Game That Tune

Bastion

Go West, Young Man

Bastion’s soundtrack blends Western twang with industrial whizz-bang.

By Derrick Sanskrit • January 31, 2013

Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).

There was one thing that separated Supergiant Games’ Bastion from all other beat-’em ups and Diablo-alikes, and it wasn’t the isometric perspective. It was atmosphere. The game was so rich with atmosphere that players could practically swim in it, Scrooge McDuck style. From the romantic Lone Ranger story to the luscious color palette to floating landscapes that assembled themselves brick-by-brick like so many stud fiends, the entirety of Bastion was crafted to evoke a combination of the familiar and the new—both wondrous and endearing. But no part of the package did more to establish the game’s atmosphere than Darren Korb’s original musical score, quite possibly the most perfect blend of spaghetti western and sci-fi synthetics since Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

Drew Toal wrote last week about Bastion’s ending, and the song from that dramatic final sequence, “Mother, I’m Here,” is rightly famous. I featured “Spike In A Rail” today because within the first few seconds we have everything we need for the space Western: jangly acoustic guitar, folksy harmonica, trip-hop beats, reversed ride cymbals, and a distant slide guitar that punctuates the air around it with a relaxed sort of urgency. There’s a whole lot of conceptual contradictions right there, but they all work together to create a specific time and space that seems impossible and therefore magical. The drums warp and splat in alien ways while the banjo plucks along as though it’s just another day at the barn. It sounds like Portishead scoring a Sergio Leone film. Like Quentin Tarantino’s tour de force about the first manned mission to Mars. Like Clint Eastwood strolling along the perimeter of a disco in sequined pants. This blend of unlikely musical allies fills us with anticipation—if this unprovoked thing of beauty is possible, what in the universe could conceivably come next? Our eyes are on the horizon, and our ears are open wide.

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  • Aurora Boreanaz

    I don’t really have much constructive to add, other than to agree 100% with this and the previous article.  Loved Bastion.

    • rvb1023

      Let us all commence in being not constructive yet mindlessly nodding in agreement to Bastion’s amazing score.

      • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

        Somebody’s bound to have some good jokes written in the style of the Bastion narrator, and in italics of course.  I’ll be back after lunch. Don’t let me down guys.

        • signsofrain

          The kid posts on an internet forum, lookin’ for jokes, hopin’ that someone, somewhere escaped the Calamity. He’ll be waitin’ a good long while for those laughs, I’d say.

        • signsofrain

          Also Bastion/Portal II crossover… with the actual narrator!
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVHn0eyGZAA

        • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

          The kid couldn’t argue. Didn’t feel a need to argue, or to say much of anything, really. Pretty common stance for the kid, not sayin’ much about nothin’. Can’t say I blame him none. Not a whole lot to say about the world these days, being as it is. Speaking up when there’s nothing to say is just another way of sticking your neck out where it don’t need to be, and the kid, well, he knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Better, sometimes, to keep your trap shut and your ears open.

  • zebbart

    If you missed the 2011 album Rome by Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniel Luppi, it was in this same vein, electronic spaghetti western music, and it was very good.

    I just realized this week that I could download all the soundtracks from the Humble Bundle games so I’ve been jamming this and Binding of Isaac’s music in the office today.

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      Not only did you just turn me onto a Spaghetti Western Danger Mouse album but you reminded me I’m sitting on the OSTs for Bastion and Sword & Sworcery.  You get a like!

  • PaganPoet

    Cool track. Let’s have ex-Sugababe Siobhan Donaghy lay some vocals on it, and it’ll sound like it could’ve been on her criminally underrated and floptacular album Ghosts.

    I haven’t played this game, but I’ve heard a lot about it. @caspiancomic:disqus seems to perk his ears up whenever it’s mentioned, and I trust his taste, so maybe I’ll check it out.

    • caspiancomic

       AND HERE I AM AS PROMISED

      • PaganPoet

        Like clockwork. You just got read like a scantron, boo.

    • Sleverin

      Hey, I liked the game he mentioned a month back, Katawa Shoujo, and Bastion is an incredibly good game, you should definitely give it a run Pagan.

  • caspiancomic

     Yes everybody, a million times yes.

    Pretty much every track on Bastion’s OST is as close to perfect as a song can get, both out of context for casual jammin’, and in context for a mood-setting piece of ambient background music. I think you nailed it with the description of the disparate-but-harmonious elements: Bastion has a lot of far flung influences, but they all work together to make something really beautiful. This track is from the second leg of the game, where you leave Caelondia and head into the Wilds to look for shards, and the entire soundtrack changes subtly but noticeably with the transition. Caelondia had a real well-to-do atmosphere, and its musical cues tend to be organized, keeping steady time, thumping, pulsing, tidy, that sort of thing. Once you hit the Wilds, though, the guitars loosen their belts and get a bit twangier, most of the tracks spread out and get a little more comfortable, and there are banjos everywhere. There’s also a shorter third leg of the game, whose tracks are distinguished by a fuzzy, distorted sound.

    Long post short: Darren Korb is Christ.

  • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

    Bastion was the first time I wanted to listen to a the songs outside of the game enough for me to put it on my ipod. I think Frozen Synapse came out around the same time and that also had a pretty sweet soundtrack, but I preferred Bastion’s for general listening. Indie games have been having better and better soundtracks lately, but I still think Bastion has one of the best. 

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema Reuben

    Someone gifted me Bastion on Steam over a year ago and I still haven’t found the time to play it :/

  • DrFlimFlam

    All of my ringtones are from Bastion. And I own the soundtrack. And Flim, Jr. and I both love it.