๐Ÿ“€๐Ÿ’ฟ Evergate (Original Game Soundtrack) | Vinyl Review | Black Screen Records | "Evergate Really Does Feel Like an Audio Journey" ๐Ÿ“€๐Ÿ’ฟ @blackscreenrec #VideoGameVinyl #Vinyl

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Music by M.R. Miller

Released across multiple platforms in 2020, Stone Lantern Games’ Evergate tells the story of two kindred spirits named Ki and Ha, spirits that travel through memories of past lives; ranging from China in 1715 through to Alaska in 1838, England in 1942 and beyond – to New York in 2071. The accompanying triple album soundtrack is comprised of over two hours’ worth of music, re-telling the spirits’ tales of love, separation, breakup and reconciliation across not just time itself, but also the afterlife.

Presented on three 180g black vinyl, Evergate really does feel like an audio journey. Composer M.R. Miller has pulled together musicians and vocalists from across the world to create an expansive and often ethereal soundscape that captures the sheer scope of the narrative storytelling in the game. Whilst the music is mastered by Emily Lazar (assisted by Chris Allgood) in New York City, the specific vinyl mastering has been handled by Black Screen Records veteran Christian Bethge.

The artwork – by Cynthia Lu – is also designed to capture the majesty and scale of the tale. The front cover is an array of mellow purples, with a starlit sky pierced by towers of rock, beneath which lies the silhouette of a city. The titular Evergate floats impossibly above fog and clouds, giving an ethereal and dreamlike vibe.

The rear of the album has the tracklisting and credits across the top half, whilst the bottom half illustrates a shining golden light emanating from the Evergate, which now stands in the centre of stone ruins on a sparse plain, the two spirits are but two tiny shapes, approaching the light.

Inside the triple-record holding outer sleeve are individual sleeves, adorned with designs that reflect the era and location of which the music is evoking. The first disc showing a beautiful afterlife, rich with the same purples that grace the cover, whilst on the reverse are images of a far more mythical China. The second record’s sleeve features an icy tundra with the Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky (Alaska, 1838) whilst the reverse has a far more muted palette as it features the characters in the war-torn setting of England during the Second World War. Finally, the third and final record has neon greens and purples of New York City in 2071 whilst the flip side shows the spirits amidst a roaring, reddening sky as swirling magic pulls them together.

Record 1, Side A:

This begins with Overture, featuring rising string sections, layers of harp and a melody that owes a nod to the classic ‘Moonriver’ (and, according to my fiancรฉe, a segment of Home Alone), a refrain that is often repeated throughout the album. Overture is a track that covers a lot of ground, the shifting pace combines with the music that alternates between rousing to challenging, celebratory and threatening. It’s as if the listener is hurtling down a tunnel of frantic memories, a great and impactful opening track that isn’t shy in terms of song length, either – a lot of space to explore and certainly the time to do so. As it fades out delicately, we are taken to Part I of VII, The Afterlife – and the second track, Lullaby. Sounding like a music box playing gently upon opening, although other instruments dip in and out, it’s the chiming and charming simple melody that holds the ear. A soft and mellow shift from the cavernous opening track.

A Tale of Two Souls follows this, keeping to the music box theme, this piece of music is even more calm and airy, feeling at some points like breathing as the music gently swells and falls away until violins make themselves known as if trying to entice the music out of the shadows. Flight to the Library comes in with more gusto, a brief re-tread of the opening Overture, this acts as a short segway to the final song on the side, The Evergate. Harp and angelic vocals cascade through the track, giving a rising sense of hope, albeit accompanied by some vocal; notes that suggest unease below the apparently pretty surface, a very subtle and clever twist in the mood.

Record 1, Side B:

The second side of the first record moves us to Part II, China in 1715. The Secret Garden begins as whimsically as its name suggests, keening strings and flute lead the tune into mandolin-esque sounding stringed instruments and vocal choral work. Handclaps and traditional Chinese instrumentation, alongside a bubbly upright bass lead us into Koi Dances, and the fact that the aforesaid clapping propels the jaunty tune onward gives it a joyful and communal feel. Revelry has some beautiful, plucked melodies and marimba sounds combined with gently plucked strings that feel almost quietly festive, again featuring delicate choir work.

