If music is a key part of your video game experience, you should definitely play Transistor. Composer Darren Korb shows off his stuff once again in the second game developed by American indie game studio Supergiant Games. The Transistor soundtrack is strong enough to stand on its own, debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard Soundtracks chart, and is the first video game this year to land on the list. The album deserves to pop up on Royksopp or RATATAT Pandora stations, and it deserves to be listened to by you, dear music lover, whether you like video games or not.
While the soundtrack of Supergiant’s previous game Bastion was heralded for its unique sound that mixed eastern sounds with hiphop beats, Transistor’s soundtrack is just really great triphop. The high treble of the hiphop drums are the driving force behind the reverberating guitar licks and echoing vocals. Besides triphop, Korb also includes other elements of electronic music, such as backward samples, machine noises, and dubstep instruments. Of course, Korb is creative as ever with these electronic music techniques. In “Vanishing Point,” he uses feedback as backing flourishes to an ominous piano motive with loud hiphop drums. Other examples of creative spins on triphop tricks flit in and out of the soundtrack.
Korb describes the Transistor soundtrack as “old-world electronic post-rock.” Though I lean more toward categorizing the album as triphop, there are definitely elements of post-rock in it, such as the fuzzy bass, the shimmering and wailing guitar chords, the roaring waves and crashes of sound, and the mass use of reverb. Returning singer Lynn Barrett also matches the new post-rock feel with sad, lofty vocals. Overall, the extremely soothing atmosphere of the album may very well be welcomed as post-rock.
If you’re a fan of the Bastion soundtrack, definitely don’t be discouraged by all the elements of electronic music. The familiar sound of Eastern instruments mixed with hiphop beats still pops up in various songs on the Transistor soundtrack. Korb extends this technique of mixing hiphop beats with unexpected instruments unique to certain genres, such as with songs like as “Coasting” with the Spanish guitar, “Water Wall” with an accordion, and “Sandbox” with a slide guitar. After the success of the Bastion soundtrack, Korb definitely couldn’t overlook the style of his debut album in the follow-up, and he absolutely didn’t.
Supergiant urges its audience to play Transistor before listening to its soundtrack, as the music is deeply connected to the story. However, even if you don’t have time to play the game (available on Steam), you should definitely check out the album, made available to stream by Supergiant.