|Record Label: Materia Collective|
|Catalog No.: MCOL-0222|
|Release Date: September 9, 2019|
Buy on Bandcamp
Lena Raine has returned to the mountain – and lofty though its heights may be, they haven’t deterred her from charting a new path.
Celeste’s legacy is lofty, to be sure. If you’ve heard of it, you’ve heard it too: the soundtrack set a new standard for adaptive video game music and left a lasting impression on countless appreciative ears (ours included).
But that legacy speaks for itself now; and in its aftermath, Lena has chosen not to revel in it. Celeste: Farewell may be the wrap-up chapter for an indie treasure, but for Lena, the album is also a clean slate – a fresh chance for unbridled musical exploration. So let’s toss aside any tendency to compare Celeste: Farewell to the original soundtrack in terms of quality: like a certain set of characters in this wonderful universe, they’re really two parts of one whole.
Instead, let’s explore the ways in which the two complement and deviate from one another.
A year’s time has passed since the original soundtrack debuted, but “The Empty Space Above” will bring listeners right back into the sound world. Consisting of little more than a sparse, synth-infused piano homage to Celeste’s main theme, calling out through a void of reverb and a soft flurry of white noise, this introductory track will have Celeste fans feeling right at home.
But Celeste fans shouldn’t get too comfortable too quickly. Listeners may recall how the Celeste’s initial sweetness periodically gave way to unnerving musical themes lurking beneath the surface. Farewell never goes quite so far, but it does plunge into the underlying threat from the get-go. Track two, “Fear of the Unknown”, chills the soul with a terse percussive pattern and a frigid, fragmentary piano melody before mixing in a shuffling beat and wormy synth bass. Then comes an eerie violin melody – the first instance of Farewell’s simple yet cunning new theme. These elements and more culminate in a track unlike anything in the original soundtrack, with Radiohead-like levels of unease and timbral ingenuity.
Don’t get too comfortable with those sinister overtones either: Farewell follows them up with a classical chamber piece in “Joy of Remembrance”. Sure, the “Fear of the Unknown” theme cuts in every now and then, but the dominant mood here is bright and playful, thanks in no small part to the subtle inclusion of electronic elements in the track’s second half.
Like the original soundtrack, Farewell inspires emotional responses all across the spectrum. “In Stasis” soothes with a heavenly chord progression on washed out pads. Following a brief and unsettling “Crash” interlude, “Beyond the Heart” kicks in with invigorating string writing and synth work over an energetic drumbeat. Save for the gloomy piano part at its core, the track comes across like Farewell’s “Reach for the Summit” analog.
Farewell’s true climax, however, has yet to come. Before that, it’s back to the darkness in “Final Defiance”. The clanging percussion and haunting piano ornamentation sound discomforting enough by themselves, and before long they leave the listener alone in a sea of agonized pads. For a while, Farewell offers no comfort: the “Futility” interlude is somber and devoid of resolution, and the isolated and icy “Reconciliation” blends the melodies of “Awake” / “Little Goth” and “Fear of the Unknown” for a heart-wrenching piano solo.
But the payoff is well worth it. Suddenly, the soundtrack breaks free from the murk with a mesmerizing beat, capped off by an addictive one-pitch piano pattern alternating between legato and staccato notes. A warm texture slowly emerges, comprised of chords and arpeggios supplied by synths, additional piano parts, and even the choir from the original soundtrack’s “Confronting Myself”. This is “Farewell”, the namesake and highlight of the album; and it sets the stage for a climactic moment of fan-service, when Celeste’s main theme collides with the “Fear of the Unknown” theme in an epic synth-violin duet.
The album begins closing shop with “The Woman and the Bird”, a short, spacious and pensive piano piece that bids the “Fear of the Unknown” theme farewell. “Vovô e Vovó” calms things down even further, at first reprising the original soundtrack’s “Madeline and Theo” guitar solo in a deeper register, and then shifting into a tender rendition of material from “Beyond the Heart”.
And Farewell’s final track…is like nothing you’ve ever heard in Celeste. Just wait and see.
On multiple occasions, Celeste: Farewell recreates the magic of its predecessor – but that’s not the point. Read the album synopsis on BandCamp and you’ll understand. In the wake of a breakout hit, the weight of expectation can serve as a constraint on creative freedom. In Farewell’s case, Lena didn’t let it. The result is a soundtrack which takes Celeste in different directions, while retaining the same focus on delivering an emotional impact. For that, Farewell deserves admiration in its own right. It’s a solid collection of music, both within and without the world of the original Celeste; and it, too, may tug at your heartstrings long after you’re done listening.
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Posted on September 16, 2019 by Reilly Farrell. Last modified on September 16, 2019.