No Man’s Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe
No Man’s Sky: Music For An Infinite Universe
August 05, 2016
Buy on iTunes
How do you create a soundtrack for a game that takes place on over 18 quintillion planets? A purely thematic approach is out of the question, and another space-themed synth/electronica score would rapidly fade into obscurity. Writing music to support hours and hours of potentially repetitive gameplay is a daunting task, but 65daysofstatic took the assignment and ran with it, creating an entirely unique score.
The experience I had listening to the first track of the album, “Monolith,” was a perfect example of my experience listening to the soundtrack on the whole. The first four minutes of the track is a slow build; the foreign electronica paired with distortions makes for a foggy musical environment that is more of an experience than a sequence. Eventually, the sounds begin to shift around, and a percussive element is added, giving the piece much more of a direction. The piece continues to ebb and flow, occasionally going quiet enough to make me double check my own volume. At about five minutes into the piece, it shifts muted waves of sound to a driving, powerful force. Three notes are repeated over and over with glorious coats of distortion before the piece ends abruptly, and at over six minutes in length, I suddenly realized that it still wasn’t long enough.
“Supermoon” is more melodic and structured, bringing in a vocal element to the album, and a piano motif embedded in the sounds. Unlike “Monolith,” the piece begins rhythmically and ends with more ethereal sounds. “Heliosphere” is much calmer than its predecessors on the album, opening with an inquisitive melody that seems random at first due to its rhythmic inconsistency, but eventually repeats enough to establish itself as a motif for the piece, and even lends itself to some variance. The track overall is incredibly soothing – even as it picks up in power, the volume never really wavers.
“Pillars of Frost” is filled with a static or interference sound – the melody, like the rest on the album, is very simple, only a few notes, but is packed with the static intensity that lasts the whole soundtrack. “Escape Velocity” is something of a “part 2” to “Pillars,” as a similar melody returns, but a much more minimal setting, through a solo piano. However, as the piece continues, the static builds up again with more force than before, almost drowning out the melody with its force.
The first disc closes with “End of the World Sun,” a guitar-heavy track full of movement and that echoes the melodies of previous tracks on this disc. I thoroughly enjoyed this track especially – it had a very pure post-rock feel, and while it’s less synthesized than the other track, it still provides a consistent atmosphere for the soundtrack as a whole. The repetitive melody is filled with energy and races forward at a higher speed than the other tracks; unlike the opening track of the disc, “End of the World Sun” picks up in action relatively quickly, about two minutes in, and continues until the end.
I appreciated the division of the album because I found myself gravitating towards the first disc over the second, which went too far into ambient territory for my own everyday taste, although both discs are certainly two halves of a whole. Moreover, I did enjoy actively listening to those extended tracks more than I did keeping them on in the background; there was just enough activity to keep me wondering what was going to happen in the next part of the track. As for the first album, if 65daysofstatic was aiming for a unique listening experience, then they succeeded; I found myself listening to it for hours before having to switch to something lighter, and then going back to it a half hour later because I missed the sounds.
The second disc is also the majority of the soundtrack, clocking in at over at hour, but with only six tracks. These are more like soundscapes than actual pieces; pinning down an actual mood or style with each track is complicated, as each track tends to be rather protean. The titles suggest several tracks fused together, although even with that theory, even the halves or thirds of each track are continuously changing style. “”NMS_eteriorAtmos1/False Sun” opens with a very spacey feel and a very faint rendition of the melody from “Supermoon.” The end of the track is much more raw and pulsing, with a bright little melody coming in just before the end.
Most of these tracks have self-descriptive titles. “Tomorrow / Lull / Celestial Feedback” opens with another melody similar to “Pillars of Frost,” but with more of a resolution and less static and a soft, alien rendition a few minutes in; the center of the piece is a mix of silence, space sounds, and timid notes dotting the musical atmosphere. The final part has more activity – some strange textures that sound like a mix of sound testing and a backing track to another song. Even more raw and dial-up-esque is “Departure / Shortwave / Noisetest,” which opens true to its name, but has a surprisingly soft section in the center.
From this disc, I also have to mention the final track “Outlier / EOTWS_Variation1” (presumably for “End of the World Sun”) which opens very characteristically for the album, but after a couple of minutes, begin a beautiful piano solo that pierces the synth. The piano is very simple, but layer after layer is added onto the melody in the same manner as the tracks on disc 1, and 65daysofstatic manages to create the same effect with piano that they did with guitar in the original “End of the World Sun.”
It’s hard for me to say if I’m using terms like “alien” and “spacey” due to my knowledge of the game’s setting, or because of the music itself. It’s also difficult to describe each track individually because not only do they blend together, but each track is more about setting an atmosphere, or an experience, than it is about being an individual piece. This is more true for the second disc, but applicable to the first disc as well. Certainly there are tracks I enjoy more; I still can’t get over the power behind “Monolith” opening the album, and the unexpected crescendo of “Escape Velocity” is incredibly fun. I also love the regular use of piano, which somehow makes the pieces sound even more otherworldly than they would otherwise.
I am a newcomer to 65daysofstatic; I have read that this album is characteristic of their usual work, with a few changes, but I had no idea what to expect of the score going into it. I was looking forward to the No Man’s Sky game, and had been very interested in what the soundtrack of such an ambitious game would sound like. The game was met with mixed responses, but I have to admit that the soundtrack absolutely blew me away. In addition to a digital download on most major music stores, Music for an Infinite Universe has a 2x vinyl edition purchasable through iam8bit, and a special collector’s 4x vinyl edition through Laced Records (which is also providing the 2x and CD editions).
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Posted on September 13, 2016 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on September 13, 2016.