Every instrument has its calling, and the synthesizer was made to illuminate the alienation of the computer age. The soul-tugging, heart-drowning, breath-arresting sounds championed by artists like Vangelis can’t be reproduced with strings, pianos, and flutes. Those are more organic instruments, and our new alienation is anything but natural. The Primordia soundtrack, while not wholly original, is a love letter to the synthesizer and a meditation on loneliness.
The mature opener, “Primordia,” sets the tone for the entire album, touching on three themes: melancholy, mystery, and the suggestion of the existential. The music seems to send out eerie synth tendrils that plumb the depths of human existence, which mirrors the effect of the game. Indeed, all three of these themes permeate the game as much as they do its music, making the two perfect companions. The soundtrack, however, has one advantage over its parent game: no sidekicks.
Almost every track is worth hearing here, and there are few I routinely skip when using the soundtrack as background music. “Horatio Nullbuilt” combines mystery with the deep sadness brought about by living in a broken world. Horatio is truly alone against tomorrow. “The City of Light and Glass” is one of the most atmospheric tracks, and one can just imagine a metropolis overrun with wayworn, aimless robots. Those gentle to boisterous wavering synth buzzsaws make an appearance in quite a few tracks, like “Conduit,” which has a sort of classic sound. “Unniic” moves me. “The Dunes” perfectly distills into a brief song the plight of the lone wanderer, and “Clarity” has a smooth, more traditional synth sound that is nonetheless soothing. “The Gospel of Man” is a beautiful and reverent robot hymn.
These are among the best, but “To the Tower,” “Ticket,” “Train,” and many others also make a strong impression on the ear and mind. There are various bonus tracks as well as two original vocal tracks. “Cycles” is a rather innocuous end credits type of song, while “Dreams of Green” evokes the heartbreak of the apocalypse. In art, we often see the wild, savage side of the end of the world while ignoring the malaise it would cause. The tortured vocals and audio filters make “Dreams of Green” a touching piece. There’s also a clean version for the sake of completion.
Some of the tracks, like “Forfeit Enemy Plunder,” are noisy and abrasive. Usually appropriate for the in-game events they accompany, these tracks aren’t necessarily pleasant to hear. Others are too monotone and subdued to be memorable, including “Crash” and “Shells.” Generally, the middle of the album is the strongest and the ending probably the weakest, as the tracks begin to resemble one another too much.
When the Bladerunner Blues strike, you don’t want to be caught without music, and the Primordia soundtrack is the perfect two and a half hour potion. To enhance a mood, set an atmosphere, or improve focus, this soundtrack does wonders. Although not brimful of originality, Primordia’s music arouses genuine emotion, and Nathaniel Chambers should be lauded for his accomplishments.