out in wellies for the first time, splashing in puddles and chasing butterflies during Autumn, feeling good and maybe seeing a rabbit in the distance’. She’s probably right. This truly is a soundtrack that very specifically evokes – and drives home – the mood of the game.

Mark Sparling took some time out to share some memories behind the creation of A Short Hike:

“I was super grateful to work on A Short Hike! Adam is such a fantastic creative person, and I’m so happy that I was able to add music to this wonderful world that he created. I met Adam through some friends a while back and we had previously worked on a game jam together.

One memorable moment that sticks out to me is when I was playing an early build of the game, I would spend hours just running around, climbing and flying off of cliffs. It felt amazing (but I was also a little bit terrified of writing something that would live up to this).

I’ve been pretty overwhelmed by the response to the game. I’m really glad that it has resonated with so many people.

My current projects include:
-Music and sound for Adopt Me!, a Roblox game about adopting and raising cute pets
-Music and sound for Pekoe, a game about making tea for cats
-Music for Baker’s Dozen Short Stacks (some short animatics)”


Album Title: Beckett

Artist: The Secret Experiment https://twitter.com/thesecretexp

Label: The Secret Experiment

the-secret-experiment.itch.io/beckett

I feel like I’ve been championing Beckett forever (and will continue to do so!). One of the first games that I reviewed for Games Freezer back in 2017, it’s the first title that I covered for the site that shook and resonated with me.

From the microfiche-style, top-down viewpoint to the Bukowski-esque dialogue (still the best dialogue I’ve ever encountered in a video game, I was taking constant screenshots of the text, it was like poetry) I was THERE. It was also my introduction to Simon Meek – a man whose career I have followed since. I purchased this 7-inch single not only to support Secret Experiment but also to have a physical memento to celebrate the game. Consisting of a simple, haunting piano track; every time I listen, I’m transported back to a game that made a mark on me unlike almost any other.

Album Title: Mr Nutz

Artist: Raphael Gesqua

Label: Wayo Records www.wayorecords.com/en/79-mr-nutz

The second release that I’ve covered from Wayo Records is another beautifully presented double 12-inch gatefold. Their previous release (https://www.gamesfreezer.co.uk/2021/03/actraiser-original-soundtrack-symphonic.html) really stood out to me, with the inclusion of a booklet containing a wealth of information about those involved in the creation of the soundtrack – specifically Yuzo Koshiro and the symphonic Orchestra recording that made up the second disc.

Whereas Wayo Records’ Actraiser had one 12-inch comprising the original soundtrack and the second record was an orchestral arrangement of the music, Mr Nutz is a 22-track monster soundtrack with the music taken from the 1993 Super Nintendo version of the game.

I’ll be covering the release much more fully in a separate article but what stands out for me is how wonderfully ‘SNES’ it sounds! The soundtrack is really bright and the bass is so punchy that the record shines with real aural clarity.

It’s a sunny and infectious soundtrack with full-length songs that have that ‘90s innocent vibe. The artwork – by original Mr Nutz artist Phillippe Dessoly - completely captures the colourful, ‘wide-eyed smiling’ mood of the music and, if you are quick you’ll be lucky enough to pick up a hand-signed Shikishi of the artwork with the purchase. Awesome.

Album Title: Galaxy Force 2 / Thunderblade

Artist: Koichi Naimiki, Katsuhiro Hayashi & Tohru Nakabayashi

Label: Data Discs data-discs.com/products/galaxyforce-thunderblade

Whilst I was aware of the existence of these games, I hadn’t played them and certainly wasn’t familiar with the music. This is actually @kingdomofcarts’ record. I bought it for her for Christmas when I spotted it for an oddly saucy price on eBay.

Putting it on for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect at all…what I didn’t expect was an energetic blast of midi-funk that blew my trousers off and turned them into synthetic bass solos. Good. 

Whilst the soundtracks themselves aren’t lengthy, the extras here are solid gold. An extended, live (and not shy) full-band version of one of my favourite songs (Beyond the Galaxy) and a couple of originally unused tracks remastered and added to the 2nd side.

Sonically, these soundtracks are really ahead of their time and when I found out that they were from 1987/88 I was shocked. The version we have is on yellow vinyl, but there are others available. Whichever one you pick up, if you are a fan of high energy soundtracks or like me – clinically addicted to midi slap-bass – then this is a must-have.

Album Title: Farcry 3: Blood Dragon

Artist: Power Glove powergloveaudio.com

Label: Invada records www.Invada.co.uk

I reckon Power Glove have seen The Terminator movies.

This album is one that I listen to when in a very specific mood when I want to get lost in a romanticised ‘80s trance. Presented on double neon-pink 12-inch records, the grid-based background to the artwork and musical touchpoints – flitting from Brad Fiedel to John Carpenter – means that it exists very much in a state of idealised filmic scores from the ‘80s. Good.

I do appreciate the recent synthwave revival and how albums such as this fit in my musical personality, plus – it makes me think of Michael Biehn, which is always welcomed. Quite often though, the repetitive 4/4 beat that makes up the bulk of the genre can get tiresome and so I found myself really interested in the genre and then pretty swiftly moving away from extended playlists and instead focusing on examples that capture the quintessential essence of the genre, such as this. Quite frankly, If I was having an action movie night at mine, this wouldn’t leave the turntable.

Album Title: The Greatest Video Game Music

Artist: The London Philharmonic Orchestra

Label: Warner Classics / X5 Music

One of the moments that really stood out to me from the London Video Game Orchestra concert I attended in March 2020 was the point where the conductor James Kierle turned to the audience and stated his wish that video game music would be taken seriously and how the fact that the music can be brought to life by an orchestra illustrates the complexity, melodic sensibilities and craftmanship that clearly exist beyond the limitations of audio hardware at the time of the creation of older games.

It was a very erudite speech that I’ve mangled here but my point is – There’s something special about video game music presented through the lens of a full orchestra. There’s a sense of scale, grandiosity and expanse that can be brought to life by a room full of talented musicians with traditional instrumentation that can be emotive and excitingly overwhelming. This album does a fantastic job of capturing that sense of wonder and adventure.

It always seems to be a decent price on eBay and Amazon, especially for such a perfectly pressed double 180g vinyl, so this is something I’d definitely recommend. Also, the 21 tracks here really do cover a lot of genres, from FPS games to mobile titles and RPGs, yet all seem to fit together thematically. If you are lucky enough to have a video game orchestra near you, I urge you to support them, I’m certainly glad that I did. It was an entertaining, educational and emotional evening.

There was a second in this series but from what I can see, it was sadly never released on vinyl, a real shame as I’d love to hold it in my hands!

Some other albums have turned in up during the writing of this and I tend to get excited and want to include everything, but I’ll drink in the new arrivals for a little while to get a fuller picture of them, so I’ll stop now.

Right, I’m off to spin some wax, I’ll see you all in the next Vinyl Fantasy!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Like what you see in the Games Freezer?
Why not tell us what you think with a few well-chosen comments? :)

๐ŸŽฎ Featured Posts ๐ŸŽฎ