Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Erik Wollo - Visions (2016 Compilation)

For those of you who don't know much about him, Erik Wollo is a Norwegian composer who has been composing soundscapes all of his life. If you'll give his Wikipedia page a look, you'll be astounded by just how many recordings he has released in their “selected discography” which means that there is actually much more to be had. Here especially is a good introduction to his pieces, a collection released earlier this year by Projekt. As I love to do, let's take these song by song and try to convey the emotions displayed throughout each piece. As Wollo is most known for his electronic and ambient soundscapes, it seems perfect that the almost aquatic “Echotides No. 4” would start us off. It starts out rather light, like a flowing stream, but builds pressure as it increases to include a bit more activity and perhaps even a bit of a dancey vibe. It's very meditative however, but not so slow that I would recommend it for something of an astral projection attempt. “Revealed In Time” comes next, and it feels a bit eighties. That's fine with me, being a lover of that New Wave style. This feels like it could actually be used in a game title theme at first, perhaps during some silent story cutscenes. Like it's predecessor, it increases to add more activity an becomes quite dancey. It still seems like it could be the theme for a science fiction game or visual novel, and I've heard similar approaches there. It's pretty unreal, to be honest and I'm quite carried away by it. It certainly feels like it could introduce or illustrate something, which makes it an electronic soundscape with added weight. What the piece would introduce is up to people who are not I, but I do know that I'd love to hear as the soundtrack for an electronic medium in the future. It's beautiful. “Gateway” makes me think of being on the bridge of a ship, often reminding me of the soundtrack used in a space-themed RPG. It fits too, and you won't believe how well. It definitely feels trippy, but it also has a definite metallic vibe (as in steel, not heavy metal – I just didn't want to say industrial) and also features a guitar (also, not comparing it to heavy metal music.) This piece only reminds me of some of the best atmosphere music I've heard in games, and I'm sure there will be lovers of that kind of music more than eager to buy this record just for the first three I've mentioned. “Visions” brings back that aquatic feel (and there's still a guitar to be had here) which really makes it trip-worthy. This is the kind of track you'd want to listen to if you were looking for a good atmopshere while reading something very out there, perhaps as an instrumental backing to a muted film (not surprisingly, Wollo has provided many soundtracks to various films and documentaries around the world.) Like all of the others, it is a piece that I could listen to several times and not get tired of.

Now when we get to the second half of the disc, we'll experience “The Native Chant” which begins with an actual chant and then seems to go into the underground of some odd planet, or maybe I'm thinking of the quirkiness of the Earthbound soundtrack. As the piece changes, it adopts a bit more bumpiness, which makes it a bit dancey. Again, this is still a very slow and meditative track, which isn't the kind that one could properly cut a rug to. Perhaps this is more of a slow tribal dance, which I'm quite sure a few people have attempted whilst listening to the piece. “Misty Blue” features a bit of mystical whirring, some guitar and playful electronic beats that seem to make me think a little of Zeal from Chrono Trigger. You just sort of imagine the piece illustrating this massive floating island landmass, and you can sort of visualize that in your head. There are people on the island, and they live in these spectacular looking buildings, walking about their day as they work and toil in a realm that just seems incredible. The next piece we have is a remix of “Within These Walls” which has a bit of a saventies flair, with added guitar for good measure. I'm not real sure what the original sounded like, but I definitely like this remixed version and Wollo obviously thought it was better, which is why it is here instead of the original piece. I cannot stress how much lovers of atmospheric game music will enjoy these pieces. The final piece on this record is that of “Airborne 2” which starts out very misty. It later incorporates small crystalline melodies and eventually grows more upbeat as the listen continues.

It's pretty easy to see why Erik Wollo is such an accomplished composer, as with just an hour's worth of selected material, we're delighted by what we've heard and I'm quite sold on the man's ability. I've loved Steve Roach's work for years, but I really seem to enjoy Wollo's on a different level. As I said, these pieces sound like they could illustrate something and I can just picture the electronic mediums in which I'd hear them in. For the last time, if you love some of the electronic soundscapes used in video games today, you'll absolutely love this collection and undoubtedly much of his other work. I'm really quite surprised to see that in several decades of gaming, Wollo hasn't ever had a part in it. That could be due to personal choice, but I could definitely see a few games out there that would have greatly benefit from his work. Some developers can make great games with subpar soundtracks, and something like this could really, really help their causes. If you're new to his music, please pick up this compilation and experience these very catchy soundscapes for yourself. It's just a compilation, but I love it.

(8 Tracks, 49:00)


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