Review Summary: A robotic soundtrack.
Audio designs meant for a visual medium, aka scores/sountracks, can be a hard to enjoy without it's visual representation at times. They are often filled with songs under the 1 and half minute mark that are made for a specific scene in the movie. And when listened upon in the form a CD release, it can often make for a disjointed experience.
Tomáš Dvořák's soundtrack for the indie darling game that is “Machinarium”, most definitively does not suffer from this problem.
Tomáš Dvořák (aka Floex) as an artist has been around for a while. Starting his musical career in 1996, contributing tracks to compilations put out by British labels such as Ninja Tune and Warp. In 2001 the Czech electronica composer put out is debut album Pocustone
which was an interesting mix of nu-jazz, electronica and modern contemporary music. The album manged to get several prestigious awards both in the Czech Republic and around the world. But it wouldn't be until 2006 before Dvořák put out another record. This time a soundtrack for the Czech indie game “Samrost II” by Amnita Desing. And three years later he returned to collaborate with Amnita Desing to produce the soundtrack for their new game, “Machinarium”.
The game itself is an adventure puzzle game, set in a city made by robots. After being thrown out of the city, the charismatic little robot you play as is set with the task of saving his girlfriend from imprisonment, whilst also managing to save the city from being blown up by black capped hoodlums.
The cities environments are metallic, dusty and analog but yet, organic. Apt adjectives to describe the feel of Dvořák's music. Clockwise Operetta
features lonely a piano and a clarinet, set to a ambient backdrop featuring chirps of robotic sounds but also a steady rumbling beat. Along this, a robotic voice belts out a lament, sung in the style of an old fashioned operetta. It's unique, original and quite frankly, fantastic.
This mix of ambient, jazzy percussion, and classical instruments along with the occasional robotic vocal (Created with an old Apple voice synthesizers) , makes for a extremely rich sound. The soundtrack is one of those albums where you will find some new detail on every listen.
The furthest diversion from this template is found on Gamboy Tune
. The song is heard in the game when our little robot protagonist is forced to play an old arcade game in order to progress in the storyline. The song works as a homage to old 8-bit chiptune. The sound effects from old games such as Pong and Flipper can be heard in the track. The track being just one of the more playful tracks on the album as other tracks adapts a more melancholic vibe.
The soundtrack, much like the game, is filled with atmosphere. Each track posses it's own feel. It's not hard to imagine this is much due to the fact that Dvořák has been inspired by the incredible art by Adolph Lachman which is found in the game. Some tracks (The Castle, The Prison
) are eerie whilst others (The Sea, The Glasshouse With the Butterfly
) are dream like and feel light as air. It's an album to get lost in.
As mentioned earlier the ambiance is superb, and thankfully it's not always just found in the background.The Mezzanine, The Elevator
and The Prison
could all be classified as ambient pieces.
If Dvořák's goal (as with any soundtrack) was to help envelope you into the world of “Machinarium” he most defiantly succeed. Maybe unaware, he managed to do something else too. He created a piece of music that should be considered as one of the best game soundtracks of recent years.
The soundtrack can be streamed/bought (Digitally and in vinyl) at Flolex's bandcamp page here http://innerfx.bandcamp.com/album/machinarium-soundtrack