The Enchanted Forest is led by a Chinese flute, wrapped around a single, cascading wordless vocal. Single, emotive strums and rising, light choirs combined with synth act as gentle waves of audio. A track that slowly raises to a keening, mellow crescendo. Messengers of the Storm is cavernous by comparison, opening with a seemingly endless, monstrous yawn, for the first time – percussion takes centre stage, a bone-like, marching percussion with sharper flute work gives way to a thunderous, booming war rhythm that swiftly slips to a slow coda. Mid-Autumn festival is, as you’d hope from the title, a more celebratory affair. The light tribal drums, lilting flute and violins call back to previously hinted-at melodies, giving a familiar, warm feeling, lifting us out of the darkness of the previous track. Sibling Rivalry is a cheeky romp, shimmering violins, rimshots and a tongue-in-cheek approach to the music forms the vibe that this sibling rivalry isn’t particularly serious or ill-tempered but more fun and rambunctious. Ending this side is Kindred Spirits, kicking off with mandolin and flute - a flute playing that signature / Moon River-esque melodic run - that acts as a cyclical return to the start of the album. By this point, it’s clear by the repeat motifs and the ways that the songs flow into each other that the album is evocative of a journey through both the familiar and unfamiliar, flowing as almost a singular, epic piece of music.

Record 2, Side A:

The first side of the second disc – Part III, Alaska 1838 – is light and ethereal, dainty violins that bounce off each other yet remain melodically in tandem to create a sense of breathy dance as The Frozen Tundra unfolds. This flows lightly into Flurries, which raises the tempo but retains the delicacy, calling to mind classic Disney, it’s a sense of fun and looseness that permeates the start of this side, sprinkled with angelic choir vocals. After several listens, it’s at this point of the album that I really relaxed and mellowed into the music.

The Blizzard – if the title alone wasn’t enough of a hint, the dusty, lone and shaking violin tells you what you need to know, a shift is in the air and all is not well. I assumed that this would be a frantic and panicked track but, whilst it contains a through-line of gentle unease, it’s more melancholic than unsettled, flowing nicely from the preceding tracks. Again, moving as a single piece of music, Summer Hunt brings in heavy and yet distant percussion as well as fuller instrumentation such as harp and bass, adding to the growing sense of unease that threatens to engulf the remainder of the side. A throbbing, low hum signals the start of The Wilderness, things feel more feral and animalistic as the instrumentation becomes more percussive and fraught with a sense of threat, it’s great that this side rolls so well into each movement without being bombastic, that lightness of touch is still very much in place as the moods shift and weave. Drifting Apart begins with a keening high note that underpins beautifully plucked strings and lilting melodies that slowly fill as the music swells, leading to the final section of this side – Northern Lights Alone – which echoes away and back again, led by a very effective keyboard melody that feels like it’s bobbing across the ocean, alone. Soon, other instruments join in, somehow accentuating the loneliness of this outro. I am a big fan of the downscale of notes that act as the centrepiece of this track, magnified by the vocals and drums that join the cascade. Thinking back over this whole side of the album, the loneliness of the music, as well as the sweeping majesty of it, really does call to mind sheets of endless, beautiful white – dovetailing perfectly with the artwork that represents the time and places captured, evocative stuff.

