After a fun-filled week of gross inaccuracies hurled around about amazing game Mass Effect, we need to clean the noise of this latest round of unfairly demonizing video games out of our collective ears, so let’s focus on the soundtrack album for the game. The good folks at Sumthing Else Music Works released this little gem before the holidays. We've only recently been able to take it for a spin, but it is a space-faring ride that is well worth it.
Prudish ears please note, just so we are clear on this, there is not a single bit of exploitive nudity amongst the notes played on this disc. We’ve checked thoroughly. Not a single naked eighth note to be found. However, if you so choose to use this as background music for your next horizontal docking procedure, you do so at your own risk.
The compositions are from veteran game composers Jack Wall and Sam Hulick with additional music by Richard Jacques and David Kates. The disc breaks down into 37 tracks, with most running an average of 2 minutes. Fans of early 80’s science fiction are going love this album. The combination of orchestra and analog synth sounds instantly evokes the styles of music found in classics like “Escape from New York,” “The Running Man” and “Blade Runner.” The influences of the German electronic music scene are also very apparent as you listen, so if you have heavy doses of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis or Klaus Schulze taking up space on your iPod, then you really should consider dumping a few megs to make room for this, even if you haven’t played the game.
The musical passages range from intense orchestral flourishes to icy synth ambience. The “Mass Effect Theme” opens the album and builds from a quiet intro into a pulsating electronic rhythm and then a majestic orchestration. “Battle at Eden Prime” features an all-together too short electronic hook right out of John Carpenter’s soundtrack playbook. “Saren” and “Virmire Ride” are more great examples of brilliant but too short sequences of analog goodness. Well ok, so maybe there is something naughty here. Track number 24 is entitled “Love Theme” and yes, it is the music played during one of the love making scenes. What did you expect? It surely wouldn’t fit beneath a sequence of combat against the Geth with its pretty piano riffs now would it?
The closing track on the disc comes to us by way of Alberta, Canada and the indie rock outfit Faunts. Titled “M4 Part II,” this appropriately spacey tinged song runs a full 8:17 and features some haunting guitar and synth interplay mixed with a dash of 80’s new wave vocals which combine into a great piece to play during the game’s credits.
Usually the best video game soundtrack collections are the ones that stand up on their own, away from the digital imagery they were meant to accompany. While the music plays fantastically well in-game, taking a casual listen to it away from the controls is also well worth it. Granted, the hardest of the hardcore Mass Effect faithful out there will have owned this album since it came out, but those of you who haven’t picked it up/downloaded it from iTunes yet should consider doing so as the music plays equally well away from the game. Need a space themed bit of background music to fill in the silence of your morning tour of the intertubes or as you pilot your fossil fuel powered ground transport? This is your album.
On a related musical note, Jack Wall will be conducting pieces of the Mass Effect soundtrack on the current leg of the Video Games Live world tour, so if this amazing show comes anywhere near you, you should set your controller of choice down for one evening and get out to see this unique concert experience.