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Stephen White just released a mammoth-sized “mixtape” (OST + arrange) on bandcamp for the new indie game Break Blocks (from the studio Greater Good Games). This strange new rhythm-based block-breaking game was apparently in need of A LOT of music. And Mr. White delivered.
Can you keep up with this album’s pace? Is it all that good? What about those arranged tracks? These questions and more will be addressed after the jump.
Whew … that’s a lot of music. Only a dance album could get near 3 hours by accident.
And we have a lot of flavors of dance. Unfortunately, they are all uncomfortably wedged under the umbrella of “House” music. Only a precious few tracks dare wander outside common 4/4 time, and most of the songs are designed to run at a moderate tempo (~120 bpm) and they end at the 4 minute mark. Indeed, they serve their purpose for the game, and having toyed around with the game, I must say that the music works well in-context.
What doesn’t work, for me at least, is listening to this whole album in one sitting. It’s just too much. The tracks all run together, and the clever titles and their nuanced variations from vanilla four-on-the-floor dance music are lost.
So, while I do enjoy this soundtrack, I don’t enjoy listening to the whole thing at once. I pick out one or two favorites and listen to them a few times over. Once I get tired of them, I have a huge bank of other Stephen White tracks to try out, and I’ll take them one or two at a time. Much like, if you were trying to master individual stages in-game, this is what you would do. By the way, that game can be purchased directly from the developer for a minimum price of $1 (suggested price of $5).
My favorite tracks, for the record, include “The Goatee Float” (track 9), “Wax On, Spin Off” (track 19), and the final stage track, a totally epic one, “The End of All Dance As We Knot It” (track 23).
But, strangely enough, my REAL favorite tracks aren’t Stephen’s originals at all. I still have to credit the guy for writing the original tunes, but my favorite part of the mixtape is the arranged side (which, by the way, all arranged tracks are available for individual download FREE). There are a total of 13 arranged tracks, each one arranging an individual pick from the OST side in a decidedly different genre. For example, the first track, Ryan Ike’s “Point Breaking Dance” is a neo-Baroque organ invention, a la J.S. Bach, for the first minute. Then some modulated bass (i.e. — dubstep noise) cuts the organ off and the track goes all crazy dance electronica, but in a manner and with a sound palette totally foreign from what White’s soundtrack has. It’s madness.
Now, my favorites among the arranged tracks are piano tracks. The first one, Aivi Tran’s “ShostakoV-Kick,” is probably the single best track on the entire album. Seriously, you gotta give this one a listen. Here, I’ll throw the embed in to make sure you do…
An arrangement of track 3 from the OST, “V-Kick Madness” (itself one of White’s better tracks), Aivi Tran takes an already awesome song and puts it in the context of a big, bombastic Russian folk dance style on piano. Hence the Shostakovich pun. I absolutely adore this track, and would love to learn how to play it myself. Though, I suspect, I’d need two of me to pull it off. I’m not sure if it’s written to be a duet, but my hands aren’t awesome enough to recreate this one.
The other piano track is Christian Floisand’s “On Three Pianos,” the final track. This one is just downright pretty. Very decorative, but never losing sight of the beat … until it does. There’s this lovely high-octave section around the 2 minute mark, and after that, everything goes rubato. It’s brilliant and dark at the same time. I love it.
The other arrangers do a great job too, and they have great track titles that sort of represent what it is they’ve done to the track. For example, Open Heart Sound has this track “The Den of All Ants As We Know It.” It’s a sort of dubstep-flavored trance remix of “End of All Dance” that misplaces various pieces of the track, throws in reversals, and generally just plays with the structure of the track. Very cool.
So, the mixtape. Given the sheer quantity of the album, the $5 asking price is certainly fair. But, again, I wouldn’t do what I did the first time ever again. One straight listen to this whole album is an invitation to madness. Take it in pieces, savor the good stuff, the stuff that resonates with you. There’s enough music here that anyone can find something they dig, even if they hate to get up and dance. Get it on bandcamp.Tags: Bandcamp, Break Blocks, Break Blocks Original Mixtape, Dance, Greater Good Games, House, Indie, Review, Reviews, Rhythm Game, Stephen White