Saturday, May 21, 2011

Calle Hansson: Dark Nebula 2 Soundtrack

     Dark Nebula and it's fantastic sequel are two iPhone games that shook the gaming community when they were first released. The British record label Hunter's Moon also played through these 'episodes' and recognised the fantastic sound that propelled the player through the game. Determined to get the soundtrack released, they contacted 1337 Game Design studios, who also wanted the soundtrack to get as wide a listen as possible. Available on iTunes right now, I was sent a copy of the seven tracks by Hunter's Moon, and I'm very please they did! Calle Hansson is a Swedish composer and musician whose sounds bring an atmosphere and level of immersion to the Dark Nebula universe that lifts the bar for IOS game music. Bearing in mind that the soundtrack is replayed and repeated during the actual game, this album weighs in at only twenty minutes. But boy, what a twenty minutes they are; tense, thrilling and hauntingly eerie,
     The album kicks off with the menu music, a fantastic mix of sounds. There is a few notes at the start that remind me a lot of the old Lara Croft video games, in the sense that you feel on edge, as though something is always around the corner. This is reinforced by very electrical, industrial hums that seem to signify an approaching danger that cannot be outran. A track splattered in quick, consistent beats and smothered in an atmosphere worthy of any respectable spy film, it marks the start of a brilliant gaming experience.
     The second song for me is the best track on the record. The hum of an unknown planet is littered with far off noises. The scurries of small animals and the sound of birds pepper the thick atmospheric smog. Deep, booming notes penetrate the darkness, balancing on glitchy pops and ticks. The end of the track calms, with quieter sounds and beats that eventually fade out into silence. A thick forest of noise that I absolutely love.
     A factor to this album that sticks with me and enhances my enjoyment, is the fact that there is definitely a story behind it. There isn't just a single feeling for every level of the game. The menu is different from the rest, as is the end. The second track, 'Rough Landing' is about being stranded at an unknown location and is a sturdy peg from which Hansson hangs the rest of the soundtrack. From there we discover a factory, from there a desert. The sense of travelling from one place to another is one that works very well.
     The track slap bang in the middle of this record feels very different to the second, mentioned before. Instead of hums and very organic sounds, our ears are filled with the hiss of doors opening and the sound of metallic knocks. This creates a great contrast to previous songs. The minutes leading up to 'Main Factory' are filled with the sense of exploration, while a new feeling of infiltration and urgency is expressed here.
     The end is a magnificent conclusion to a magnificent album. The calm wind is the perfect backing for the sense of closure this track gives to the album. The very pure and relaxed feel to the melody gives a sense of escaping from your cell, bringing forth images of rolling hills and the fresh mountain air. The beats that are consistent through the second half though, feel as though they are there as a back for the credits rolling up, nothing more. The album as a whole though, is inspiring and the most musically creative that I've seen in an iPhone game, period. At only five pounds from iTunes, this is a bargain well worth checking out.