May 20, 2015
Buy at Bandcamp
Sunset is a recently Kickstarted indie title, set in the fictional country of Anchuria in 1972. The protagonist works as a housekeeper for a mysterious, wealthy man, and over the course of the game uncovers more about him and the country at war. The score is diagetic, presented to the player through various records or radios in the game. Although the soundtrack gives all of the tracks fictional artist and composer names, the score is in fact mostly composed by Austin Wintory, with collaborations in writing a few of the tracks. The score is fairly diverse, emulating the many different sounds of the 70’s, allowing Wintory to really flex his composing muscles as he again expands his horizons and shows his ability to compose for just about anything.
The album begins with “How it Might Have Been”, a moody track that centres around strings and some light guitar work. It doesn’t have an obvious hook on its melody, but it’s a beautiful piece that flows very nicely and carries the listener through the different facets of Anchuria. There aren’t really any other pieces like it on the soundtrack, although the usage of the guitar and other acoustic instruments are very common throughout. “Sycamore” is a pleasant guitar duet that is quite pleasant calming, while “In The Light of the Setting Sun” is a guitar solo with a bit more substance to its composition, though similar in pleasantries. Some piano solos are also present, under the moniker Horatio Flores. The first track “Dancing in the Sand” with its opening staccato invokes thoughts of Wintory’s work from Monaco, but it soon becomes clear that the track is much more European in flavour, a bit seductive and very passionate. “Ambrosia” is similar with more emphasis on legato. Both are great tracks that are easy to listen to over and over. Later is the quiet piano and flute duet “Occlusion”, which adds an element of mystery and ambiguity. The two work off of each other well, alternating the spotlight while keeping a balance. Again, Wintory doesn’t rely on melodic hooks, but rather on the strength of the performances and atmospheres to allure the listener to these tracks.
A couple of ensemble jazz tracks are also included in the score. The Horatio Flores alias comes back for two tracks here. “Desert Tango” leans on the lounge side of with a smooth sound and expertly handled sax and electric guitar. “The Grapevine” has a great infectious rhythm to it and a more playful sound. The emphasis on the flute here is also great, giving it a bit of an exotic touch. Under a different alias is “After Hours”, a more straightforward mellow jazz track, still fun but also relaxing. These tracks are a bit busier than the rest of the soundtrack, but they still fit in just fine while providing a nice break from the many quieter moments.
About half of the soundtrack’s material includes vocals. In “Yellow Flowers”, Jaclyn Yuan’s noir crooning is supported by a small jazz trio, while a “Broken Land” with Kirsten Etheridge expands on the sound with some sweeping strings in the backdrop. They’re both fairly short tracks, but they’re effective. The singers also have rather interesting timbres for their style, rather different from what I’m used to, but refreshing. “The Madman Of The Mountain” is a short folk theme with a short story to tell. It’s a bit harsh and not my cup of tea, and it doesn’t quite go with the rest of the score either, though it does have its purpose. “The Empress of Anza” is a funkier track with an electric performance by Tina Murray. I actually didn’t like this track much at first since it’s also quite different from the rest, but it grew on me rather quickly. It adds some variety to the soundtrack, while still taking from the same era of music.
The remaining vocal tracks are more on the softer side, with vocals that are more mature sounding and mostly accompanied by guitar. Malukah sings on “Esperanza En Duelo”, “Eres Mi Vela”, and “Autumn”, accompanied by guitar, mandolin with accordion, and organ respectively. “Esperanza” is particularly haunting and beautiful with its a cappella opening accenting Malukah’s rich singing voice. The soft guitar and the strong performance easily make this track one of the highlights on the album for me. “Autumn” is also very interesting with its droning organ and Malukah’s more breathy performance. Laura Vall tenderly sings the lullaby “Sí Mi Niño”, accompanied just by piano. The composition is more interesting on this track, and the lyrics are quite beautiful while perfectly representing the setting of the game. She also sings “Fuerza Y Valor”, which has some percussion to give the track more drive and energy, especially as it builds up.
Finally, there is the Requiem mass setting with just soprano Holly Sedillos and Tom Strahle on guitar. Wintory exercises a lot of restraint on this composition, not giving way to large embellishments or complexities, but rather working with subtleties. The entire composition is fairly unique as far as Requiems go, feeling much closer to prayer than the well-known real world counterparts. Sedillos does a great job on these, with beautiful delivery particularly on “Tuba Mirum” and “Lux Aeterna”. Strahle allows the spotlight to remain on Sedillos, sticking to a supporting role. It’s a fascinating exercise for Wintory, and in the end he produces a great work out of it with clear vision and excellent execution.
Sunset is another great score from Austin Wintory, which further shows his growing development as an artist. He does a wonderful job with the different styles presented on the album, from the varied vocal tracks to peaceful acoustic tracks and relaxing jazz tracks, and is somehow able to make them into a fairly cohesive whole. The instrumental tracks are performed well, and the vocal tracks are beautiful and moving. The compositional style is much less thematic than some of his older work, but it’s still just as engaging and more satisfying to dig into. The soundtrack may not quickly strike as something hummable or epic, but it quickly grows on you as a confident composition from a mature artist with many subtleties to discover and appreciate. It’s also a very accessible soundtrack, and should please just about anyone. I’ve very much enjoyed my time delving deeper into this soundtrack, and I look forward to the future time that I will spend enjoying the world Wintory has crafted here.
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Posted on June 5, 2015 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on June 5, 2015.