Thursday, January 12, 2012

YC113: a review

The community is always an important part of a gaming experience. Back when I was (more) active in Second Life, I'd admire the creative works of my fellow avatars, and to this day, really beautiful things are created in the Linden Lab world. Second Life's community is a very creative one!

In Eve Online, there's no such thing as an artist or creator. New Eden knows industry - you can create predetermined things based on fixed blueprints -  but no in world, free format creation of objects. The community discusses game mechanics, killmails, fittings, shiptypes, CCP shenanigans, nerfs and buffs.. but only rarely does art or creativity come into play, with the exception of video. Eve Online may be a sandbox where you can choose your own career, but 'artist' is not high on the list.

That's why was pleasantly surprised to see an Eve Online related work of creativity: Roc Wieler's musical effort YC113, which was released October 1, 2011. After listening to it a few times, I have to say It’s an appealing work of art and well worth a listen to. Musically, I’d characterize it as orchestral, with much drama,  power and bombast: some parts could easily have been part of a soundrack to a grand battle scene in a Lord of the Rings movie. But there’s more than just these grand musical landscapes and vistas; there’s also the intimacy of a lonely piano, a deep sense of sorrow in a single woman’s voice. 

If you’re familiar with New Eden, you will find that all these musical elements fit that sandbox universe in which Eve Online takes place.

YC113 kicks off with a musical depiction of the four races of humankind; and if you know something of the background of the four races, the music makes sense. Personally, I especially like 'Republic' and 'Empire', even though I’m neither Minmatar or Amarr! 
Some music is dedicated to NPC pirate factions and Sansha Kuvakei. Not all is well, obviously, with these people, and the music shows it: there’s rough edges and dissonants befitting the criminal nature of the subjects of these songs. 

'New Eden’s Favorite Son' and 'Love’s Pursuit' belong to my favorites in YC113. I really like them. A romantical intermezzo then follows, with ‘One Night of Mynxee’ which is not bad, but somehow sounds like I’ve heard it before.. not my cup of tea. It’s the strings, probably. 

A couple of songs then deal with Incursions, and how New Eden responds. As CTA's are called and battles rage, the music is powerful and dramatic.. Punctuated yet again by almost fragile interludes. It is fair to say that by this time - almost an hour into YC113 - the music becomes somewhat less distinctive. This is not a bad thing in itself, as the music is still worth listening to, but it does, sort of, blend together somewhat. 

Something strange happens towards the end of YC113: Roc Wieler dies. Yes, you read that correctly, the composer promotes himself to subject of a fiery death and subsequent burial! This begs the question who then wrote the music, doesn’t it? Or did he write it before death? And if Roc is a capsuleer, why didn't he just get a fresh clone? Just kidding, but from a storyline perspective I’d have chosen a different pilot name. Of course this would have meant that the references to the ongoing romance between Roc and Mynxee would have to be altered as well. 

The finale, then, is one song but clearly consists of several distinctive parts. It begins with a very basic, bare, slow rap; almost menacing in it’s effect. Followed by another piece of orchestral music, part quiet and part exciting and wild, ending in a fade out that reminds us of the vast, cold, endless darkness that is space. 
 But there’s more! There is an Alternate Finale which has the same basic construction, but is different from the Finale nonetheless. It is also two minutes longer. The rap part is musically more evolved; the orchestral part on the other hand is more basic than that of the Finale. Until half way through; a sharp intermezzo divides the piece in two. The second part of Alternate Finale begins with an orchestral part, but ends with a poppy, happy sounding, upbeat part, very much unlike anything else in YC113 actually. 

The closer, Aura (remix), reminds me of the ’90s Enigma: atmospheric, ambient, dreamy. Very nice, if you’re into this kind of thing. 

The verdict, then. I have only two points of criticism, really. The first one: some parts sound like I’ve heard them before, elsewhere. This is probably due to the fact that dramatic, orchestral movie music often tends to have certain well defined characteristics: the way chords are used, instrumentation et cetera.  It's not a deal breaker to me, but it’s still something I noted. The second point I have already mentioned: the songs between ‘Incursions’ and ‘Aftermath’ somewhat blend together. The music is fine, but it could have used more distinctiveness, to spice it up somewhat. But perhaps the music is the way it is, because a story needed to be told.. 

Obviously we’re not dealing with FM radio material. Don’t expect to be singing along; there’s no catchy refrains. These are stories, vividly told through music; in a dramatic fashion, orchestral, opera style. Not my usual choice of music, but I’ve found YC113 enjoyable to listen to, much to my own surprise. More information is available at YC113.

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