day 06 - a song that reminds of you of somewhere

In at number 6: "You just stepped off the curb..."

I know Kemo City so well; I drove a cab there a few months, looking for a way out. I would always feel so lost, exploring new parts of town, but every area had such character that I would quickly learn the way around the main thoroughfares and the districts they carved the city into.

Okay, so bullshit attempt at NGJ aside, This song on the quarantine soundtrack puts me straight back into the game when I hear it. Bugged as it's engine was. Quarantine was the first game I was aware of to have a 'proper' soundtrack, pre-empting Quake's cd or GTA's radio stations. Most like GTA, you had a whole city to explore by car, and one of the best features of the car was the built in cd player. This was the DOS era - no multi-tasking. If you wanted to listen to your own music while playing a game, you had to use your actual hifi.

These places are as real to my brain as physical spaces I've genuinely travelled to. I know the architecture of the levels of doom and quake so well because i've wandered round those strange, pointless spaces so many times, looking for secrets or just replaying for fun. And while this song, from the soundtrack, brings me back to Kemo city, there's other songs that remind me of other virtual spaces; Captain Beefheart's Zig Zag wanderer instantly transports me back to the ice level of Dark Forces, Mansun's Legacy e.p. was on continually while I played Quake, and Blectum from Blechdom (and other bands featured on the 'structure of scientific misconceptions compilation) bring me back, bizarrely, to Shadowrun's hitech backstreets (I downloaded the snes emulation around 2003).

This is something that games, especially first person games, have that movies and books don't. Sure, hearing the music from Brazil reminds me of the film and makes me shudder, but it doesn't remind me of being in that world. hearing NIN's blasting opening to quake reminds me those cathedralic corridors, doors and lifts. I'm back in those spaces.

And then I went all mp3, and by the time I was playing Planescape: Torment (surely, the The Wire of computer games?), my soundtrack was a random mix of everything I listened to, and nothing stuck. I didn't even listen to the Torment soundtrack, regarded as a classic. No music reminds me of torment now. And most games I play, being indie, don't have much music. I'm listening to the Portals soundtrack now, and while it's great, I don't remember a note of it from the game and it doesn't bring me back to it as a place. Not like Kemo. That's a real place.


Ed said...

As I recall the Torment soundtrack had it's moments, but it was rather generic sci-fi stuff: lots of vaguely eastern chanting and synth-y strings and bongos that puts me in mind of being 12 and dragged round Habitat to look at wicker things and lamps.

I reckon Quarantine stands out more because, like you say, it was 'proper' music, but also because it wasn't proper music by bands you were likely to know. Maybe if they'd had more money they'd have put INXS and Silverchair on instead.

laurence said...

i had exactly the same thing with belly's now they'll sleep EP, except now i can't remember what game it was. so this comment is a bit crap really. maybe i should go listen to the songs..

anyway, i remember hearing the songs and being shocked at the memories they bought back. it was a particularly inappropriate soundtrack to the game, or inappropriate game for the songs. nevermind.

laurence said...

btw, i can't believe i never played quarantine beyond the demo. i loved that demo, it was brilliant.