Enslaved -Odyssey to the West- Original Soundtrack
Enslaved -Odyssey to the West- Original Soundtrack
Namco Bandai Games
October 8, 2010
Download at Amazon MP3
In 2010, Ninja Theory’s epic interactive adaptation of the novel Journey to the West was released to universal acclaim. Following a successful collaboration with the developer on Heavenly Sword, British electronic artist and film composer Nitin Sawhney returned to score the music and he took a particularly deep approach. The resultant soundtrack was available as a physical release and digital supplement with certain editions of the game and has also been released for independent listening at various music scores.
On the opening track “The Right to Enslave”, Nitin Sawhney immediately reflects his individuality as an experimental electronic musician while capturing the post-apocalyptic setting of the game. He somehow manages to create a particularly dark and immersive soundscape by repeating a range of minimalistic electronic fragments and distorting them in a range of ways. However, this is only the beginning and the subsequent “Cloud Surfing” — combining the radiant voice of a boy soprano with hostile electronic components. It is a song full of contradictions that can only be truly understood by experiencing the music with the visuals. Much like Nitin Sawhney’s original albums, the music is nevertheless still satisfying on both an emotional and intellectual level on a stand-alone basis. It is completely original yet profoundly meaningful music like this that has earned the artist Mercury Award nominations and it is delightful that he is now offering innovations in game music too.
The score also features the weight of The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in many of the more epic tracks in the soundtrack. Early in the game, “Rhino Chase” offers a breathtaking backdrop to an intense pursuit; Sawhney captures the formidable nature of the mechanised enemy with heavy textures and war cries, while capturing the physical pace and psychological effect of the pursuit with relentless string motifs and pounding ethnic percussion. The layering here is characteristic of the approach of an electronic musician, though it is clear that Sawhney nevertheless understands how to orchestrate to produce the boldest sounds. Other immersive action works include “Slaveship”, which features the brutal orchestral dissonance and chaotic tribal rhythms associated with the avant-garde greats of Jerry Goldsmith’s The Planet of the Apes, and “The Battle”, a fusion of orchestral, electronic, and rock elements with a great presence on the battlefield.
Sawhney created this soundtrack, above all, to portray the journey of Monkey and Trip. As a result, there are plenty of tracks on the soundtrack that are explorative and revealing in some manner. Some reflect the deep emotions of the character, such as “Back Home” with its fragile and tragic small ensemble performance, or even “Threat” with its fear-provoking dark dissonant soundscapes. Others such as “Catch the Dragonfly” have a more outward focus with frivolous fiddle parts and scenic ethnic infusions, but are still integral to the overall experience. “The Hero’s Journey” is the most encompassing of all entries on the soundtrack, combining the various personalities and colours of the soundtrack into a brisk ever-building march. Note that there are small fragments of voice acting at the start of each track to emphasise the journey of the characters. While some will appreciate this approach, it does slightly detract from the music itself and potentially reveals spoilers too.
There are two other vocal tracks featured on the soundtrack. One is a deep blues performance by Richard Ridings, the voice actor of the comic relief Pigsy. The lyrics present a very humorous twist on the conventional blues format, providing a personal perspective from this ‘big ass man in a pea brain world’, while the snorting only serves to emphasise his porcine nature. It’s definitely a select taste, but undeniably fitting and creative. The dark trip-hop performance “No Death in Love” reunites Sawhney with Tina Grace once more. The vocalist beautifully interprets the English and French lyrics above an ethereal backdrop of electro-acoustic elements. The music is incredibly poignant on a stand-alone basis despite its understated quality and somewhat short length, though its emotional impact will no doubt be even greater in the game. It is followed by a string quartet and solo piano performance that lead the soundtrack out on a soft, reflective note.
Overall, the soundtrack to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is impressive. Nitin Sawhney shows considerable creativity in his offerings here, ranging from piercing orchestral epics, to electronic and tribal fusions, to gorgeous vocal themes. In doing so, he offers music that truly enhances the outer and inner journeys portrayed in the game, while also offering stand-alone listeners something emotional and profound to behold. However, it is highly recommended that consumers experience game first to fully appreciate the soundtrack in the context it was intended.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.