May 5th was a hell of a good day for music: Dino Lionetti of Cheap Dinosaurs released the soundtrack for WiiU/Steam game ‘High Strangeness’. ‘High Strangeness’ is perfect for any gamer who loves the creative realm of nostalgic adventures. I find that the best games of all time are ones that have a soundtrack that’s just as fun to listen to as the game is to play, and this 17-part soundtrack alone is so good and innovative that it gets me amped to play the game the second I get a chance.
My favorite artists are few and far between; they are these larger-than-life characters with deep rooted emotions who can communicate with or without words to make the listener feel what they’re feeling, which is the job of a game composer, too, regardless of whether or not the game uses interactive or loop engines. It’s hard to find musicians who can express themselves clearly this way, but when I do…
I love melodies, eerie drones for strange worlds, strong beats, and this release showcases the grace of adding onto tracks slowly with different instruments and textures. All composers and sound designers struggle at times with what to add next to a track, but Dino was able to make this release sound effortless. Envisioning landscapes from listening also comes naturally.
My FAVORITE track on the album is ‘Mountain Pass’; the track starts off with a strong 4/4 beat with bright harmonics bouncing over the heavy bass, while square waves crescendo their way in and beautifully harmonize. Every instrument makes room for the lead melody, and this track shows interesting progressions, master use of notetrackers, beautiful segues into new sections, all the while the waveforms harmonize and lead you into this futuristic yet retro world (and let’s face it: Sometimes, that’s exactly the place that we want to be). Sound design is clearly one of Dino’s strengths, and I was honestly pretty elated when I saw that the Nord Lead was used within this release (such a crazy good synth!).
“Portal/Mars” is eerie with noise, gorgeously illustrated with demented choir pads, and decorated with pulse waves. Judging by the title, it’s easy to assume that the track is paired with an outer space level; the track creates a whole new world full of different colors that brings the listener to somewhere unpredictable and strange. At 1:42, solid arpeggio (or broken up chords) patterns fly in and a melody trails over it, breaking the tense intro with melodies containing slight pitch bends and beautiful almost-bell tones to drive the track further. The arps, bass on the off beat, and acoustic-inspired percussion samples push this track and keep the player moving on their adventure.
‘Egypt’ stood out to me for the sheer reason that not only does it sound interesting, but it doesn’t sound like a generic Egyptian-themed OST. It does have the classic harmonic minor sound that is traditionally related to this part of the world in a lot of cinematic culture, but the track itself sounds different and most importantly, Dino leaves so much space for building later on in the beginning of the mix. From a producer’s standpoint, this technique really draws the listener in even more when more instruments come in at :33, when the melodies play off each other and harmonize and take turns walking around scales and arpeggiating to create unique textures.
“End Theme” is an arrangement of a track by Rich Vreeland (Disasterpeace). The track fits with the rest of the album; it’s got memorable lines, has breathing room, slowly begins to fill the sonic space, but has a sort of morose feel to it to signify the end of an adventure. The tone is bright, innocent, but dark, which I love about Rich’s writing, and I’d be curious to hear the original.
This OST was features audio created from Milky Tracker, LSDJ, and the like I mentioned previously, the classic Nord Lead. I think that everyone should have a listen, but if you’re like me, you’ll have it on repeat. More so, I think that since a lot of people in this community are also interested in games and scoring, it’d be a good idea to analyze how these tracks compliment the visuals of the game itself. So, take a listen (or five), and let’s all hope that there are more releases this good coming our way! The bar has hereby been set, but I have no doubts that there are going to be some revolutionary releases again from both Dino Lionetti & Rich Vreeland.
Until next time,
The Unicorn Princess
Sam Bennett (cover artist)
Steve Jenkins (mastering artist)