Posted By Austin Yorski about 4 months ago
Do you know the name Jim Guthrie? No, he’s not related to either Woody or Arlo Guthrie, but he chose the same profession: musician. The Canadian indie rocker has plenty of albums to his credit, but it’s his foray into the world of gaming that brings us here today.
Guthrie first established himself with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP a video game that is just as much a concept album as it is a point-and-click adventure title. The game takes place in “Sessions” on the eponymous Extended Play record. This central conceit plays out in scenes where the player character, The Scythian, flips over the disk to visit a parallel dream world in order to advance on her quest. It’s a surreal, hypnotic experience, thanks in no small part to the brilliant score.
In addition to atmospheric tracks like “Dark Flute” (above) and “The Prettiest Weed,” the tone can quickly shift to downright horrifying with numbers such as “Death to Everyone.” It’s a testament to the unique ambiance of Superbrothers that it can pull off such juxtaposition without feeling schizophrenic, but Guthrie handles it masterfully.
Of course, Sword & Sworcery wasn’t the last time gamers heard his work alongside some amazing interactive electronics. Indie Game: The Movie features a Jim Guthrie OST to go along with the stories about the creation of Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Braid. Whether you’re watching Phil Fish teeter on the brink of collapse or Jonathan Blow contemplating the death of rapper Soulja Boy (that is not a typo), the experimental pulse of the backing track is right there along for the ride. It’s also worth noting that the track names are as playful as the instrumentation, making use of puns like “Syncing Feeling,” references like “The Other Castle,” or out-of-context quotes like “Army of Assholes.”
With all that said, it should come as no surprise that his non-video game work is just as excellent. His 2003 album Now, More Than Ever was met with critical acclaim and award nominations, and deservedly so. While I can wholeheartedly recommend Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Indie Game: The Movie, and their soundtracks to any video game fan, I would also steer you in the direction of his studio work if you need more indie goodness. As a matter of fact, here’s a track to start you off:
Will we see Jim Guthrie revisit video games in the near future? I sure hope so. His sonic landscapes are as vast and strange as the most audacious titles on the market, and with Austin Wintory’s Grammy nomination for the Journey score, we can finally start to feel optimistic about the sounds of gaming being recognized for their artistry.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.