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The Soul of Wit – S&S LP: BotSB (Review)

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Oscar Wilde said that brevity is the soul of wit. Does that apply for abbreviations as well?

Ah, who cares. Let me just spell it out for you. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is a cool indie game that you owe it to yourself to play at some point (it’s available for iOS and PC/Mac via Steam). Heck, even the Japanese are playing this indie treat.

The soundtrack for the game, entitled Sword & Sworcery LP – The Ballad of the Space Babies, exists in digital, vinyl, and cassette tape formats. But let’s put format aside and focus on content… after the jump.

What is the soul of this soundtrack? And is it “witty?” How could music be witty?

I have no idea. But I do know that the track titles are interesting and the music is clever. There is something about this album, much like Jim Guthrie’s personality, that is simultaneously laid back and intense. It’s in this tension between carefree and intentional that something beautiful is found.

The opening track, “Dark Flute,” features a flute repeating simple four note patterns, when it is rudely interrupted by some powerful uilleann pipes (making me immediately think of the prog-rock Celtic band Iona). A simple opening theme goes from fun and simple to epic and powerful. And somewhere in the moments of tension between that, I think “holy crap, this is really good.”

Then there are the tracks that got arranged for Scythian Steppes. What’s important to remember about those tracks is that, awesome as the new arrangements are, the source material is already pretty catchy. Among them, “The Prettiest Weed” and “Unknowable Geometry” are my favorites. The former is poppy and tonal enough to make it a college radio hit. The latter is just … weird, and wonderful.

The final two tracks of the OST really stand out to me. Now when I say “final two,” I should note: the first 14 tracks are the soundtrack proper, which appear on all versions of the album. An additional 13 tracks, 15 through 27, exist only in the digital release. So I’m referring to tracks 13 and 14, “The Whirling Infinite” and “Little Furnace.” The former of these two builds and builds until finally this strange, space/robot voice that’s had all the tonality sucked out of it, announces a strange numerical code that is spoken as though it were a countdown, except the numbers aren’t exactly descending. After that, we are placed back in a happy and beautiful shelter. “Little Furnace” gives off a nice, simple warmth with its fun and catchy drum loops and bass patterns. The high notes, the “melody” as it were, is what establishes the song’s major-key identity. It’s what tells us, “this is happy times!”

Now, among the bonus material, there are some forgettable tracks, some short tracks, and some must-listen-to tracks. Tracks 25 and 26 fall into that last category. They are “How We Got Old” and “And We Got Older,” respectively. About half way through the first track, the music begins to fall into some sort of rapid entropy. It disintegrates fully, and in its place we hear the sounds of children playing at a park or playground. Eventually, a “Speak-n-Spell” voice says: “People will continue to get older, so it is no good waiting until the universe re-collapses to return to our youth.”

The listener is left to chew on that statement as the one track transitions to the other, a simple swinging 3/4 track based in a minor key and featuring acoustic guitar as the instrument that holds the whole track together. Eventually, various string ensemble synths join this intense track, and finally we get a nice jazz trap set as well. Oy… it’s perfect. And some days I just don’t want to admit how old I am. If I want to wallow in that sorrow, this track does the trick nicely. Hopefully it can mean something more positive to you, dear reader!

For those of you interested in the physical artifact, know that the cassette tapes have already sold out, and as of this writing, there are about 100 vinyl LPs left. Grab ‘em while you can, or go the easy route and just buy the digital album. It’s all for sale via Bandcamp.

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