It’s been too long since I last wrote a Now Playing post, but here it is. The fourth album to get this treatment will be Ben Prunty’s soundtrack to the top down spaceship sim FTL: Faster Than Light which was released on vinyl by iam8bit roughly a month ago.
The vinyl release was announced all the way back in early October 2015, but the soundtrack and game themselves are a few years older than that and were originally released in September 2012 after the game enjoyed a massively succesful Kickstarter campaign. But it wasn’t just the game that was succesful – Prunty’s soundtrack got a lot of praise as well and it was called “some of the finest game music of 2012” in an interview Prunty did with PCGamer.
For once I am writing about the soundtrack to a game I’ve actually played and I’m aware of how well the music works in the context of this game. I still haven’t beaten the final boss, though, but that’s mostly down to me being terrible at it…
To anyone who’s bought one or more of iam8bit’s soundtrack releases it probably doesn’t come as a shock that the packaging looks really nice.
They had already shown mockups of Leif Podhajsky’s cover art back when preorders opened to give an idea of what it would look like. But what they didn’t tell was that the cover would be printed on shiny metallic stock. It’s hard to capture in an image, but hopefully the image below gives a vague idea of what it looks like.
The release itself is a double 180g LP where the records have a “cosmic splatter” effect. This effect is a black mixed with a purple-ish red and features a heavy green splatter effect around the center of the record. Visually it goes quite well with the space theme of the game and could almost be interpreted as a first-person view of FTL travel. The records come in 2 dark poly-lined sleeves, which is nice as this kind of sleeve won’t scuff your records.
Generally, I don’t think there’s much to criticize about the packaging. Visually it is very impressive, but I do find the single LP jacket to be a little flimsy for holding 2 180g records. I don’t necessarily think a gatefold would be better, but a sturdier jacket would’ve been nice. That’s a minor gripe, though, and overall I think the packaging looks very nice.
Let’s get the all-important question out of the way first – how’s the pressing quality? The sound quality is good and you really get to hear how detailed each track is (because you’re not busy defending your ship from certain doom when just playing the record…). Ironically, large part of the soundtrack is actually quite mellow and relaxing, which might just be why it works so well with the game.
The tracks on the soundtrack are divided up in two categories – Explore (disc 1) and Battle (disc 2). The distinction between the two is quite simple. Explore music is for when you’re exploring planets, deciding where to go and, well, not fighting enemy ships. The Battle music is probably self-explanatory – it is the music that plays when fighting enemies. The interesting part is that most Battle tracks are variations of similar (and identically titled) Explore tracks. Usually in a more upbeat variant. But there’s still a great variation – while some Battle tracks are quite similar to the Explore tracks others venture into techno-like, almost danceable, territory.
It’s a collection of electronic music that stands well on its own outside of the context of the game. In part it’s great background music for relaxation, but a concentrated listen reveals details and emotion in the tracks. There’s definitely a feeling of the vast, cold loneliness of space, but it’s rarely without a warm feeling of hope looming around the corner. And this is probably the biggest cliché in describing music on vinyl – but the “warmth” of the sound on this format adds an extra dimension to this soundtrack, which I think fits it extremely well.
If you’re not familiar with the soundtrack I highly recommend giving it a listen. The digital version can be streamed via Ben Prunty’s Bandcamp.
Overall, I’m quite impressed with this release. From the packaging and visuals to sound quality and the quality of Ben Prunty’s music itself. It’s not just a good video game soundtrack, but a strong release of electronic music in its own right. Fans of either should definitely look into getting this.
Currently it’s still in stock at iam8bit’s US store as well as their UK store.
It’s also advised to check out iam8bit’s upcoming FTL: Advanced Edition OST vinyl release.This is the additional music that was added to the updated version of the game.