*** Welcome to a Joint collaborative teaming-up together-y simulcast post thing with the lovely Sarca Sim on the game and soundtrack to the game Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. Read a review of the game right here ***
After reading a bit about the game Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture a couple of months ago I decided liked the idea of a peculiarly English apocalypse, the end of the world as seen from a village in rural Shropshire, along the same lines as all the John Wyndham and John Christopher books I used to devour and so I investigated further. I stumbled across an interview with Jessica Curry the co-founder of the game developer and found myself totally sold on her and their goals and ideals for the game, I was impressed to find that she had composed the BAFTA award-winning music too and liked what she had to say about that as well*. So next stop was a trailer for the game, the visuals dazzled me but the music was what I was left with, it totally haunted me.
Anyway, bish bash bosh and 4 weeks later a very cheap** and very beautiful LP arrives for me. It’s a really beautiful object too, a sumptuously appointed gatefold double album put together by Sony Classical and Music On Vinyl with a nice insert and limited to 500 copies on white vinyl*^, mine is #479. I’ve long argued that there is a damn sight more creativity and care put into a lot of games these days than movies, certainly in the mainstream arena and increasingly too, in their soundtracks; but more of that later.
The acid test of any soundtrack LP^^, movie or game, is whether it stands as a work of art without the ding-dong it was written to accompany in the case of Jessica Curry’s Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture that is a resounding big, fat affirmative.
Appropriately for a game which makes so much of its bucolic pastoral and quintessentially English setting, the soundtrack is rooted deep in the same soil. I can hear definite shades of composers like Edward Elgar and especially Ralph Vaughan Williams work here, itself highly informed by his questing for peculiarly English sound which took him back to Tudor and folk roots, in the choral sections of this soundtrack. Jessica Curry has said that she wished to tie the music into the setting by utilising English choral traditions, which of course takes us to church – not coincidentally of course as the traditional hub of a village such as Yaughton and as the first story we unravel in the game is that of the vicar, Jeremy – who off-puttingly, sounds exactly like me when he speaks.
But it isn’t all choral by any stretch of the imagination, the likes of ‘Finding The Pattern’ present us with a really interesting palette of sounds and instrumentation which are not as traditional as might first appear – there are definitely synths and Pro Tools manipulations lurking beneath the wheat fields and the music is all the better for it as it means this is not simply a retooled, reheated modern melodic classical greatest hits, which could lean towards pastiche if Curry wasn’t careful. There is far too much invention and vision here to ever tread that route.
Without treading on a certain game reviewer’s toes and invading her bailiwick, I found playing Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture an intensely emotional experience, exhaustingly so at times. The narrative arc takes you through the main events through a myriad of characters’ experiences but the overriding emotional concerns are loss, empathy, hope and uncertainty. The soundtrack delivers this superbly of course, indeed, as any good soundtrack should be, it is the primary vehicle for conveying this in the game world.
Shorn of the visuals I have found the impact increased rather than lessened by the music, how many minor keys and soaring string instrumentation can you take? on this evidence, for me, the answer is a lot more. The soprano voice of Elin Manahan Thomas is a spellbinding thing, eerily almost genderless in its purity at times and it is a moot point whether you take hope, or sadness from the overall tenor of the songs^*.
Like any good soundtrack Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture functions so well as a seamless whole that it is difficult to single out any of its component parts. Today’s favourites are the exquisite quiet glory that is ‘Liquid Light’ and the folksy lilting ‘The Mourning Tree’, which makes my marrow ache with sadness and ‘The Light We Cast’ which echoes elements of Fauré’s Requiem in its frank declarations of love and resolution.
This article was a fascinating read about Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture and the processes involved in the making of the soundtrack and the role perceived for it in the game. I love the idea that because Curry was involved in the overall creative process in designing the game that her music actually influenced the look and feel of it, that the soundtrack was a totally integral part of the game’s foundations.
Interestingly this album has, I believe, had a great deal of success in terms of classical radio here in the UK, bringing this music to a wholly different audience from us gamers and vinyl geekoids – that it has done so, shows the strength and integrity of Jessica Curry’s musical vision and quite astonishing talent. This is powerful, moving stuff and one of the best and most unique LPs I’ve heard in an ice age. If you’d told me six months ago that I’d be spending a hefty portion of my listening time fixated on a modern predominantly classical soundtrack I’d have scoffed at you, patronisingly.
White vinyl too!
PS: I own two game soundtracks on vinyl, this and Wolfenstein: New Order and if I had the time, money and totally cold boring outlook I’d collect all the ones I can find, they’re just the sort of zeitgeist-y limited edition things that will be worth a fortune in 30 years time.
*^there’s something really great about white vinyl, I don’t want to get too Freudian here it always looks so pristine and unspoilt, despite the ongoing depredations of my little tone arm.
^^and I mean soundtrack in the sense of ‘score’ here rather than the rag-bag of different songs type.
^*I just made a very erudite soprano / tenor joke there. Sorry, just thought I’d point that out so you can all be sure to realise just how great I truly am.