Record 2, Side B:

As we move to Part IV, England 1942, I expected a ragged, war-torn sound, the artwork for this section features a figure searching through the rubble and calling to a trapped loved one, engulfed in flames. Whilst that does take shape in the latter half of this section, it begins with Independence, a chirpy and almost bouncy tune that features chiming bells, calling to mind Big Ben in this instance. Truancy, the following track really flows as one, making this seem like a two-parter. The scene set, the violins bustle and become busier as the movement gets deeper into the record. The Evergate (England) brings back an element of bombasticism to the proceedings with rolling, cavernous drums and held organ chords setting an epic and majestic scene that unravels to introduce Air Raid, a track that begins withheld, single, melancholic trumpet notes, almost feeling like a song of loss or bereavement. This fades out to descending, doom-laden notes that herald the coming of The Bombing. Panicked, scattered music gives off the vibes of quickly running through smoky, collapsing buildings in a furore, certainly the devastating, momentous event of this side. Prayer for the Lost begins sadly, a single, echoing bell in the darkness as if a ship is lost in a fog, a song of loss and mourning. Rounding off this side of the album are the tracks, Broken Spirits and The Storm Siege, with the former comprising mainly of delicate choral work and accompanying lightly plucked harp and the like and the final track returning to more robust awakenings, a galloping cello and violins are matched by tribal drums as if this section of the album refuses to go down without a fight.

Record 3, Side A:

Part V, New York 2071 opens with Neon Wasteland, a softly pulsing synth track, filled with mellow melodies and aching, breathy notes. A huge change from the previous side, which saw 8 tracks in a constant flow, this side of the final record has five tracks in total, meaning that they have more room to breathe – and Neon Wasteland’s thoughtful, soothing expansiveness certainly sets the tone for that vibe. Beautiful, down-tuned bass at the end of this one, as well. Lovely stuff. Police again rolls on with some gorgeous basslines, as a fan of cyberpunk, the change in this side of the record is really welcomed and completely separates it from the more traditional orchestration of the first two albums here. The Evergate (New York) continues building on those gloriously bass-heavy melodies and beats but also brings in keening keyboard work and simple, echoing percussion as well as synth swells that create a great atmosphere of a beautifully broken future-scape. The way that the track opens as it proceeds is deeply immersive. The Space Between again continues in the form already set down for this side, sweeping synth and futuristic minimalism permeating each second of the song. The all-encompassing calmness of this side means that it almost feels over too soon! The final track of this side – Betrayal – begins with a cavernous, wavering synth straight out of the ‘70s, reaching for a climax and dropping back at the last second, each moment rich with melancholy and a cold, steel emptiness. After the intense 4th side of the record, this more expressive and dreamlike 5th side really makes a great impression, especially as a full drumkit comes into play in the final minutes, again bringing well-chosen, languid energy to what could be my favourite section so far.

Record 3, Side B:

The second side of the third record, Part VI, The Storm – begins with Fragmented Memories, a melding of everything we’ve heard so far, as strings, choral work and synth all work off each other at the start of this one. Whilst a thread of unease exists at the start, there’s still an air of scale that whips through in the way that the instrumentation builds, looped and heavily-treated samples roll-off chiming melodies and soaring violins, revisiting past riffs and runs, bringing everything a full circle. Hammering this home is Into the Heart of the Storm which feels like the greatest hits of the opening side, melodies are fully revisited and played through, almost as if this is the final act of the tale that we have been following – a narrative reaching its apex. There’s a lovely moment in the middle of track where half-speed drums drive home the scope and quality of the melodies on offer, before diving once more back into the fray in an epic crescendo. Sister and Brother again revisit melodies from the opening side; dainty, music box-like chimes act as one of the more delicate points on the record, pretty and effective. Together, the final track proper raises things up from the small scale to again, finally re-playing the opening Overture, a wave of celebration brings everything back to the start. This signals the end of the soundtrack as Part VII acts as a bonus track selection, with Lullaby (Music Box) being very much what it says on the tin and the final two tracks (Trailer 2018 & Trailer 2019) being short pieces of music used in promotional work for the game.

The only other thing I would mention is that the triple-record setup means that the single sleeve holding them can be quite tight - mine has become slightly unglued over the weeks that I’ve listened and re-listened to Evergate, pulling the records in and out of the sleeve, so perhaps be aware of that and be a touch more delicate than usual in handling the sleeve.

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