Dan Davenport RPG.net game reviews
some twilight region between goth, ambient, and world music, perhaps – this coul
As I mentioned in my review of the animated adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, the score by Cyoakha Grace O’Manion of the band Land of the Blind truly helped make the movie, appropriately titled Unknown Music from Dream-Quest of Kadath.
I’m no music expert. I don’t know the proper musical terms or instrument names or what not. All I can tell you is what I like and how it might work in a gaming context.
Speaking of the prospect of working on the soundtrack, Cyoakha says on her web site:
Interestingly, the result feels in many ways more appropriate as background music for a traditional Call of Cthulhu adventure than it does for a Dreamlands jaunt. Which is funny, considering how perfectly it fit the movie based on the seminal Dreamlands novella.
The CD begins with 1. “The City of Dreams,” a lush track featuring Cyoakha’s hauntingly ethereal vocal instrumentation accompanied by peaceful wind chimes, burbling fountains, and birdsong. These elements easily make it the most purely dreamlike track, ideal not only for Dreamlands adventures, but also for any roleplaying adventure involving fairies or other elusive, idyllic wonders.
2.“And If I Fall” starts the soundtrack’s descent into darkness. The looming, ominous, forceful melody mixed with Cyoakha’s eerily seductive lyrical performance, reminiscent of Kate Bush at her best, slips the listener into what promises to be a very uneasy dream, if not an outright nightmare…
3. “Descent,” with its reverberating strains and echoing wails, gave me the feeling of trudging through vast, ancient chambers or caverns – perfect music for daring the Mines of Moria or similar subterranean realms.
4. The eerie, lethargic, and sensual “Sailing Over Sorrow” speaks to me of impossibly beautiful Gothic vampires slinking gracefully down benighted Victorian streets or dark castle stairways.
5.“Ride the Yak” sets a tone of slowly approaching dread – fitting theme music for a fantasy villain. (As long as nobody told him the name of the song, anyway.)
6. With its long, low, midnight-deep strains, bubbling swamp-like effects, and ghostly distant singing, “Boneyard Fear” makes a fine accompaniment to a witch coven’s Black Sabbath.
7. “Nightgaunts,” by contrast, picks up the tempo with a sense of quickly approaching danger – like, say a flock of Nightgaunts. When the inevitable fleeing from the monster begins in your horror game, break this one out for the chase music.
8. Heavy breathing, creaking timbers, and an ice-cold melody make “Endless Crawl” ideal for any adventure involving a haunted house or (especially) a ghost ship.
9. What’s a Call of Cthulhu adventure without a blasphemous, forbidden ritual? With chanting and muttering in some unidentifiable language, repeated melodic wails, and what sounds very much like a mutant didgeridoo, “La Belle Luna” will set the mood…
10.…and the pulsating darkness and ululating calls of “Nightmare 102” may hint at the unspeakable outcome.
11. Stepping back just a bit from nightmare into dream, the Middle-east flavors the drumbeats and strumming of “Sailing to Celephasis,” working the brain like a musical hashish trip – just the thing for adventures in any intoxicatingly exotic foreign ports, be they in the Dreamlands or in the waking world. (The sea gull cries at the end only add to this effect.)
12. With its rapid, repetitive percussion over a dark melody tinged with wisps of vocals and abrupt horns and cymbals, “Celephasis” strikes me as the sound of an unsettling jungle trek – especially one leading to undiscovered ruins best left undiscovered…
13. In a total non sequitur, “Keep Working” features tribal drums and quiet, cruel laughter, but its most prominent aspect has to be the tinny B-movie alien voice urging the listener to (as the title suggests) “Keep working… Don’t give up… What is important is that you work… We are asking you to concentrate on the job… Nothing is more important than the job…” I can’t imagine using this one for a traditional horror game, but for a “Brave New World” sort of setting like Paranoia at its darkest, I can’t imagine not using it.
14. Ominous drums and snake-charmer lutes combined with heavy breathing make the brief “Nightmare 333” a kind of nocturnal counterpoint to “Sailing to Celephasis.”
15. The eerie lullaby of “De Largo” – including a child’s music box – and the ghostly, elusive vocals of “So Deep” earn this pair a place in any haunted mansion.
16. More than any other track, “Backwards in Time” begs for use in a traditional Call of Cthulhu game. A musical funhouse mirror warps carnival tunes and 1920s vocals to produce a disturbing slippage from comfortable reality. This should be playing on any stereo when rookie Roaring Twenties investigators get their first taste of the Mythos.
17. A disorienting staccato keyboard starts off “Ride ‘till the End,” slowly fading into a quiet melding of previous tracks on the CD. The result feels akin to wandering a fog-filled House of Mirrors. If you want to emphasize that the characters in your game are well and truly lost, this one should get your musical point across quite nicely.
18. Despite Cyoakha’s stated intention of avoiding anything “2001-keyboardy,” the “spacey” keyboards and echoing wordless vocals that seem to stretch on into infinity would have made “Feels Like Dying” a perfect fit for the final surreal moments of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a good thing in my book, however – especially if your adventure has a final surreal moment of its own.
All I can say is that this unique collection cries out for use alongside any RPG of horror, dark fantasy, or the surreal. And if you enjoy a darkly ethereal sound – some twilight region between goth, ambient, and world music, perhaps – this could be the CD of your dreams.