Boomkat Product Review:
Visible Cloaks' Spencer Doran handles the wooly soundtrack to meditative exploration game "Season: A Letter to the Future". If you're into Japanese environmental music then this one's for you - a big RIYL Hiroshi Yoshimura, Midori Takada, or Satoshi Ashikawa.
Can video games be art? The question's been posed many times, and there's still no uncontested answer, but indie developers keep pushing the limits of the medium and working out whether a user-managed experience can offer revelatory experiences. "Season: A Letter to the Future" is one such experiment, an exploration game where the main character cycles around a desolate, mostly abandoned world taking photographs and recording messages in a journal. Such an open, painterly game requires a similarly wide-eyed soundtrack, and that job falls to Portland's Spencer Doran who spent three years assembling a selection of cues that capture the game's sense of wonder. Unsurprisingly for an artist who made his name promoting Japanese ambient music (he even netted a Grammy nomination for his work on Light in the Attic's beloved "Kankyō Ongaku" compilation), his treatment is weighted in this direction, filled with tingly tuned percussion, jangling music boxes and misty pads.
The title songs are simple but memorable piano assemblages that sound robotic (or programmed) but not unemotional. The real meat of the soundtrack comes from Doran's more freewheeling compositions like 'Village Sleep Music Instrument', a chiming whirr of kalimba-like plucks and steel pan squeaks, and 'Mountain Air Instrument' that sounds like a hand-cranked organ. 'Cycling in the Wind' meanwhile is wheezy mellotron wind sounds augmented with resonant bells, and the lengthy 'Tieng Winds' sounds like chopped 'n screwed gamelan frozen into a slowly-evolving dronescape. We can't tell you what the game's like, but this gorgeous accompaniment stands alone just fine.