In addition to being a smart, enjoyable platformer that revels in a deep and mysterious energy, Fez is an aesthetic triumph. We tend to throw around terms like that a lot—"aesthetic triumph." But what does that really mean? It's nice-looking? It's got a good soundtrack?
In the case of Fez, those things are both true. But it's their synthesis, the way that the sights and sounds of the game combine, that feels truly inspired.
Much like Capy and Superbrothers' Sword & Sworcery EP, Fez takes what can only be called "the video game aesthetic" and riffs on it marvelously, creating a unique and pleasing pastiche of game-like visual and audio cues that inspire powerful nolstalgia.
Play the game when it comes out tomorrow and you'll see what I'm talking about. The music, composed by Rich "Disasterpeace" Vreeland, hits a great mix of chippy video game sounds and broader, softer pads. Many of the sound effects and techniques remind me of Jim Guthrie's work on Sworcery, which as far as I'm concerned is a very good thing.
"I come from a chip background," Vreeland said to me in an email, "and I think it's easy for others to see it as being a chip soundtrack, but I tried to move away from that a bit while still using some of the same sounds. There's a lot of reverb everywhere, which helps to make things a bit paddier, and more reminiscent of 80s synth scores than chiptunes. There's also a lot of tape warp effects, bitcrushing, and other kinds of distortions to mold things into a cohesive, consistent sound."
Vreeland, a guitarist and pianist who studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, worked on the Fez soundtrack for 13 to 14 months, doing it at night while also doing the soundtrack for Shoot Many Robots. When I asked him about the vibe he was going for he described it as "a sort of lonely, contemplative curiosity."
"Abstaining from using percussion in most parts I think went a long way in capturing the right vibe. I also tended to slow things down a lot, and a bunch of tracks have very fluid tempos, that ebb, flow and breathe along with the player. There are also sections of the game without music, which I hoped would create the same sort of effect."
The Fez soundtrack will be out on April 20th, and can be pre-ordered on Diasterpeace's website. There are also a couple of free tracks that you can download now, including "Adventure" above.
Go forth! Check it out! It's great!
Fez Soundtrack [Official Page]