Step Back and Take a Listen – Music in Games #6

Welcome back to another Music Monday, I hope you have had a pleasant weekend. Today I want to discuss a story told almost as much by the music as by the gameplay. Darren Korb has been composing for Supergiant Games since Bastion, and the soundtrack was one of the best video game soundtracks of the year. His second title, Transistor, was even more astounding.

Korb has described the genre of the soundtrack as “old-world electronic post-rock”. I simplify that to blues ‘n’ bass, less for the accuracy for that precise set of words, and more for the fusion of overarching genres. The music is evocative, and mirrors the world around it with a precision I can only hope to aspire for. The world of Transistor is a technologically advanced dystopia, set within a tron-like city where the ruling council can change the city with a keystroke and your enemy is a rogue computer system.

You play as protagonist Red, female vocalist, activist, and victim of the ruling council’s censorship. Much of the game’s music utilizes passages of humming to reinforce this imagery. However, in a flashback early in the game, we hear her voice for the first time in We All Become as we reach a lone microphone within an empty theater. Ashley Barrett performs the role of Red, and her vocals in this piece are haunting and beautiful. A soulful blues melody sung over liquid drums and a hall piano’s arpeggios plays over a cutscene telling the tale of the night prior and how we got “Here”. While the lyrics are most definitely written for the game, they are striking and thought provoking even in the real world.

Korb has said that one of the goals for Transistor was to have a more integrated design. He speaks of the same concept I have focused my discussions on. I could talk about how pop game tunes are solid songs, I could talk about how the Mario theme is one of the most universally recognized eight notes, but as good as these compositions are, they don’t reflect the game in the same way as those I have discussed. Integration takes good to great, and excellence to outstanding, and Supergiant Games sees that.

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