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No Man’s Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe
You have to hand it to 65daysofstatic, scoring music for an ‘infinite universe’ is no easy task, but it is one they have undertaken with vigorous intensity and commitment. The long awaited multi-world No Man’s Sky is a game which promises to be equal parts impressive and overwhelming, much like the soundscape curated by the Sheffield foursome. Atmospheric, broad, and at times downright scary, 65dos have managed to communicate a vast universe which lives and breathes.
And live and breathe it has to. No Man’s Sky is hailed as one of the most ambitious video games to date. It is a world of space exploration where roughly 18 quintillion (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, really) worlds are generated for exploration by algorithms, much in the same way that melodies and sounds from the band’s score will be developed and spliced throughout the game. Sounds both complicated and exciting, right? This sense of familiar musical sounds being constructed by computer algorithms gives this record the kind of prodigious and overwhelming impression needed to convey the complexity of such a downright scary scope.
‘Cinematic’ is a word thrown around a lot for post / math rock groups, but it is the marriage of a broad landscape with delicate self-observation which sets 65dos apart. The anxiety and urgency of 2004 debut The Fall of Math sits comfortably alongside delicate melodic runs and stripped back instrumentation. No Man’s Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe is an album of dynamics, exploring the scope of the vast cosmos it scores, while at times expressing personal and introspective existentialism. The familiar offbeat and disjointed percussion of earlier records still pervades, especially on ‘Monolith’ and ‘Blueprint for a Slow Machine’, but is often drawn back in by concretely placed blocks of harmony and delicately executed melodic lines.
‘Heliosphere’ is certainly one of the most impressive and experimental tracks here, moving forward with a beautiful yet strangely altered melody which often verges on the uncanny, yet stopping just short. It reaches far, but avoids being lost in the vastness of the sound scape; it does not forget who the subject is. In much the same way, ‘Escape Velocity’ alters what would have been a relatively pretty piano part with those same urgent dynamics and dissonance which is at once off-putting and addictive. There’s something of Mike Morasky’s scoring for Portal in the wonderful ‘Red Parallax’, which aches and creaks its way through eerie electronic paths, before exploding into some of the best live drumming on the record.
It is helpful when listening to this record to bear in mind the vastness of the game play, the complexity of the project overall, and yet had this been an album for it’s own sake, that same sense of great expanse would not have been diminished. It is a true sense of wonder and discovery when engaging with this narrative; I don’t know what the story is, but I know exactly what it looks like. By the time ‘End of the World Sun’ comes around, a sense of reward and closure is inevitable. You’ll have earned familiarity with the discordant block harmonics, pretty and aesthetic melodies, and clamorous percussion.
It remains to be seen in what way this score will interact with the gameplay of No Man’s Sky. The project overall is anything but traditional, yet this record is one of those rarities in scoring, for video games especially; it curates a boundless and compelling narrative unto itself. The experimentation of the music within the game’s environment will surely be something to behold, but I have no doubt that it will work. Computers and machines making music as they go along is as 65dos as it gets.