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I’m Not Yet Sold On Paradise Killer, But Its Soundtrack Is Unforgettable

Image: Kaizen Game Works / Kotaku
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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today, let’s dive into the OST from Paradise Killer, the deliciously weird puzzle-mystery game from developer Kaizen Game Works.

Let me kickstart your day with some inside baseball: We plan Morning Music picks ahead of time, and in recent weeks, a handful of us at Kotaku have gotten really into Paradise Killer. Our own Mike Fahey wanted to write about the game’s killer soundtrack for Morning Music, but I beat him to the punch by a matter of minutes. (Sorry, Mike!) That alone should give you an idea of how irresistibly catchy this soundtrack is.

Paradise Killer (Bandcamp / longplay / VGMdb) opens with a jazzy number in an appropriately dim bar. Much of the soundtrack, composed by Barry “Epoch” Topping, deviates from that. Instead of soft cocktail bar riffs, it’s all synths and saxophones and tropical overtones—and it’s a delight. Just listen to the album’s open song, “Paradise (Stay Forever)”:

It opens simply enough, kind of like the music you’d hear behind a tourism promo video for Bora Bora or The Maldives. Then, after a few bars, the horns, vocals, and synths kick in, and it’s off to the races. But the thing to really pay attention to is the percussion track.

A drum part often fades into the background, unnoticed, serving as little more than a tool to keep time. Fine. That’s the point of drums: to keep time. It’s also kind of boring. If your drums serve as nothing more than a glorified metronome, why not replace them with an electric kit or some other produced track or, hell, a literal 4/4 metronome?

On the flip side, when a drummer is too involved, that can be distracting. (One example: Gavin Harrison, of the prog rock band Porcupine Tree, is widely considered one of the most technically proficient drummers in history. Try listening to any of the albums he’s on, and his parts are the only thing you’ll listen to. They’re amazing! They also completely distract from everything else.)

The drums on “Paradise (Stay Forever)” hit that Goldilocks sweet spot. They’re certainly not boring, but they also don’t distract from the rest of the song. In fact, they fit in with the rest of the instruments like a puzzle. Listen to the kickstart fill (0:20), and how it matches the horn blasts to the triplet. Or the rolling fill that happens with the vocals at 1:28. So good! You can tell every part of “Paradise (Stay Forever)” was meticulously composed with all of the others parts in mind.

Oh, yeah, and there’s a phenomenal sax solo (at 2:26).

Paradise Killer’s music is also inextricably interwoven with the game. As you explore its ‘80s-inspired island, you’ll come across various radio towers, each of which are blasting a different song. Interacting with those towers will add that song to your in-game soundtrack, making it part of the rotation. Some favorites I’ve unlocked thus far are “Last Dance X.X.,” “Leaving,” and the exquisitely sultry, downtempo “Breeze With U.”

I haven’t beaten Paradise Killer yet, and I’m still not sure how I feel about the game on the whole, but I think that’s the point. It’s strange and thought-provoking, a bewildering mix of confidence, intrigue, and high-minded (perhaps literally) contemplation. My ultimate feelings on the game are still up in the air. Wherever they fall, I’m sure I’ll be thinking about Paradise Killer for some time—largely a result of one truly killer soundtrack.

That’s it for today’s Morning Music! Have you checked out Paradise Killer yet? It kind of got buried in the autumn rush, but it’s well worth a test drive. I’d love to know what you think, or just how you’re doing today. See you tomorrow!