Friday, 13 May 2011

Volume Alpha - C418

It's not often that I choose to relax to a soundtrack, let alone one from a videogame and let alone one that I've played all of one time. But for "Volume Alpha" I make an exception, I make this exception because as a stand-alone album it holds itself among the top electronic/ambient albums of the year.

"Volume Alpha" does what any soundtrack should, it sets the mood. It can be quiet and peaceful at times or loud and epic, but at all times it's beautifully calm. This is the kind of album that you sit down to for a quick listen, only to emerge, staggering and numb, 2 hours later, confused but knowing that time wasn't wasted. It's immersion music, it will wash over you and if you allow it to do so you'll relax instantly, which pretty much makes it a "must have" for ambient fans.

Where the album really excels is when it gives the illusion of being simple, forming easy-to-listen-to samples that you can hum along to, annoying everyone else in the immediate vicinity, when in fact it follows the genuine trend of electronic music in being extremely complicated. The strong partnership of a piano lead and swirling synths can be found in a lot of the songs, most notably "Living Mice", and it creates a kind of signature for C418, it's expected. This doesn't mean that it's a bad thing, in fact it's necessary for building the mood and not breaking the listener out of it, but a tiny bit more variety would be nice.

That's not to say that there isn't any variety to be found, the final song "Droopy Likes Your Face" is completely different to anything else the album has to offer and is more in line with electronica than ambient. This sudden shift in tone and style hints at the fact that it was included as an advert for what C418 can achieve when he's not working to an order. In the end it's actually quite good, one of the best on the album, though it's probably for the best that it was placed at the end to prevent it from completely breaking the mood.

The fact that it's a soundtrack may put people off it, and I can't blame them because it put me off it too. But what we have to admit is that this is a stunning piece of ambient work that no one could have expected from a producer so small. It certainly isn't perfect, but it's easy to love.

Oh and the game in question is "Minecraft".


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