The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter Original Soundtrack
The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter Original Soundtrack
The Astronauts (Promotional); Sumthing Else Music Works (Commercial)
September 25, 2014; January 27, 2015
Download at Sumthing
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is, without a doubt, one of 2014’s most engaging releases with story and visuals that pull you in. The most interesting aspect that is perhaps the game’s brilliant music. Right from the first track, it is apparent that Mikolai Stroinski has employed a variety of vibrant instruments and effects to give life to the game’s world. You get to hear both the sad and haunting part of Red Creek Valley, the place where the game takes place in. More importantly though, the instrumentation is so uniquely done that listeners will enjoy going through the score track-by-track.
The first track you have to begin with is Ethan’s theme, which is absolutely gorgeous due to the beautiful piano melody that balances itself on the edge of sadness and tension. The melody present does a perfect job of catching a child’s innocence and ever-growing imagination, which works great for our little friend Ethan in the game, who has a very vibrant imagination. “Valley Of The Binding Mist” on the other hand, is the theme for Red Creek Valley, a place that hides its ugly secrets beneath a breathtakingly beautiful veil. The theme gives ample importance to both sides with the vibrant woodwind and string melody showing you both the valley’s promise and its dangers. The violin just past 0:52 manages to sink my heart with its heartbreaking melody every time.
One thing I really admire that Mikolai has done, is stop himself from going overboard with his tracks, whether horror or exploratory. He sticks to what works from the beginning till the end, and so you will never start hearing loud brass or extremely high-pitched strings all of a sudden to lazily implement tension. Instead, he takes his time, and slowly builds the experience with different instrumentation and melodies. Take “Inside of the Deadly Wound” by example, a highlight horror track of the soundtrack. It uses various different melodies and techniques to grab the listener or gamer by heart, guiding them through the game’s more sinister parts. I particularly like how he gives you a healthy dosage of creepiness by throwing in brief but powerful piano sections in it.
“Lonely Planet” is another one of my favorites, and one that you will hear quite often as you start exploring the stained parts of the small town. The howling string medley is the highlight in it, reminiscent of a more classic method of horror scoring. You won’t hear him unnecessarily throwing in tasteless or forgettable electronic screeches in the soundtrack, or filter effects. Stroinski uses organic instruments to the best of his ability and excels with it. There are electronic aspects to some tracks, but they are healthily mixed with more organic techniques like in “The Dark Witch”, which even though majorly uses a slow ambient backdrop manages to add in string sections that bring its creepiness to much more organically relatable level.
I also really like how he has made well use of rhythmic percussion instruments like bells, xylophones and the likes. In my opinion, rhythmic percussion are a horror scorer’s best friend, as they have the tendency to sound both mysterious and beautiful at the same time. Play a beautiful medley on strings and it becomes heartwarming, but play it in something like bells or glockenspiel and suddenly you have a track that is not only beautiful, but also a bit creepy. You will fortunately get to see Stroinski use this to great effect throughout the soundtrack. Whereas most composers will rely on heavy sounding basslines or distorted pads to fill in the tracks, Mikolai uses a much more conventional method of rhythmic percussions.
There is some vocal work also present in this game that really elevate the mood of the game. An excellent example is the game’s ending vocal based mix of “Valley of the Binding Mist”, which takes the original track to a whole new level not only due to the hauntingly beautiful vocals but also heartwarming string sections that show that Stroinski is without a doubt able to work with a variety of techniques. The last track I have to talk about is fittingly “The Last Walk” which plays during the game’s climax. It makes well use of the heartwarming string theme heard in “Valley Of The Binding Mist”, this time on woodwind.
I have listened to the soundtrack quite a few times now, and for the first time there is nothing I would like changed in this. This soundtrack is not only a great example of how to both memorably score a game and provide a beautiful stand-alone listen but it also shows Mikolai Stroinski’s masterful and effective handling of different instruments, making the final soundtrack absolutely lush with the range of instruments it uses. Whether it be cello, piano, woodwind, rhythmic percussions or even vocals, each and everything has a very important role to play in order to provide you with a solid listen. Stroinski is absolutely talented, and he shows how you don’t waste instruments at your disposal. I would recommend this to everyone who loves music, as it is something fresh amidst disappointing horror soundtrack outings such as The Evil Within. To be fair, many composers even the big ones can learn a lot from this. The album is available digitally now through Steam and Sumthing Else Music Works.
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Posted on April 12, 2015 by Harris Iqbal. Last modified on April 13, 2015.