Quantum Break Original Game Soundtrack
Quantum Break Original Game Soundtrack
Microsoft Studios Music
April 5, 2016
Download at Amazon MP3
Between Hitman, The Division, and XCOM 2, cyberpunk soundtracks have been all rage so far in 2016. However, the easily the most interesting of the bunch is Quantum Break. After penning critically-acclaimed soundtrack to Alan Wake, Petri Alanko was asked back by Remedy Entertainment to pen their next big title. Just as his game subject shifted from classic thriller to sci-fi shooter, Alanko switched his palette from full orchestra to retrofuturistic synthesizers. The title’s 15 track soundtrack was released digitally at the same time as the game and will be coming to vinyl later this year. What’s on offer is nothing short of extraordinary.
In an era where so many composers rely on sample libraries to create their scores, Petri Alanko opted for the hard option in Quantum Break: creating his sounds from the ground-up using a modular synthesized grid. His efforts were certainly worthwhile, as the sounds in Quantum Break are some of most unique, diverse, and customised of any soundtrack out there. Take “Suite for Time and Machines”, which incorporates an incredible range of sounds in its six-minute playtime, featuring pads, beats, and distortions of so many variations and combinations. Even brief moments of this composition are intricately scored, whether the subtle incorporation of shimmering motions into the soundscape between 1:20 and 1:50, or the shape of the distorted waveforms that interrupt the composition at 2:37. Just as a Mahler symphony provides an incredible timbral experience for an orchestral listener, Quantum Break will provide an audio feast for any electronic listener or producer.
Looking beyond the stand-alone experience, the customised sounds of Quantum Break above all complement every aspect of the game. We’re introduced to the experience with “Meeting an Old Friend”. A misleadingly simple theme created for Roland synthesizers and acoustic piano, it manages to inspire much contemplation in the player through its subtle progressions in melody and timbre alike. A spectacular action theme, “Dodging Bullets” springs the player into action with its excellent pacing and texturing. The theme creates a gliding feel throughout through its ascending treble pads, but also gains increasing force in the bass department with its penetrating beats and incredible breaks. Alanko turns down the tempo and volume more than a new notches in “Beth” but keeps the emotional intensity high. In this piece, Alanko emphasises sonic contrasts between reflective piano lines with the futuristic electronic wails. In doing so, he perfectly captures that bittersweet feeling of reflecting on what could have been.
Indeed, Alan Wake fans will be pleased to learn that the soundtrack is often surprisingly mellow for a third-person shooter. In “Remote Darkness”, Alanko shuns the forceful approaches of modern tension scoring by filling the track with gorgeous synthpads and a warm melody. However, the harmonic landscape of the piece is quite a dark one which, in combination with the consonant foreground elements, creates exactly the emotions intended. Alanko uses similar approaches to ensure “Still Waters (Run Cold and Deep)” and “Disappearance” are filled with intrigue. Building on the emotional threads of “Beth”, “I Kept Waiting” and “Goodbye… Again” are two heartfelt pieces triumphantly integrated into the game’s time-travelling storyline. Whereas the first composition creates a sense of hopelessness with its obsessive string leads, “I Kept Waiting” creates a sense of conclusion — gradually building up from a haunting detuned piano introduction (a rare tasteful example of prepared instrument usage in soundtracks) into an exhilarating electronic climax.
Quantum Break may nevertheless sometimes prove a challenging listen to soundtrack collectors. After all, it is often abstract on the melody front, breaks most conventions of Hollywood scoring, and is frequently disorientating on a stand-alone level. Due to the demands of in-game scoring, tracks such as “Suite for Time and Machines”, “Damaged, Together”, and “Disappearance” shift so many times during their development, while the action-packed “Don’t Stand in My Way” seems to end just as it was getting interesting. However, each of these tracks still provides plenty of potential appeal for listeners between their dramatic potency, sonic variety, and technical mastery. This is soundtrack where listeners will discover something new on every listen, making this record enormously rewarding to relisten to. The soundtrack saves its best moments for last with “A Whisper”. In this track, Alanko bridges together his scoring approaches from Alan Wake and Quantum Break to create a soaring electro-orchestral centrepiece for the score.
It’s clear that Alanko put an immense amount of time into conceiving, developing, and refining every single track on Quantum Break. The music provides an incredibly deep support for the game, but also proves an emotionally and intellectually rewarding stand-alone listen. While the soundtrack won’t appeal to all audiences due to its unconventional, disorientating nature, it will prove deeply satisfying for many audiences, especially those with a leaning towards electronic production and cyberpunk sounds.
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Posted on April 24, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on April 24, 2016.