by manny marx
Posted on Dec 26, 2015
At 17 tracks plus 8 bonus tracks, Spencer Riedel's soundtrack for Bearcowboy's game Charlotte Seeker is a fountain overflowing with stellar musical landscapes. Get ready to be taken on an hour-long musical escapade!
Since the indie pixel game boom, Chiptune music, casually known as "video game music" by most, has been the go to for all kinds of video game related media. Despite going hand in hand with gaming —the genre is traditionally composed on Nintendo Gameboys— it's a fairly popular music scene in its own right.
The reason I am bringing up chiptune music is because that is the first thing that came to mind when I started listening to this soundtrack. However, I have to point out that Spencer Riedel's soundtrack is a proper video game music score and not just some chiptune music used in a video game. In fact, I think labeling this soundtrack simply as "chiptune" is somewhat of an understatement because there is a great deal going on within these 25 tracks. It's not my intention to slight chiptune music at all, I only want to stress how adroit Spencer Riedel's creation is.
For starters the Menu Theme is non-intrusive and has an introspective ambiance to it which in my opinion makes a good menu theme. It also gives the listener a nice treat for listening all the way through, something that I've always enjoyed about menu music. As a veteran gamer hailing from the 8-bit / 16-bit era myself, the songs fit very well with the retro aesthetic of the game. Many of the songs have a Nobuo Uematsu feel, one notable example being "Squids" as its heavy drum beat is reminiscent of "The Vedlt Theme" from Final Fantasy VI. This is just one song of 25 which just goes to show how on point this soundtrack really is. On the topic of beats, Spencer Riedel skillfully uses an array of acoustic percussive timbres throughout the soundtrack as well as within individual compositions. By doing so it creates a unique contrast which I feel differentiates the soundtrack from the typical chiptune sound.
What I enjoy most about this soundtrack are the range of music styles that are utilized. For example the track "Nerve" has a reggae-ish bass line with chords on the upbeats, "Frostbite" has a Latin grove with Mario Bro Mushroom power-up scale runs, and Primordial starts off with a dirty drum and bass style that breaks into a Classical era (or is it Baroque?) scale runs. I also enjoy the returning themes shared between some tracks like in Squids and Heat. Like I wrote before this soundtrack has a great deal going on and when I wrote "musical escapade" I meant it. After listening to Charlotte Seeker - Games On Cassette in its entirety Spencer Riedel let's you that he ain't lacking any skills the music making department.
Four of the eight bonus tracks are renditions of "Nettles", "Thorns", "Frostbite", and "Nerve" which are all great especially "Boss Music". "Little Fugue" is a chiptune rendition of Bach's "Fugue in G minor" which is pretty fucking rad. Unfortunately, the bonus tracks aren't available for listening on the Bandcamp page however you will receive them with your purchase of the soundtrack and for $7 USD it's a steal. I must have listened to it from start to finish 4 times already and some songs (Squids, Heat, Primordial, and Little Fugue) double that amount in only the span of a couple of days. I am hyped to play Charlotte Seeker so I can get the full experience!
Spencer Riedel is a very talented individual and as a fellow music maker his soundtrack is an inspiration. Whether you are into video games or not definitely checkout the Charlotte Seeker - Games On Cassette. You can listen and purchase the soundtrack on Bancamp and/or see it in action at Bearcowboy's website and Facebook page. You can also contact Spencer Riedel on Twitter @SpencerRiedel