The String Arcade
If there were any more vindication that game music can sit aside film scores and – yes! – even the classical greats, the lovingly arranged melodies of The String Arcade are proof enough. Originally conceived as a Kickstarter funded project, the album was finally released on Februrary 11th both in digital and wonderfully tactile formats. Produced by composer Dren McDonald, The String Arcade features music from a wide array of genres – from well-known favourites such as Portal and Zelda to the slightly more obscure realm of mobile gaming. Dren McDonald has credits mainly within mobile games so it’s no surprise to see a handful of arrangements from games like graBLOX and Ravenshire Castle. While these aren’t usually go-to games for soundtrack fans, their contributions to The String Arcade make for pleasant listening while revealing a whole new source of game scores. With an array of different musicians – including the Videri String Quartet – contributing to the album, The String Arcade is pure distilled class.
Personal highlights include the ‘Turret Suite’ from Portal 2 and a wonderful interpretation of the theme to Ecco the Dolphin. With everything performed solely by strings it can take a moment or two to work out those familiar tunes. The Ecco theme is a perfect example – when you hear that wavering note sound out, forever burned into the memory of those who played the game, it’s magical. Add in strings mimicking the dolphin calls and it’s a brilliant yet subtle performance of an underrated classic.
Other highlights include the catchy, immediately recognisable ‘Sonic 2 Scherzo’ and a stringed tribute to Minecraft. It’s a soundtrack already known for its peaceful ambience but hearing it in arrangement is beautiful, retaining the contemplative nature of the original work. In fact, the whole album feels like something you could happily play at an upmarket party, your guests sipping on claret unaware that the cultured, exquisite background music derives from a medium often looked down upon.
With fifteen tracks (or seventeen if you buy the CD) that cover the obscure, the iconic but always the sublime, there’s plenty to like about The String Arcade. Amidst high-profile, blockbuster soundtrack releases it’s always a joy when the classics are revisited and reimagined. I have a personal penchant for the work of OC Remix, or delightful companion albums like FZ: Side F and FZ: Side Z. The String Arcade joins this brilliant genre, adding a fresh spin on video game music. It’s curious, but in playing themes in the most traditional way possible, The String Arcade adds a contemporary immediacy to some of the most well-worn and embryonic themes. This is the CD for your next dinner party, your next relaxing afternoon, heck, even your next wedding. Let’s hope the arcade has room for a few more games as a sequel would be most welcome.
The String Arcade is available to download from LOUDR.FM, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. The CD release with bonus tracks is available from Bandcamp.