August 12, 2014 (Digital Edition); October 28, 2014 (Physical Edition)
Buy at Official Site
The music in Hohokum creates romantic scenes that are delicate and cheerful… and sometimes suspenseful. The soundtrack, written by a collection of like-minded composers affiliated with record label Ghostly International, features ambient stillness as well as techno and electronica inspired rhythms. Each piece of music takes on a unique quality while still retaining the same imagination as the rest of the album. I had some weird feelings in response to some unfamiliar sounds that were still buzzing around in my head hours after listening to the album. I even found myself singing the words to the Dear Matthew tune “Pawn in Their Game”.
The album grew on me like a friendly mold or fungus and I returned to the album during the ‘pre-release’ period on hypem.com whenever I needed a chill track. The music never really boils, but rather stays at a simmer to help a gamer achieve balance and that ‘zen’ state to help guide the snake-like character quickly around obstacles and through puzzles. With each movement of my joystick I was playing with the game and soundtrack at the same time. Being able to manipulate the sound of the music to a degree while I played was a different experience. I don’t think I’ve ever played with music quite like I have in Hohokum before.
The opening track “L” by Tycho has a brisk tempo but is not quick by any means. The techno inspired beat keeps the bass line thumping as sound effects begin to layer. The melody is delicate and mixed well with the drums so not any voice in the ensemble is too loud. As “L” concludes, it gently places the listener in the world of Matthew Dear’s, “Pawn In Their Game”. The electronic instruments used in this track are rather strange sounding. The voices could just be melotrons, but my imagination tells me that they are the creatures that lurk in the game levels singing those strange notes. All joking aside, the lyrics in this song speak directly to the listener and the story of Hohokum. The uplifting message and funky melody provide for a floating type feeling.
The energy never fades through the first half of the album and the careful listener will be surprised by the chord changes and layered melodies that never seem to repeat. It is incredible how the energy is passed from one artist to another, which makes for a fluid listening experience. The chords may be different, but the last note of one track sometimes sounds like the first note of the next. It is as if one percussionist is playing a vibraphone and passes each mallet to a partner without missing a single beat of time.
The album seems to lift you up gently and guide you back down to an ambient lull with faint melodies played in the background as if sounding behind closed doors. Once the music builds you really feel like you can guide the ‘kite-like’ character across the screen with ease and precision. The beat layers while melodies and counter melodies stack up as heard in tracks like “A Walk” by Tycho and “Emerald Plateaus” by Michna. By the end of these two tracks, the beat relaxes so the weird melodies and electronic sounds can become the focus.
While some tracks seem to have a stillness to them, others have a forward motion that guides you through mesmerizing melodies and shinning harmonies. These soaring tracks are just fast enough to feel the action and even anticipation as heard in “Air Passing” by Ben Benjamin. Time seems to stretch while listening to the slower melodies and pulsing, droning chords. Time only seems to go back to normal when the drums come in and give the melody syncopation with pulsing techno inspired rhythms. The mood stays chill and acts as background rather than dance music.
Among the groovy percussion beats and odd sound effects, there are times in which the album uses silence to add dramatic effect to the musical landscape. For example, silence is used between tracks “Raising our Ashes” by Heathered Pearls and “The Best Way Out is Through” by Michna. The space in between these two pieces of music cleans the listener’s pallet so they can taste a whole new idea.
Joel Corelitz gives a very classic video game sounding ending during the conclusion of “We Run In the Tunnels”, which sets the listener up for the final piece of music. “Super Secret End Credits” by Shigeto is not a sad goodbye like in many video games. It is rather a sci-fi sounding stream of consciousness that makes me want to find out where it will end. The pulsing pattern mixed with the pitch bent synth melody makes for a space travel type feel rather than a ‘kite’ blowing in the wind.
“Super Secret End Credits” ends with each instrument falling out of the mix leaving the strange bass line playing solo. The beat is turned around and the bass starts to sound like a drum. The riff ends abruptly and is followed by a moment of silence.
The Hohokum Soundtrack is jovial and filled with laughter as the name suggests. The music was never at any point too busy or loud which allowed the focus to remain on the game play and interaction between objects on the screen and how that affected the music. The album tells a story in itself and each of the tracks felt equal in energy. I enjoyed the calm atmosphere and look forward to listening each time I need to take a breather. The soundtrack is available through Ghostly International in digital form, with the option to bundle in a vinyl, now.
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Posted on August 13, 2014 by Marc Chait. Last modified on August 19, 2014.