Boomkat Product Review:
Akira Yamaoka's enigmatic and enduring scores for the early 'Silent Hill' games have buried themselves in musical lore, referenced and sampled extensively by ambient artists, rap producers, bass heads and vaporwave pranksters. 'Silent Hill II' contains some of the composer's best-loved cues, meshing woozy, beatless soundscapes with spooky trip-hop and chunky metal.
When it comes to horror videogame soundtracks, the 'Silent Hill' series is up at the top of the pile, with 'Resident Evil' coming in a close second. Yamaoka's spine-chilling soundscapes drew from the broad spectrum of dance music, sounding perfectly in-step with the sonic reality of the late '90s and using vitreous, minor-key pads and lolloping illbient beats to flesh out his library of hand-recorded sound effects. And although 'Silent Hill 3' might be the most acclaimed of the bunch, sampled by everyone from Burial and Flying Lotus to Maxo Kream, 'Silent Hill 2' is almost as meaty, providing hooks and textures to Fort Romeau, A$AP Rocky, $uicideboy$, Lil Wayne, Prodigy and plenty of others.
We can mostly avoid the bolshy rock/metal cuts like 'Theme of Laura' and 'Angel's Thanatos', but the rest of the album plays like a weird dream, likely to trigger deja-vu whether you conquered the original games or not. As soon as you hear the opening notes of 'White Noiz' you'll know exactly what we're talking about. The sounds were repurposed on A$AP Rocky's VERYRVRE-produced 'Purple Kisses' in 2012, but outside of that framework it still sounds effective. Elsewhere, Yamaoka folds in sentimental piano flourishes: the memorable 'Promise (Reprise)' has been chopped and repurposed on at least a dozen rap tracks, that don't need to fuck with much of the composer's sad but beautiful mood. All it needs is a beat and the rest is taken care of. 'Null Moon' is even better, keeping the tense piano loops, and adding a downtempo bump and tinny strings.
Similarly, 'Heaven's Night' takes its cues from early Mo'Wax, layering reminiscent minor washes under a slowed-down break, and 'Alone in the Town' sounds as jazzy and suggestive as Barry Adamson's sorely underrated 'Oedipus Schmoedipus'. There's really so much here; Yamaoka's 'Silent Hill II' score is more than a nostalgia trip or a history lesson, it's a canonical part of the underground narrative - and if you've spent any amount of time scrubbing through grubby lo-fi ambient records or Southern rap mixtapes, chances are you've already heard a lot of it.