01 - David's Theme
02 - Street-Smart Sam
03 - Never Going Back (Sam's Theme)
04 - Sam's Investigations
05 - Rumours About Dr. Styles
06 - Safe In Arms
07 - The Daedalus Club
08 - Misleading Signs
09 - Set A Trap
10 - Lady Byron
11 - The Vision Laura
12 - Angela
13 - The Lab
14 - The Happening
15 - The Experiment
16 - The Effect
17 - The Black Wand
18 - David's Theme (Piano)
19 - The False Laura
20 - Never Going Back There (Instrumental)
21 - Angela
22 - Safe In Arms (Instrumental)
When I reviewed Gray Matter, I mentioned that the music, gameplay, and graphics came together to immerse the player in a big way, but I emphasized the role that the audio played in that immersion. Even out of the context of the game, this is beautiful, absorbing music that stands up on its own.
Composed by Robert Holmes, husband to the game's designer Jane Jensen, and performed in part by his band The Scarlet Furies, this soundtrack (a promotional disc included with the German special edition of the game) hits all the right notes for an adventure game score. There are moments of beauty and moments of somber contemplation to be found here, and all are memorable.
One of two vocal themes on the album is The Scarlet Furies' "Never Going Back," a track that will find its way into your memory by the end, as it is utilized a few times as a leitmotif throughout the album. The main vocals sound great, and the background vocals are a great complement. The other vocal theme is "Safe in Arms," and I personally find it to be the stronger of the two. The track creates the feeling of its title, with the lyrics and the instrumental section combining to really give a sense of peace and safety.
"Sam's Investigations" is an understated piece featuring soft plucked strings and an accompanying piano part that produces a sense of melancholic calm, hinting all the while at an underlying sense of tension. Many of the songs follow a similar pattern to this, which is likely a result of the game's story. "The Vision Laura" stands out as one of the best tracks on the disc, utilizing background female vocals and the theme from "Safe in Arms" to stunningly beautiful effect.
Some of the tracks lean a bit more towards chilling, foreboding sounds, particularly near the end of the disc. A great example of this is "The Experiment," a frequently-used song in the game; it makes use of dissonant piano chords and some synthesized sounds to evoke a darkly inquisitive mood.
The two character themes are great, and function well as an aural representation of the protagonists, David and Sam. "Street-Smart Sam" is essentially a piano/instrumental version of "Never Going Back," and embodies the sense of youthful optimism with an underlying melancholy that her character is based upon. "David's Theme (Piano)" is a darker piano version of his original theme, with lots of low notes and high chords making up the main melody, with some distorted synth sounds in the background. The track is a great indication of his grief-filled life, a man of science driven to the fringes of his field by his suffering.
Since the album came with a limited special edition of the game (from Germany), finding it might be a problem, but if you can, I promise you won't be disappointed (note that digital-only versions can also be purchased from iTunes and Amazon). When the argument for video game music as a valid branch of the art comes up, Gray Matter is the kind of album you cite as evidence of the "pro" side. It is a wonderful example of the things that can be done and the emotions that can be stirred through the music of gaming.
Reviewed by: Stephen Meyerink