Remember Me, Oliver Deriviere’s newest soundtrack and another title strengthening the position of cyberpunk in games, was keeping me in high hopes ever since I heard the first, quite promising snippets from the album. But at the same time, I was uncertain and somewhat worried about how good the album would actually turn out to be. After all, the French composer’s previous productions were equally promising when they were announced, but in the end of the day, they were hardly better than mediocre. In the long run, Alone in the Dark was painfully unimpressive without the Bulgarian choirs, and Of Orcs and Men was an album whose appeal hinged on the merciless exploitation a single idea, which gets old pretty fast. Does Remember Me end this unfortunate streak?
No, it doesn’t. Instead, this album breaks the mold and takes the composer’s works to a whole new level. At last, I can listen to Deriviere’s album that actually works. But to the point. We are talking about a soundtrack to a game set in an alternative future, in a world with dangerously fine lines between reality and the ocean of zeros and ones. Similar fictional worlds tend to have a small number of strong musical “stereotypes” associated with them, deeply rooted in listeners’ minds. They’re mostly present in films (Ghost in the Shell, Matrix, Blade Runner), but the trend is becoming noticeable in video games as well (Deus Ex: Human Revolution). The French composer resisted the temptation to use obvious references to the genre’s classics and, instead, he opted for a different solution: a symphonic orchestra “sliced” with glitching, electronic sounds. The appeal of Deriviere’s idea consists in the asymmetrical, drastic character of this “slicing”. Tracks such as the Neo Paris, The Ego Room or the one opening the album, Nilin the Memory Hunter, are full such glitches, sudden fadeouts and other “controlled errors”, which on the one hand make you think of the Wachowskis’ trilogy, but on the other hand have a quality of their own. And the most important thing of all, contrary to what I was worried about when I first heard the snippets, the electronic sounds don’t overwhelm or dominate the music, and aren’t just an ugly scar on the face of compositions performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra. The tempo-breaking trick works pretty well, too, partly because it’s used in moderation. The album also features tracks completely devoid of any signs of electronic cacophony (Still Human, Our Parents), which gives the listeners a moment to catch their breath and then catches them off guard with a powerful jab, like The Enforcers or The Flight.
Good ideas are one thing, but without a solid foundation (i.e. good melodies and instruments), the music would be doomed to turn out shallow and unimpressive. Luckily, this aspect of a composer’s job was never problematic to Oliver Deriviere. Did you love Edward Cambry or Who am I? from Alone in the Dark? Remember Me is even better. Free from the restraints of horror music clichés, the composer could finally pull out all the stops, creating an album filled with dynamism which his earlier works lacked (additionally enhanced by the electronic beat) and with clear, transparent melodies. No more unfinished phrases, no more melodic ambiguity, just distinct, clear-cut notes. And then there’s the last piece of the puzzle: a full orchestra, not present on such scale in Deriviere’s earlier works, which makes the impression even stronger. The wind section is doing a fantastic job with an equally excellent accompaniment of the string section, and if that’s not enough, vocal parts on electronic steroids appear every once in a while. It’s hard to overstate how amazing this album is.
Now that I have listened to Remember Me Original Soundtrack, selecting a candidate for the “album of the year” category suddenly looks like a much easier choice. The album is the unrivaled leader, ahead of the competition by a few lengths, and even the most anticipated to-be-relased OSTs are unlikely to become game changers. What makes this soundtrack so outstanding is the multitude of melodies, the impeccable implementations of a risky idea and a very well-thought structure, a feat so rare in video game music. Its only downside? My favorite Alone in the Dark OST lost much of its appeal when contrasted with this gem.