For all we know, there’s no better way to appreciate our favorite music than to put it on a roundtable. Of course, we’re aware that we sound like High Fidelity’s John Cusack in his most hipster role ever, but we can’t help it. Crisp, crunchy sound, slick (sometimes colorful) inner sleeves, hand-made illustrations printed on that nice-to-touch glossy cardstock paper… What’s not to love? As Spaff and Harper, Double Fine’s community folks, would say: “Look, man, some things genuinely do sound pretty great on vinyl even if it’s a dinosaur Boomer medium.”
Hand-made illustrations printed on that nice-to-touch glossy cardstock paper… What’s not to love?
To keep track of all new analog releases – our spending on them, too – GameMusic’s editor-in-chief Mariusz Borkowski suggested we start a vinyl round-up where each month we tell you about what new, old or reimagined soundtracks have been spinning on our record players. Although, lately, our minds and ears have been preoccupied with some of the new long-awaited releases, particularly BlueTwelve Studio’s STRAY (music and meows composed by Yann Van Der Cruyssen) and nostalgically terrific TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge (whose score, somehow, features Ghostface Killah and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon), we have some amazing video game music finally reaching our fingertips.
Being an avid Chrono Trigger fan is to lead a difficult life. Not because there isn’t such great music as Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda once used to make for this boundary-pushing 16-bit franchise anymore. It’s because every few years there’s a new Chrono Trigger vinyl release that you can’t resist getting for your ever-increasing VGM collection. Especially if it comes with a tip-on gatefold jacket illustrated with traditional Japanese art-inspired Chrono Trigger artwork.
It’s been a couple of years since Epoch Records treated game’s fans with a definite edition 4-LP box-set featuring every piece of music composed for this beloved franchise, only to be instantly followed by somewhat even greater Yetee Records’ special arrangement EP (or “Guardia: The X-Strike Sessions”) that celebrated the 20th anniversary of Mitsuda’s career. However, die-hard fans of Mitsuda’s score will also recognize the name of Malcolm Robinson, who’s been working on his celebrated orchestral renditions of Chrono Trigger since 2015.
While it’s been almost 3 years since Robinson’s second batch (vol. 2) of arrangements was released in 2019, featuring fans’ favorites “Corridors of Time” and “Schala’s Theme”, we got to say that Mana Wave’s freshly released limited-EP has secured its place of becoming the new definitive way of enjoying Chrono Trigger music.
Among those who caught our attention and granted our ears a fix of mournful Miyazaki-like music (thanks Elden Ring…) was another great, although surprising Mana Wave release. This time for 2018’s Souls-like pixel art RPG Death’s Gambit score which last year was updated with 20 new tracks composed and arranged by Kyle Hnedak, the game’s original composer, when its Afterlife DLC breathed much-needed new life in a game whose best qualities lie in its music.
Featuring a selection of songs, including “The End of Immortality”, “Gaian’s Cradle” and how-could-we-forget “The Bulwark”, Death’s Gambit: Afterlife record comes in two pieces of vinyl, one in gorgeous light blue and the other “sea” blue translucent colors with black splatter.
And while we wonder why Hnedak didn’t include “Amulvaro tower” or punchy as ever “Dark Knight”, the only track that features a collaboration with Alex Roe known for his Souls games‘ inspired remixes, the afterlife Hnedak’s soundtrack truly deserves is one on our turntable.
A decade ago, a record like this, nonetheless funded and released into the world by a “one person indie video game music label”, would be pretty much unimaginable. Think Moon: Remix RPG, Jazzpunk, Chibi-Robo, or any other indie odd egg that developed its own niche community but otherwise was quickly overshadowed by a never-ending stream of new releases.
Thank God, then, for Stumpy Frog Records which chose outlandishly funky point-and-click indie game Smile For Me for its fifth record (previously: Umurangi Generation). Featuring sultry jazz and smooth accompaniments by multi-instrumentalist Lucas Saur, who made Yugo Limbo’s and Day Lane’s passion project his first foray into video game music, Smile For Me vinyl comes in two mouth-watering shades – a “teeth” white variant, and a “lollipop” pink and green swirl variant – and delivers Saur’s venturesome score in all its colors.
While the first batch of 500-limited copies was already snagged by die-hard Smile For Me fans – with the second one already being in the works as we type this – believe us when we say: there are only a few things on Earth as satisfying as listening to “Epilogue” on record.
As the space-age accelerated, so did developers’ interest in the infinite unknown. Hence the No Man’s Sky, JETT: The Far Shore, The Outer Worlds and countless other spacefaring adventures with epic sci-fi soundtracks. While there’s something special and new in each one of them – considering most of them nowadays come in procedurally generated worlds (or should we say universes), it only seems fitting – System Era Softworks’ 2016 co-op exploration game Astroneer offered a fresh take on traditional beeps and boops heard in its cosmic contemporaries.
It took 7 months for James Webb telescope’s breath-taking photos to reach Earth, and it took almost 6 years for Rutger Zuydervelt’s, also known as Machinefabriek, impressive soundtrack to reach our record player. Mixing experimental electronic beats with slow, meditative ambient rhythms, Astroneer’s LP comes in blue translucent color housed in double-sided inner sleeves that are beautifully illustrated by James Gilleard. And while it only features 17-tracks, from the final 43 (spanning almost 2 hours), hearing tracks such as “Cave 5” or “Exploration 2” scratching under our turntable’s needle is nothing short of spectacular.
Last but not least, something a bit punchier. Sam Houghton’s and Joe Collinson’s rock-heavy collaboration comes all the way from burning pits of hell straight to Black Screen Records’ limited edition vinyl for rhythm-based shooter BPM: Bullets Per Minute.
While we can’t deny being a bit skeptical (at first) of the idea of separating BPM: Bullets Per Minute’s killer soundtrack from its gameplay, where each gun and shattered skull is an instrument of its own and player its maestro – all our doubts faded away as soon as Black Screen Records‘ vinyl reached our hands. Featuring two marbled LPs, one red/black, another orange/black, and an additional bonus track (“Yggdrasil’s Roots” by army musician Reuben Hawthorn), BPM: Bullets Per Minute helluva gorgeous record comes as a contender to replace Mick Gordon’s phenomenal music for Doom Eternal as our new favorite rock soundtrack. Journeying back to Asgard at 33RPM has never been more fun.