Spelunky!

Spelunky!  It’s always a pleasure when I get to boot my XBox 360 to play the fantastic Derek Yu masterpiece that is Spelunky.  But while infuriating procedural adventures are swell, the real treat for me is in the funky FM soundtrack provided by Eirik Suhrke.  I remember reading early posts about the soundtrack which received mixed reviews from fans, and I remember thinking: “these people are CRAZY - how can you NOT enjoy a heavily-jazz influenced live jam session infused FM soundtrack,” and that’s EXACTLY what you’ll get with the Spelunky Original Soundtrack (you’ll also get some killer chiptunes, but that’s not what I came for, just a nice treat).

If I were to describe the whole experience, I’d basically tell you that an Adlib got drunk with a hot betty from the Fillmore and made these sweet, sweet sounds. I mean, how can you pass on a live saxophone solo in the middle of a this end credits groove? (it’s not that you can’t, it’s that you shouldn’t)

My only qualm with this soundtrack is the presentation of the tracks. We’re not treated to any looping tracks or fadeouts, and Eirik is keen to move from one catchy hook to a turnaround, to another equally incredible hook. The trouble here is that you’ll definitely want to hear these each more than once, even if the whole album plays gaplessly very nicely.

All in all, buy this soundtrack.  Then tell your friends you bought it.  Then you can buy it again if you want, I don’t know - do what you like.

My top picks: Temple A, Mines B, and Wrath of Yama.  But like I said, the whole thing is good.  Protip: Make a playlist with the whole soundtrack, and duplicate the tracks you love back to back.  Thank me later.

- Josh

Globulous Original Soundtrack

A puzzle game like Globulous, really requires something that’ll not just compliment the experience, but enhance it. From this soundtrack, I really feel that. The combination of bitcrushed beats and synthetic arpeggios flying through an array of beautiful acoustic instruments from guitar, to violins, a beautiful distant piano (Cliff Sine is a notable one!) , and an array of combinations that just meld together, rather than clash. 

A subtle array of rhythmic elements here and there keep the music pulsing forward without making it too energetic, for a puzzle game, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

A favourite track of mine is actually Cliff Sine, I get a real Super Mario Galaxy vibe from the spaced out arrangement, and the instrumentation. Really lovely. And Stone Clockwise, which is used in the trailer 

Fantastic work by Zircon and Jeff Ball, I’ll be eager to hear more collaborations from these two!

- Chris

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Fighting games with their adrenaline pumping button twitching requires a special kind of music to really make it work. It can’t be too slow and in the background but if it’s too in your face you lose focus and starts getting stressed.

Tekken, to me, strikes the perfect balance. 

TTT2 is a musical continuation of Tekken Tag Tournament, one the most sought after Tekken soundtrack in it’s native country of release and it both captures what made the original good and adds a lot more. The core is electronic music where the hooks are sounds more than melodies. Focus is on the production, the growling synths, the processed voices and the overall soundscape. This is where TTT2 really shines.

TTT2 is proof that current Japanese game music can be just as relevant as the classics you know and love. It shows that there are reasons to stick with a similar team of composers for long periods, they grow with the games and the company. I’d rather blast this in my headphones than most contemporary electronic music out there and I probably would even if I didn’t love Tekken.

Support the composers and the legendary game music label SuperSweep, buy the soundtrack at Amazon today: http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/switch-language/product/B005T9EC6A/ref=dp_change_lang?ie=UTF8&language=en_JP

- Mattias

Composed by Akitaka Tohyama, sanodg, Keiichi Okabe, Rio Hamamoto, Taku Inoue, Yoshie Arakawa, Satoru Kousaki, Go Shiina
Published by SuperSweep
VGMdb entry 

Echochrome II

What can I say that the music doesn’t? Hideki Sakamoto’s Echochrome I soundtrack was an incredible piece of work, and Hideki’s work in II is a real pleasure to listen to inside and outside of the game. The composition compliments the nature of the puzzle game series perfect, I’ve never listened to such a beautiful score while being puzzled by lights and shadows. 

Famously, the Echochrome II soundtrack is a 75 minute long piece that holds the record for the longest video game composition to date.

If you haven’t seen the live performances of these pieces, I recommend snooping around youtube and checking them out, just more wonderful listening. A fine example of how much life a real player playing a real instrument (not a sampled one, though I have no quarrels with that, as I do it often!) really just pays off. Also, being a pianist, I gotta say I LOVE the sound of the piano throughout this soundtrack.

You can grab the soundtrack from their label, Noisy Croak Records, here.

- Chris

Botanicula

It goes without saying at this point that Amanita Design has excellent taste. Their past collaborations with Tomáš Dvořák (aka Floex) on Machinarium and Samorost are wonderfully intricate pieces, with soundtracks that stand out in the game space, and stand up remarkably on their own. Knowing this, it should be no surprise that Amanita has once again struck gold with Botanicula, featuring a wonderful collaboration with Czech musical group DVA.

The soundtrack manages to employ lots of digital tricks while staying refreshingly organic, filling itself to the brim with voices cleverly employed as all sorts of instruments, household percussion, out of tune pianos, and other sound sources that are harder to pinpoint. It’s not too hard to imagine this album as miniature tribal music for tree dwellers, albeit quite unlike any other tribal music you may have ever come across, and in that sense, they have succeeded overwhelmingly. Buzzing bee percussion, down-tuned guitar and nature samples, and Reich-esque pulsations are just a few shades of an exceedingly dense and wonderfully rich sonic palette.

- Rich

Fez

Fez

Fez. I’ve lost nearly 36 hours to the universe of Fez, an experience so reminiscent of my time with games like Myst and Riven that there is no question as to why I enjoy it so fondly. So it should be no surprise, also, that Fez relies heavily on audio to create such an immersive world.

Close your eyes and listen to “Spirit,” and you can immediately hear waves splashing against the rocky shore along with the soft strike of the buoys in the distance. The secrets that lie within the universe around Gomez would not be so well executed without the subtle timbral nods curated by Disasterpeace’s rich soundtrack.

It’s a pleasure for me to admit that the Fez soundtrack is as wonderful to listen to outside of the game as it is within, which is why the Fez soundtrack is our first weekly recommendation. Almost defined by its roots in chiptune music, the album is not what I would classify as chiptunes - the subtle reverb, careful attention to post processing and crisp electronic tones that the artist has crafted allow “Fez” to be so much more than a chiptune album. For a modest $7, you’d almost be insane to not pick this one up.

- Josh