on 16 September 2013
Though I can't say the same of the video game, I was floored by the soundtrack to 2008's Alone in the Dark. Composer Olivier Deriviere took the melodic template of a blockbuster thriller and spun it in a completely different direction with spellbinding choral work and captivating orchestral fervor. Like Alone in the Dark, this year's Remember Me is also an action-adventure video game with stellar music, but that's where similarities between the two end. As a wonderful corollary to the 2084 Neo-Paris setting of Remember Me, Deriviere's accompanying score is a vivid, avant-garde journey through sounds both classical and contemporary.
Remember Me's sonic template originates from starkly different directions: realism and fabrication. On one hand, its lush modern melodicism is reminiscent of the colorful awe of RPG soundtracks like Hitoshi Sakimoto's Final Fantasy XII. But instantly evident is the digital treatment that Deriviere has given to the richly organic orchestra: heavy, dense processing with electronic effects like bursts of static, pulsating and sometimes techno percussion, syncopated start-and-stop flourishes, and bizarre wavering melodies akin to that of a theremin. First track "Nilin the Memory Hunter" encapsulates many of these elements, giving an effective introduction to the rest of the album and preparing the listener for music that's impossible to ignore. "Rise to the Light" turns a corner from the first track, beginning with an initially soft melody eerily similar to Jerry Goldsmith's Alien theme, soon joined by a flood of strings and a full complement of strings and horns against a beautifully-toned synth backdrop. "Still Human" starts with a deeply melancholic horn melody trading off with a solo trumpet, before the track evolves to include a tear-jerking string lead and further develops to a roiling, plodding tune with electronically-treated sound. "Fragments" showcases female choral vocals as the word "memory" is repeated in various forms, before being met with ballooning feedback, static, and electronic ambience. "Neo Paris" and "The Enforcers" set a quickening pace, the former beginning as a wholly symphonic piece before incorporating an electronic skipping effect that at first sounds out of place, while the latter enters Don Davis The Matrix and Daft Punk TRON: Legacy territory given a modern and classy spin by overprocessing and explosions of guitar and industrial influence. Seventh track "Chase Through Montmartre" rounds out the first half of the album as it twists the main theme in electronic directions before orchestral strings wind up to a maelstrom of techno percussion and a burgeoning breakneck pace.
After proud string/woodwind and theremin-styled melodies meld with heavy electronic bleeps and pulses in "Memory Reconstruction," the hugely intense collection of sound of "The Fight" begins. Deriviere's talent is on full throttle here, as what begins as a symphonic chase sequence accentuated by fluttering electronic beats and fade-in/fade-out effects flips over into processed female choral vocals, all of which at first seems obtuse and oppressive but later channels Deriviere's unique and underlying vision for Remember Me's foreign reality. "Our Parents" retracts this alien feeling temporarily, as its lack of instrumental and electronic saturation thrusts forth its simplicity, elegance, and mournful emotion. "Memorize" then begins, innocently enough at first, but soon returns to the album's nominal coalescence of strings, horns, and techno/electro foundation. "The Ego Room" immediately induces dizziness with its searing pace, yet not without a sense of wonder, as childlike choral vocals battle with constant electronic effects, punishing in issuance yet soothing in receipt. "Remember Your Childhood" seems to illustrate all the foci of the score, none less effective than the others: symphonic development, electronic beats, warbling melody, and shining beauty, whereas the next track, "The Zorn," sheds the beauty aspect for a time in favor of a harsh confrontation of oppressive horns adapted with feedback and noise. Finally, "Hope" unfurls a sad and dreamy melody whose electronic flourishes help translate to triumph and hope, a perfect capstone to this futuristic yet grounded work of awe and wonder.
Olivier Deriviere has really outdone himself with Remember Me. Even the orchestral foundation of the soundtrack would be stellar as an independent work, but Deriviere's electronic treatment therein, while adding a reeling and bewildering quality, make this a modern, exciting, and powerful album that shines on its own, made all the more effective and rich by the constant battle of symphonic fluidity and digital dynamics. Wonderful and highly recommended!