Music is a powerful stimulant. According to studies, music possesses intrinsic psychological benefits that help in supporting our own mental and emotional health. Boosting our mood, enhancing productivity and has also been claimed to encourage deeper, more restful sleep. Which could explain the therapeutic effect “Slipknot” has on my nocturnal rejuvenation. Serenading me to a wistful slumber. Music has such cathartic properties that are as unique and intimate as any family photo. Memories ingrained in the notes and compositions themselves, that elevate these sounds beyond the rudimentary perception of auditory gratification. To me there is nothing that possesses such emphatic nostalgia, as the “Donkey Kong Country” original soundtrack.
Having not heard any of the game’s melodious theme’s for almost a decade, I was immediately transported, almost violently so, to those care free days of adolescence where the most problematic issues were deciding what cereal to have for breakfast. Awash in the curative grasp of nostalgia, the comforting familiarity of the music, conjuring vivid images of my time traversing a tropical island as a barrel throwing gorilla, inexplicably sporting a bright red tie embroidered with the initials “D.K”. Hunting down the thieves that poached my vast banana supplies from the cavernous pantry under my hut. Incapacitating the litany of anthropomorphic crocodiles that hinder my progress, as well as crippling the passive wildlife that I encounter, by forcing them to be mounts for my rather dubious excuse to debilitate any indigenous life that has made the unfortunate decision to take a morning stroll. All with the complicit assistance of a cap wearing minor, in Diddy Kong. What this experience did, other than teach me just how violent the animal kingdom can be, is just how important music is to informing that experience. Especially at such an impressionable age.
Though almost every song sparks some kind of cognisant memory, whether it’s the rhythmic bongo’s in the opening level. The dynamic tension that was disseminated by the mine cart stage. Or even the jolly chirpiness of the final boss. It’s the transcendent beauty of the underwater stage that I find most potent. “Aquatic Ambience” has always been an evocative inspiration on my recollections. It’s soothing yet melancholic ambience, that belies the apprehension you experience navigating through this submerged labyrinth. There’s something hypnotic about this track. An ethereal longing that’s both comforting and isolating. As well as an extraordinary example of prestige gaming compositions. This song also has the unfortunate recognition of being a jarring parallel with my own parents separation. Though this would strike most people as a despondent association, it actually provides me with a lot of comfort too.
Hearing a song that sparks these kind of wistful memories makes you wonder if the games we play with our children, will inspire the same cognitive retentions. It does however remind you of your own mortality. Time seems to move differently as we get older. Perhaps it’s just are perception that does, but whatever the reason, these musical memories do abate the violent acceleration. If only for a short moment.
I love music in gaming. For me a compelling and suitably diversified soundtrack is one of the greatest accompaniments you can have. Even some of the worst movies often posses a repatriated compilation of eclectic notations. Whether it’s a grand orchestral accompaniment to some sweeping landscape scattered with vestigial structures or a more contemporary soundtrack riddled with gratuitous rhythmic pace that gets the adrenaline surging through your veins with accelerated velocity, it immediately generates additional immersion into any given situation, elevating your exploits beyond the simple receivership of playing and more into metabolic synchronicity between the situation and yourself. Today I’d like to introduce an artist that certainly replicates the latter without diminishing the former. Celldweller is a musician that I can conclusively speculate you are already familiarised with, without even knowing it. Every single song featured on his debut self titled album has been licensed to a movie, video game, commercial or other form of media in some capacity. His music has featured in Iron Man, Spiderman 2, Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol, Constantine, Mr & Mrs Smith, Pacific Rim, Assassins Creed: Revelations, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Dead Rising 2, Forza Motorsport 3 and loads more besides. But I can hear your curious incredulity and I’ll admit that it’s a founded dubiety as much of his auditory contribution is ancillary, perhaps deliberately encouraged. It was only through rather fortuitous circumstances that I discovered his music at all.
It was Need For Speed: Most Wanted that introduced me to his amplified decibel’s, collating the symphonic gestures of a variety of influences into a clamouring fusion of synthesised reverberations. “One Good Reason” was layered with such profane intensity that it heightened the fraudulent depiction of being an illegal street racer, imposing a genuine plume of atmospheric catharsis to your illegal vehicular activities. Of course a tune of such percussive ferocity isn’t going to resonate with such platonic captivation for everyone, but his visceral fluency is profoundly modulated in his subsequent work, yet explores more ethereal thematic’s in his most recent productions. Refined with more melodic elements and infused with a more complex electronic composite, his album “Wish Upon A Blackstar”, released a full 6 years after his début album produced incredible feats of musical innovation by drastically contrasting his earlier work with serpentine layering of distinctive, automated instruments. Though the collection of distorted decibel’s generated a vigorous ascent of hypnotic balladry and intumescent severity, it also failed to replicate and apply an adaptive tempo that allowed an otherwise distinct sound to obtrude from similarly syncopated patterns that emerged from the highly prevalent and parasitical dubstep influence of his peers. It certainly wasn’t a bad album as it contained some of my personal favourite songs such as “Eon”, “Against The Tide” and “The Best It’s Gonna Get”, but it felt over produced as though he kept adding various alternating elements into a convoluted bridge of noise and distortion that subsequently belied his transmitted elegance. The long gestational period probably derives some influences for its deficient continuity, as it required 6 years to complete, but even something of such jutted abstraction it’s still an album that deserves respect for its experimental vision alone.
“You will know the power of the dark side!”
