Jim Guthrie and the Below soundtrack
Polygon and Bandcamp recently profiled and interviewed composer Jim Guthrie (Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Planet Coaster) on his soundtrack for the years long project Below.
The game has been receiving luke warm reviews, but the aesthetic and score are something else entirely. In fact, the Below announcement trailer that debuted at E3 2013 propelled me to (illogically) purchase an Xbox One. The game wouldn’t actually be released until 2018. I still have yet to purchase it.
In any case, these bits from the aforementioned interviews stuck out to me:
A few years ago, he happened upon a series of YouTube tutorials about a studio technique using a four-track cassette recorder. The idea was to record a single, sustained note — hence the EHX Superego — and stack it on top of several similar, harmonic pitches to form a chord.
“You record that drone for one whole side of the tape,” Guthrie says, “so it’s like a 30-minute drone. Then I did that on the other three tracks, so I had four different chords made up of drones. And you basically run all that through a bunch of delay and reverb. You press play on the tape, and then you can essentially play the faders, and just swell the volume up and down really slowly and cycle through different chords. That’s when we hit a mood that was really dark and pretty, and sort of lonely. I managed to get a lot of mileage out of that.”
I noticed that when you’re crafting items in the game, there’s this tonal/harmony thing that happens there. Did you have a hand in that?
Yeah, I don’t know where the idea really came from, but that was super intentional. I made noises that would sort of stack on top of each other and create a chord. I worked with Kris on that. But yeah, we’re always looking for things like that where you’re making music with the game. It wasn’t so subtle. It’s a little happy succession of notes that sort of lead up to a moment when you craft.
This reminded me of a version of Silent Night I’d recorded years ago. I looped single, droning notes performed with an Ebow into a Line 6 DL4 to create chords. These were then recorded into GarageBand and used as samples:
If you’d like to hear more Death Starr, why not check out my cover of The Talk Show with John Gruber’s theme song “Pickin’ Booger’s with John”.