Journey: OST Review
Review by Neil Mc Allister
Composer: Austin Wintory
Developer: That Game Company
Since it was out on PS Plus for free this month, I spent my 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon playing Journey. Much like the gameplay of Journey itself, Journey’s soundtrack is minimalistic yet carefully constructed to absorb the player/listener in it’s rich ambience, in a genre that can be best described as “ambient folk”.
The opening track “Nascence” starts with the main leitmotif of the entire game on a cello. A harp arpeggio enters, a bass flute plays the leitmotif and more strings gradually enter to evolve the piece. “The Call” has a notable cacophony of frantic string playings and random “desert-like noises”, follow by an ambience of various ethnic instruments, with some faint chanting in the background and the leitmotif dropping in and out again, it gradually brightens up with more clear and higher-register instruments.
“Threshold” is one of the first pieces that relies a lot less on ambience. One of the common things heard in Journey’s OST is the bass flute and cello doubling; this being one of the examples. Complemented by harp arpeggios and some ethnic percussion, this track retains a very lively and flowing vibe, until later on where goes into more ominous territory. “The Road Of Trials” is one of the more fast-paced pieces of the score, that plays during a “sand-surfing” section game of the having the cello and harp melodies playing off each other in a loose unison.
“Temptations” is noticeably more ominous in it’s ambience that other pieces, being set in a underwater-like environment, in corporates noticeably more synth to establish the mood, but not without some flowing harp arpeggios and gentle playing in the string section. “Descent” is more aggressive than other pieces, with heavier use of percussion, and long held notes of the lower register in the string notes. Later on, it briefly picks up the pace with violin shrieks before it climaxes. “Atonement” is noticeably more ethnic in it’s instrumentation, with various chimes and bells being used, it later gets a build in pace when the player rides a cloth whale to the top of the tower.
“Nadir” begins with some intense and somewhat random playing in the string section, as the player tries to brave their way through blizzard. With random hits of bells and drums, the string playing intensifies even further into almost complete total dissonance, and the leitmotif can be heard as it if it’s struggling to give the player hope amongst the foreboding and frantic string playing. “Apotheosis” is one of the main highlights of the whole OST, having a violin ostinato that is the main driving force to this uplifting piece, signalling that he player has completed his Journey as they ride through the sky. It goes quiet in it’s final minutes, playing the signature leitmotif. The final piece of this OST, “ I Was Born For This” incorporates similar musical ideas, the main exception being that it’s the only vocal track.
The game itself is not for everyone, being short and highly limited in terms of gameplay and re-playability, but the soundtrack is definitely something to be enjoyed with repeat listens.
Written by Neil Mc Allister
Neil is a Graduate of BIMM Dublin and Griffith College where he studied music and sound design. He is also a freelance composer and musician.