Let’s move back to the 1960s for just one day. And then repeat the day. And repeat the day… Friedrich Nietzsche, after Stoics, came up with the philosophical concept of a circular time so the whole universe and each life could have been recurring the exact same way in an infinite loop. Such an eternal return is a one-day period in Deathloop and that’s where Colt, an assassin, has stuck. When he dies, he wakes up again in the perpetual ‘60s remote island trying to break the loop of death and escape.
listening to the Deathloop’s soundtrack while guessing Salta’s influences is what I really enjoy about his musical time travel.
But, well, he’s kind of lucky though, since for music it was a great time and Tom Salta, the Deathloop’s composer, knows it very well. Salta’s resume is like a pot at the end of the rainbow, but instead of gold, it’s of a nearly endless list of projects Salta has been involved in. Composing for video games, films and trailers, touring and working with pop music superstars. When it comes to game music you can hear his work in Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Wolfenstein: Youngblood to name a few.
This time the direction of the music seemed to be clear and set from the very beginning. When Salta joined the Arkane team, Michel Tremouiller (audio director) provided him with a 50-page brief of the game and music ideas – mostly around “mysterious island” like in the Lost series – he mentioned once in an interview. But when Salta became more familiar with the game’s personality, he composed a new main theme and things went in a different direction. The soundtrack neither reinvents the wheel nor experiments or follows blindly – its uniqueness is simply somewhere else, right in a happy medium. It’s the best of the 1960s and early ‘70s – the era of bursting new music genres, breaking the cultural walls and experimenting on sound like never before. That’s fair enough to say that being “limited” to that period’s aesthetic only, Salta was actually driven by the whole bunch of different influences coming from the very comprehensive time.
That was when pop rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock or funk made themselves at home and film scores were either classical or noir and jazzy with the typical ride cymbals and brasses here and there. Salta picked up what he needed and made use of it all. The “picking up” was one of the most challenging things, as he claimed later. I agree with one of his score’s reviewers – listening to the Deathloop’s soundtrack while guessing Salta’s influences is what I really enjoy about his musical time travel. So here are some with songs they might partly inspired: Led Zeppelin (solo guitar in the ending of The Complex), Pink Floyd (first part of Fristad Rock) The Doors (the middle of Updaam), Jimi Hendrix (the second part of Karl’s Bay). When it comes to noir film music, there’s a tribute to James Bond films (Déjà-Vu sounds like a Bond’s opening).
The sound-alike character is not only related to artists, but mostly to instruments these artists used in the era. I’ve mentioned Karl’s Bay – electric guitars with the ‘60s effects, Clavinet, Rhodes, very dry drums, dreamy dark vibe switching to dynamic Hendrix-ish style. It changes rythmes, leading instruments and mood on the fly and is a good example of how eclectic Tom Salta is as an artist. Actually, the soundtrack has a number of songs as complex as this one.
Speaking of instruments – there’s even more of them. Besides Rhodes and clavinet, Salta used Wurtlitzer, Hammond B3, Electric Harpsichord and Mellotron – loved in the ‘60s (The Beatles based their famous Strawberry Fields Forever on that one). Since Salta is not a guitarist and a guitar was a staple of ‘60s, he imitated half of them using keys with guitar amps. The other half was played by real guitar players. He also invented a legendary jazzman Philippe Saisse to play Vibraphone, Rhodes and Mini-Moog.
Tom Salta built a brilliant time machine. Personally, I don’t think the world goes on in an infinite loop, but the culture does come and go. And come again. And go again. The ‘90s grunge fashion has been popular lately and artists are still inspired by Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, even though those bands existed decades ago. There’s always a loop of things related to other things in music, since the tower is built from the bottom up. So… let’s move back to the 1960s for just one day. And then repeat the day. And repeat the day.