Watch Dogs 2 Original Soundtrack -DedSec-
Watch Dogs 2 Original Soundtrack -DedSec-
November 11, 2016 (Digital Edition); April 22, 2017 (Vinyl Edition)
Buy at Official Site
Watch Dogs failed to capture me aurally with its merely functional electronic-ambient soundtrack. However, I was prepared to give the series another try following the announcement that acclaimed genre masher Hudson Mohawke was penning the soundtrack. He released the game’s soundtrack, DedSec, as his third studio album both digitally on November 2016 and on vinyl in April 2017.
Right from the opening track “Shanghaied”, it’s clear that Hudson Mohawke was able to successfully adapt his signature sound to fit into Watch Dogs 2’s world. This track features an incredible diversity of timbres: hip-hop beats, deep synthpads, piano riffs, chiptunes, strings, and even a synth chorus. They all come together to create a sound that captures the Bay Area street while still sounding refreshingly bright and never too serious. Mohawke fills the track with appealing rhythms and interesting sounds, while sweetening the deal with a fantastic urban melody. Sadly, only a few other tracks can match the quality of this opener.
Reflecting his hip-hop influences, Mohawke tends to build most tracks around repeating a few core elements… the majority of which are bold, disparate, and often downright zany. In doing so, the artist usually hooks listeners with some fascinating sounds, but he doesn’t always manage to keep their attention. His audacious decision to keep hammering tribal drums throughout “Haum Sweet Haum” somehow works thanks to their distinctive sound and dynamic range. But in other cases, it seems like the artist doesn’t know there can be too much of a good thing. In particular, the central synth hooks of “Amethyst” and “Burning Desire” soon go from being charming novelties to annoying gimmicks during their considerable playtime. The same applies for the jarring chip-hop sounds of “Burning Desires (Hacker)” or the distorted vocal samples that spoil the otherwise well-constructed “Play N Go”.
The best tracks are those where Mohawke blends together various styles to create the urban mood for Watch Dogs 2. For example, the aforementioned “Haum Sweet Haum” juxtaposes those tribal drums with deep synth riff befitting the streets. Even better, “Cyber Driver” combines all the staples of the cyberpunk sound with hip-hop and modern electronic influences. The retro synthesizer at the 1:41 mark offer perhaps the coolest fusion in the entire soundtrack. Its dark Underworld-influenced variation “Opera” is also a surprising but effective, creating drama during the gameplay segments it’s used in. Also interesting is “Eye for an Eye”, which constantly shifts in mood between tense and motivating segments for the game’s critical moments. However, this track is probably the least cohesive and polished in its arrangement of all the major additions to the album.
The final issue with the soundtrack is its lack of content. Spanning 46 minutes, the album is on the short side for a soundtrack but about normal for a pop album. But of its 16 tracks, five don’t make it past the 90 second mark and four are direct reprises of other themes. Particularly disappointing are “W4tched (Cinema)” and “Eye for an Eye (Reprise)”. These beautifully soundscaped tracks give vivid snapshots into the urban environment of Watch Dogs 2, but end abruptly rather than offering a deeper exploration. But despite often losing its way, the soundtrack thankfully ends as strongly as it started. The game’s titular main theme brings together various thematic and stylistic components of the album into a penultimate track, while “The Motherload” wraps things up with some rich electronic experimentation.
DedSec is a fantastic album in concept, but a mixed one in execution. While Hudson Mohawke was able to adapt his sound to Watch Dog 2‘s world, the soundtrack provides a largely superficial overview of the environment rather than something more cinematic or interactive. As a stand-alone experience, DedSec has several excellent tracks but they’re outnumbered by those that are either underdeveloped, unpolished, or, in a few instances, downright irritating. I’d recommend streaming this album, but it likely won’t have the replay value to justify an outright purchase.
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Posted on April 21, 2017 by Chris Greening. Last modified on April 21, 2017.