Since “Wish Upon A Blackstar” Klayton, the one man band behind Celldweller has produced some of his finest work since his fledgling debut. His episodic “End Of An Empire” standalone feels like a natural successor to his originated works, fusing elements of rock and electronica into a singulised tempos that exempts itself from its generalised form. Replete with hypersonic back beats, synthesised percussion and blistering metal integrated into one organic entity. The atmospheric shrill tempered into tracks such as “New Elysium”, “Down To Earth”, “End Of An Empire” and “Just Like You” provokes sensory impairment (in a good way), and an inert sense of being jettisoned to some isolated planet devoid of human life in the reaches of some distant, nebulous solar system. You can simply create restricted form of sensory deprivation by turning off the lights, laying down on your bed and go on a spiritual journey, with Celldwellers music utilised as the catalyst. Outside album releases are more standalone singles that quantify his diverse influences. As well as his fluent, synthesised rendition of the BeeGee’s anthem “Tragedy” it’s his synth, or perhaps that should be “Sith” heavy rendition of Star Wars “Imperial March” that demonstrates his unequivocal adeptness as a musician and artist. Also did I mention that he released the latter on May the fourth?
Of course there is general antipathy that his songs are very much regulated by repeated structural vulnerabilities, with suggested accusations that his songs rely on the repetition of the tempo. But when rhythmic beats are layered and delivered with such proficiency then a little repetition is placated. It’s like denouncing a 10 game winning streak on cod as being repetitive?! Though he hasn’t been gifted with lyrical affluence, the amount of ethereal inflections infused with complex aggressive cerebral structures that generates layers of percussive brutality without it becoming rhythmically congested mesh of decibel’s and distorted guitar riffs more than compensates. The way Klayton merges passive vocal sincerity with the deeply arranged beats is a credit to his historically meticulous extrapolation for perfection. And while there are obvious divergences influenced by exterior authorities, the purity of his stylistic monolithic continues without prejudice. He’s not simply bludgeoning the listeners ear with a cacophony of deliberate antithesis, but often delicately serenading with precise delicacy. There’s an earnest swagger about his sound that contributes staggering capacity for invigorating your game-play. You hear those distinctive chords, even in residual substantive ambiance and you can eviscerate throngs of the un-dead for hours.
There’s such a diversified range of genres meshed into music that no matter your musical preferences there is bound to be something in Celldweller’s catalogue that you can enjoy. Below our my top 5 songs I feel best exemplifies his range of music, but doesn’t necessarily represent my favourites. Let me know your thoughts and perhaps recommend other artists in gaming for others to listen too. Cheers.
Hello, my name is Karl and I’m GTAlcoholic. It’s a terminal condition, one allegedly benign as long as fomented harassment is averted with permanent intermission. The overture for my prostrated dependency formed from the simple elocution of GTA’s alluring influence, or words to that effect. It was during the heady, felonious days of Vice City that enamoured much of my capricious obsession. Cruising from one equitable establishment to another, with occasional misdemeanour’s and vigorous chainsaw assaults on stray vagrants to amuse me between monetary restitution’s was my daily grind. Recollections of those days are still vividly deposited at the forefront of mind, as my exerted struggle for dominion over the province of Vice City finally recompensed my abhorrent contempt for human existence, with the gilded appurtenances of power! Such as exotic cars, an inert depositary cached in my elasticated back pocket (Is that a Semi……..automatic rifle or are you just, oh, it is.) and the acquisition of a property so garish even Scrooge McDuck would have to loan his nephews into prostitution to afford it. A bespoke mansion that is the physical construct of my own ruminant ambition. “Kneel before me trivial, pixellated pedestrians!” But all of these acclaimed memories are supplanted by the pronounced musical accompaniment that was so much more vivacious and infuriating! You see “I just ran. I ran all night and day!” AHHH! Get out of my head! Years of selfish abuse has consolidated a thrift of nostalgic music into my fractured mind, displacing most of my accomplishments with a suggestive influence derived from such auxiliary, often subliminal notations.
When I say that these audited harbingers have blighted my life, I literally mean they make me grimace in anguish. My face contorts into snarl as if I’ve just discovered Michael Bay is remaking Back To The Future with the Wayans Brothers. Yet all the while my foot taps, my hand clenches into a fist as I retract my arm inward like a 90’s singer impeaching his love for an unspecified woman, as my pursed mouth instinctively unfurled and mimics “Video killed the radio star” with muted reciprocation, yet again provoking nauseating acrimony! Every-time an accursed song plays on the radio that correlates with this game, I become emotionally crippled, riddled by composite synchronism of nostalgic mirth and inhibited malice. Years of abstinence from this game had negated many of its residual provocations; the subordinate characters, the satirical perception on 80’s culture and the overt pastiche of the decades movie and television shows (most notably Scarface and Miami Vice). My artifice was one composed of deliberate omission, to forget everything about this game…….and I failed in spectacular fashion! I haven’t ever suppressed its luminance. I mean I can still negotiate around Vice City better than my own home! But its the synthesised melodies that have never truly abated my peripheral subconscious. From Flock of Seagulls to Slayer, the variation of 80’s music permeated throughout Vice City, instilling “I just died in your arms tonight. It must have been something you said” grr! INSTILLING the ambient absurdity of that decade. The negligence of affluence, the abated morality of consumerism, the pomposity of corporate greed, the plethora of transgressive equality retained in yuppie culture, the “Come on feel the noise!”, the fashion and the extruded volatility of humanity, personified in this instance by Tommy “I’m not Henry Hill” Vercetti and “It’s going to take a lot to drag me away from you. There’s nothing that a 100 men or more could ever do”. *Sigh*
Damn, I’m sorry. But I’ve got to go and listen to some Jan Hammer now while I canter solemnly down a Miami beach, gazing longingly as the grains of sand yield to the waves rippling caress and the wind ruffles my distended mullet. All while I repeatedly remove my sunglasses from my rankled face, before placing them back while again staring longingly at…….absolutely nothing.
What game soundtracks are still stuck in your head?