Exile’s End Original Soundtrack
Exile’s End Original Soundtrack
September 2, 2015
Download at Bandcamp
Exile’s End will probably be remembered in years to come for two things. One, for being a fascinating example of international influences and collaborations coming together. Two, for being a product that squandered so much potential. The same is true for the soundtrack by Brave Wave’s Keiji Yamagishi (Ninja Gaiden, Captain Tsubasa). For this title, Yamagishi shifted away from his typical melodic sound in favour of a more ambient one inspired by the Commodore era. Yet while the core concept of the soundtrack was excellent, as with the game itself, the way it was embellished ended up being completely lacklustre.
For Exile’s End, Yamagishi developed a fusion sound influenced by a range of areas and eras. Throughout the soundtrack, he hybridises his signature chiptune elements with ethereal Commodore-esque synthpads and edgy bass components. One of the best examples of this sound is “Fuel, Oxygen, Heat”. The composition creates an retro futuristic sci-fi feel by combining distorted synthpads and piercing chiptunes into one fascinating, beautifully-produced timbre. While most of the composition is lulling and unmelodic, Yamagishi incorporates a fantastic melody at 0:41 mark that serves as a recurring main theme of sorts for the soundtrack. But be warned, the melody is extremely short-lived even though it’s the only one to be featured in this entire soundtrack. However, this was an artistic choice to ensure the soundtrack focused on ambience and it isn’t what is responsible for the soundtrack’s downfall.
The soundtrack’s killer flaw is its excessive repetitiousness. Take “Ripples in the Pond”. This 3:30 piece revolves around just a couple of chords peppered with some meditative beats and bass chords. While far from inherently bad, these components are too minimal to serve as a core for a composition and quickly become irritating as they’re repeated throughout. The bass-driven recapitulation of the main theme at the 0:51 brings some charisma, but it’s far too little too late; within 15 seconds, we’re already thrown back into the boring old idea. Even worse is “Miner’s Groove”, which is three minutes of the same thudding chord and electronic beat repeating over and over. The attempts to decorate it with ambient sounds and electronic noise are superficial. With just one chord on offer, some might not even consider this music.
There is one piece that gets the formula right, “Inescapable”. Following a introduction peppered with electronic noise, the composition develops into a moody jazz-tinged piece. Rather than repeat its core figure ad nauseum, Yamagishi takes the composition into fascinating new directions from the one minute mark, bringing fresh grooves, memorable hooks, and dynamic variety along the way. It’s the one composition here that shows ambient, subdued compositions can still to be interesting. But following these compositions, there are far too that are tedious at best, annoying at worst, whether another one-chord wonder in “Anomalous Readings” or the relentlessly dull closer “Updrafts”. Even the decent title theme “Unexpected Challenge” or the aforementioned “Fuel, Oxygen, Heat” manage to overstay their welcome as they loop one too many times. The soundtrack only lasts 29 minutes, but the end couldn’t come soon enough.
While Keiji Yamagishi developed a strong style for Exile’s End, he failed to embellish it the way he should have, resulting in several extremely repetitive and often downright annoying tracks. From Fastfall to FEZ, there are numerous indie scores that hybridise ambient and chiptune elements to vastly superior effect and have a more reasonable pricetag to this. But don’t give up on Yamagishi altogether. His Retro-Active original albums, also published by Brave Wave, are much more satisfying and are faithful to his signature sound.
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Posted on January 13, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 13, 2016.