Obduction Original Soundtrack
Obduction Original Soundtrack
N/A (Distributed by Bandcamp)
August 24, 2016
Purchase at Bandcamp
Robyn Miller recently returned to Cyan, Inc., in order to compose for his first Cyan game in over a decade. Miller’s return marks a working reunion for him and his brother Rand, who co-founded Cyan together before their creation and release of Myst. Now, Robyn is back after 16 years to score for Obduction, Cyan’s spiritual successor to Myst, and has created 28-track album for the game. How does his latest score measure up?
The soundtrack for Obduction is a dark one, with a very minimalist approach to instrumentation and texture. One of the first things I noticed about the score was Miller’s rhythmic direction. Few, if any, of the meters in Obduction are particularly complicated, but a surprising majority of the tracks fully exploited each beat in any given measure, resulting in a pulsing musical style rather than an ambient one. “Caroline Farley” uses piano to establish a pulsing rhythm, where the melody is completely swallowed up by the steady, metronomic chords. Other tracks approach rhythm differently; “History Lesson,” one of the highlights of the album, opens up with a sharp snare which returns periodically during the piece to give it a martial style while a cello grates out another rhythmic melody.
“Stepping over Bones” sounds more like a funeral march; while it still maintains the steady beats of the other tracks, the opening is accompanied by dirge-like notes that give it an unquestionably somber setting. “Completing Your Task,” incorporates a drumset, bass, and guitar in a dissonant track. The drumset primarily utilizes snare and cymbal for a very light sound, giving the whole piece an eerily tranquil effect.
One of the prominent instruments in Obduction is piano, which seems to be more used for its timbre than range or dynamic capabilities. In fact, aside from a few ornamental flurries in the upper octaves, many of the piano tracks in Obduction are simple, dark, and in a mid-to-low range. “Caroline Farley” is one example of this approach, but not the only one. “Alone at this Point” has a similar very minimal melody, while “Politics as Usual” is a bit higher in range, but develops a more complex structure as it progresses, and becomes almost upbeat in the second half.
Because of the judicious use of instrumentation and sound in general, most of the tracks stand out on their own. Many tracks featuring similar instrumentation still stand out from each other because they’re rare enough on the score. “Who Will Stand at Our Graves” features very low reeds, an unusual instrument for the score, and when later accompanied by low piano and strings, adds a very shadowy flavor to the album. I really enjoyed the tracks that brought together larger or more varied combinations of instruments. “Always Ignore the Damage You’ve Done,” after a dissonant opening chord, has a very lounge-style feel to it, using drumset, a casual piano, a mix of plucked strings, and some synth sounds to bring it all together.
“Post Game Tristesse,” the final song on the soundtrack, brings the same loungey instruments together again for a simultaneously melancholy and hopeful sound. I have to end by talking about one of my personal favorites, though; “Mutated Clockwork;” towards the end of the track, it develops a beautiful, complex bell melody sounding like some sort of synthed Baroque lullaby. I loved the repetition in this one; the constant pattern of bells emulated the patterns of a clock, and the arpeggios moving rhythmically from chord to chord were incredibly soothing and peaceful – an unusual emotion in this score.
I found the soundtrack of Obduction to be cloaked in mystery. I haven’t played the game, so I can’t give any definitive emotions it’s meant to evoke, but I thoroughly enjoy the murky nature of it. Some tracks seem to be giving off multiple vibes, and others are hard to pin down. “Mutated Clockwork” is a comforting track to me, but if someone else called it eerie – I couldn’t argue with that. Miller’s latest score is a delight to hear, and Myst fans will be glad to know that Obduction‘s OST is just as much of a masterpiece as that of its spiritual predecessor.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on September 26, 2016 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on September 26, 2016.