Girl climbs mountain; like, hard level mountain. I feel like I’m a 10 years old gamer from the late 1980 as I played this game. Partly because I kept dying again and again while trying to jump, dash and climb.
I’ve been listening to the Celeste original soundtrack. This soundtrack is intense in terms of melodic clarity and mood building. It has an awareness of retro music history yet actually builds music using modern sounds, textures and mixing.
Here are 10 things that I like about it.
1. The Piano
The piano parts and playing capture the fragile and emotional nature of the game. This alone is magical in the way it tells the story. The playing is imperfect in the best way (very emotive playing) with the parts moving in a rubato way. There’s a nice mix of classical, pop and film score influences in the parts too.
2. The Melodic Themes
A piece like “Awake” is really driven by that melodic theme – this is just really a really strong melody supported by beautiful chords that drive the storytelling.
3. The Space
“Postcard from Celeste Mountain” reminds me of the kind of aesthetic that I love to use in my own music. It’s a real contrast to a piece like “Awake” that is driven by the melody. It’s all about space and this seemingly meandering piano melody.
4. The Counterpoint
In “Spirit of Hospitality”, the is this beautiful 4 part melodic texture that is gradually built in a haunting way. Baroque inspired and a definite NES throwback vibe.
5. Rhythmic Dance
“Scattered and Lost” is a great example of a rhythmic dance that happens – serious polyrhythmic vibe driven by strong melodic motives. Is it minimalist or is it pop or is it dance? Could it all be mixed in the same piece? Yes!
6. Cinematic Textures
“In the Mirror” features what sound like backward swells with notes dying into what could have been the original attack and then that drum part. And those dark dissonant chords on the background. Everything is contrapuntal and layered so cinematically. Disturbing and haunting.
7. Those Electronic Moments
Lena Raine really knows how to have a nice balance of electronic vibes like in pieces like ‘”Reflection”.
8. Descending Basslines
For a game about climbing a mountain so much of the drama is created with ‘line cliches’, essentially chords with bass lines that descend. It’s a smart move and shows how much Lena thought conceptually about the music. Genius moments throughout the pieces.
9. Hypnotic Sound Choices
From classical sounds to electronic sounds to chiptune sounds, this soundtrack has so much variety yet it’s still coherent. Really cool.
10. Dynamics for Days
So much of the beauty of music lies in the dramatic contrast between loud and soft, busy and sparse. Celeste has all of this.
All in all, is this the perfect soundtrack? I don’t know yet, but it sure is bound to be a classic. I for one, love it, especially after reading up more about the composer’s process and what the instruments represent. Thank you for making this, Lena Raine.
If you haven’t played the game or listened to the soundtrack, I recommend doing both.
About Az Samad
Az was the featured classical guitar soloist with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) for the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy Kuala Lumpur premiere conducted by Arnie Roth (USA) at their three sold-out shows.
Az also performed for the South East Asian premiere of A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur conducted by Arnie Roth (USA) and featuring pianist Benyamin Nuss (Germany).
Prior to moving back to Malaysia, Az played in a video game music band in San Francisco. He has also been interviewed on GameSpot and featured in the GameSpot Asia Beat Podcast. After receiving 4 degrees in music and making music in Berkeley, California; Az now is physically based in Kuala Lumpur.