Grant Kirkhope
Banjo​-​Kazooie


4.5
superb

Review

by PostMesmeric USER (84 Reviews)
January 28th, 2014 | 35 replies


Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Kirkhope's mastery of variety, virtuosity and versatility makes the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack a watershed of creativity in game music and one of the best gaming soundtracks ever composed.

Banjo-Kazooie’s 1998 release on the Nintendo 64 is still fondly treasured in gamers’ minds. It remains a defining 3D platformer, one that even took steps beyond the genre’s archetype of Super Mario 64. Many people remember the titular duo, the wacky level design, and the goofy-as-all-hell humor, but any gamer whose played the game can by default hum a bar from at least one of the level themes. The Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack was written by British composer Grant Kirkhope, whose earned a number awards for his work in gaming music (and even made a guest appearance on the popular Youtube gaming series Game Grumps). His soundtracks are the embodiment of gaming classics of the past, but when you look at the music in a more precise light, you realize that there’s much more than catchy tunes and bouncy chords. Over the course of seventeen tracks, Grant Kirkhope rewrites the rules with how you make video game music. His use of charming composition is second only to his inventiveness; Banjo-Kazooie is a showcase of Kirkhope’s incredible ability to create so many different atmospheres with such a small toolbox. It’s one of the finest pieces of gaming music ever to hit a cartridge, disc or digital download file.

If you’ve ever played Banjo-Kazooie, or even just watched the opening cutscene, you’ll remember the main characters each playing distinctive instruments. Banjo’s titular strings, Kazooie’s buzzing kazoo, Tooty’s flute and Mumbo’s saxophone/xylophone/fiddle combo are just the beginning of what the game’s soundtrack has to offer. Kirkhope’s multi-faceted music background allows him to implement a tremendous range of instruments in nearly every theme. To be fair, the instruments from the “Main Title” are normally the most frequent to appear in the other tracks, but the fact that Kirkhope is able to introduce all of them into so many different environments and moods is nothing short of magical. Take one of the best tracks “Rusty Bucket Bay.” Kirkhope’s upward and downward scales on the xylophone side are complimented with slippery trombones and muddy saxophones, realizing the nastiness of a dirty harbor. Kirkhope doesn’t represent every single instrument in every single track, but his ability to use so many in so many different contexts while still sounding apropos to the theme is downright superhuman.

Each level’s background music has distinct ties to the levels themselves, and with that level diversity, the music is equally varied. “Freezeezy Peak”, with its wintery themes, has plenty of very nimble string arrangements. “Click Clock Wood” has a wonderful flute piece leading the winds section, and the crowing of birds adds in plenty of smart uses of sound effects. In fact, sound effects become a big part of many of the themes’ appeal, as heard with the dripping noises in “Clanker’s Cavern” to represent sludginess and filthiness. “Gobi’s Valley” uses traditional Egyptian influence with a “snake-charming” woodwind cue and, once again, a great use of saxophone for rhythm as opposed to melody. Kirkhope is able to vary the tempos as well, as “Gobi’s Valley” presents a faster pace compared to the somber and spooky “Mad Monster Mansion” theme. When listening to Kirkhope’s themes, you can perfectly envision the levels themselves, even if you’ve never touched a cartridge or even a controller before.

If there’s one big issue with Kirkhope’s release of Banjo-Kazooie’s soundtrack, it’s that it doesn’t contain every single theme in the game. That’s hard to articulate, but some levels have multiple renditions of the theme. For example, the music in “Mumbo’s Mountain” changed depending on where you were in the level. The main level theme has a catchy woodwind theme, rhythmic horns, along with xylophone and banjo inclusions, but as you approached a certain area in the game, the music became tribal, with pounding drums and chants. Many levels had this dynamic musical style, but Kirkhope’s release only contains the main themes of each stage (with the exception of “Nab Nut”, which is also a short theme from an area in Click Clock Wood). This does leave out a rather large number of excellent performances in the game, but considering how much music Banjo-Kazooie cranked out in that single cartridge, the full release would be extensive to an almost impractical degree on Kirkhope’s part.

There’s a reason that Grant Kirkhope’s music is so revered in the gaming world. He’s always been able to capture the magic of so many unique worlds in his compositions, embracing charm and never neglecting imagination. But looking at his compositions on a cognitive level, it’s clear that his multi-faceted talent in composing and astounding versatility in mood, tempo and instrument choice is something spectacular not just for game music, but any medium. Even when using identical instruments for two themes, Kirkhope is able to make each track sound fresh and completely unique. While the release itself is more a “greatest hits” than a collective anthology of all of the wonderful music in Banjo-Kazooie, the fact that these hits are still…well…great is not worth ignoring. The steady evolution of music in video games has erupted into a web of detours that is frequently disorienting in this day and age, but Grant Kirkhope’s work on the soundtrack of Banjo-Kazooie is a charming and wondrous accomplishment from beginning to end and one of the finest collections of video game music ever created.



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user ratings (33)
Chart.
4.3
superb


Comments:Add a Comment 
PostMesmeric
January 28th 2014


734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yup, I reviewed this. I write for a gaming website and I recently wrote an article about game music,

so this was kind of on my mind. As you might assume, I love it.



If you're curious, Grant Kirkhope has distributed the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack on his Bandcamp website

(name your price, no minimum): http://grantkirkhope.bandcamp.com/album/banjo-kazooie

Chortles
January 28th 2014


21291 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

holy shit 2nd best game ever created after banjo tooie of course pos for gruntilda

larrytheslug
January 28th 2014


1587 Comments


"still waiting for Threeie"

one can dream...

MisterTornado
January 28th 2014


4507 Comments


thank you. thank you. thank you.

MisterTornado
January 28th 2014


4507 Comments


kirkhope also did some fantastical work with graeme norgate on the goldeneye 007 soundtrack

MeatSalad
January 28th 2014


17377 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i can't not 5 this

MisterTornado
January 28th 2014


4507 Comments


always loved how this and donkey kong 64 ran blatantly on the same engine

deathschool
January 28th 2014


22902 Comments


i can't not 5 this [2]

Fuck it.

MeatSalad
January 28th 2014


17377 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

people hate on dk64 hard but fuck, that game was my childhood

deathschool
January 28th 2014


22902 Comments


Banjo Tooie was the better game.

The music in this was perfect though.

deathschool
January 28th 2014


22902 Comments


I played the hell out of DK64. Pretty sure I never beat it.

MeatSalad
January 28th 2014


17377 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i never beat it as a kid. king k rule boss fight 2 hard

deathschool
January 28th 2014


22902 Comments


That feeling of your first rage quit. Ahhhhhh.

larrytheslug
January 28th 2014


1587 Comments


SAVED BY THE BELL!!

MisterTornado
January 28th 2014


4507 Comments


i'd think any hate would just be an unfavorable comparison to banjo, which is a shame. DKC64 created an interesting world of its own.

Keyblade
January 28th 2014


26157 Comments


Fuckin holy yes omg

Vakarian12
January 28th 2014


4088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great game lots of nostalgia



spiral mountain is so good

tommygun
January 28th 2014


26839 Comments


fuckin swee pos banjo 4 lyf

indigonowhere
Emeritus
January 28th 2014


10727 Comments


Fuck yes. This and Donkey Kong 64 are some of the best videogame music I've ever heard.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2014


56207 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Grant Kirkhope is god

Digging: Lil Peep - Come Over When You're Sober Pt. 2



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