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Lightning Bolt’s Brian Gibson scored & co-designed the video game Thumper

Thumper

Your man Klaus is a rabid fan of soundtracks. Whether it’s for movies, TV shows, or even scores for video games, the interplay of sound and image make soundtracks, for me, a much more mentally engaging art form than pop or whatever. For me, the mark of a truly effective soundtrack is whether or not it is listenable on its own. Whether it’s Wendy Carlos’ score for A Clockwork Orange, Ernst Reijseger or Popol Vuh’s scores for any number of Werner Herzog films, the original works of Vangelis, Lalo Schifrin, Jocelyn Pook, Laurent Pettigrand, Ennio Morricone, Angelo Badalamenti, Philip Glass, Richard Grassby-Lewis & The Insects, or about a hundred others, soundtrack works are a consistent part of my daily listening habits.

But as I mentioned above, video games are increasingly playing host to a staggering amount of soundtrack scoring talent. In May of 2010, Rockstar Games released Red Dead Redemption which is not only one of the greatest video games I have ever played, but it also boasted a phenomenal Ennio Morricone-inspired soundtrack by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson. Rockstar’s 2011 release LA Noire boasted a pitch perfect film-noire inspired soundtrack by the great Andrew Hale. And Iowa native Jeremy Soule has scored a staggering seventy-nine video games dating back to 1995, a canon that includes masterpieces like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising 3, as well as five of the Harry Potter video game series titles. As the quality of game development has evolved, so has attention to their musical accompaniment and it behooves humanity to take video game scoring as seriously as any other form of musical output.

Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it becoming a more common practice, it is currently very seldom that a person scoring a game also carries the distinction of being co-developer of said game. But in the case of Lightning Bolt’s Brian Gibson and the staggeringly popular “rhythm violence” game Thumper, such is the case. Thumper, a game where “You control a space beetle while careening towards confrontation with an insane giant head from the future,” is the brain child of Drool LLC, a  two man development team consisting of Brian Gibson and Marc Flury.

Thumper is a unique adjunct to the style Lightning Bolt has refined for their latest record, combining a fast-paced frenzy of rhythmic pulses with an electric energy infused with all the suspense and surprise of the band’s bewildering live performances.

It is available on PS4, Playstation VR, Steam, Steam VR, and Occulus. In concept, think Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but way more stressful, addictive, beautiful, and gratifying. PC Gamer called it “one of the best rhythm games ever made” and the game made it onto Time Magazine‘s 15 Best Video Games of 2016. Paste gave it a 10/10 and named it game of the year. And that’s just the tip of a massive year-end list iceberg simply plastered with nods to Thumper.

But Thumper‘s soundtrack. Holy shit. That soundtrack. It is a masterpiece. Completely independent of the game, it is a staggering work of sonic heights. It roars, it pummels, it screams, it stomps your face. It is a room full of science fiction score composers on anabolic steroids beating the shit out of each other with Moogs, keyboards, and drum machines. It has soaring melodies that communicate fear and terror but also beauty and triumph. You have a track like “Triangle” which is a spacey, dissonant, beat-oriented crusher that so perfectly indicates a sense of speed and travel. Then you get a track like “Horizon” which is an expansive, synthy tapestry that communicates something more epic than frenetic. And then you get a track like “Logo Revisit” that has a Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” rhythm to it which eventually dissolves to something much more ethereal. The 10 tracks are crusher after crusher. Stream it below, and then cough up the $10 to download a copy you can listen to over and over like I am. Also, I left a few other choice video game soundtracks down there for your consideration as well.

For the audiophiles out there, it was announced on January 2 that iam8bit gave the Thumper soundtrack the royal makeover with a deluxe vinyl edition. For $45 US you get a code to acquire the game (which costs $20), the full digital soundtrack, and a picture disc full-length vinyl. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gamer (I’m not, really) or a Lightning Bolt fan (I’m not, really), this album is a standalone masterpiece that should be played very very loudly and often.

Thumper - Vinyl edition

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