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Ori and the Blind Forest (Gareth Coker)

May 4, 2015

Cover_OriForestORI AND THE BLIND FOREST

Gareth Coker, 2015, Microsoft Studios Music
32 tracks, 88:48

Games so often offer the scope and the inspiration for wonderful music. “Ori and the Blind Forest” is a great example.

Review by Pete Simons

WINNER 2015 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards

What is it?

In the words of developers Moon Studios: Ori is a bit of a coming-of-age story. The player is put into the role of a forest spirit, who – over the course of his journey – has to find out more about his role within the world he’s living in. We tried to create memorable characters in an atmospheric world and to craft a story that players will truly care about! The soundtrack is by British composer Gareth Coker; featuring solo artists Aeralie Brighton, Rachel Mellis, and Tom Boyd, and performed by the Nashville Music Scoring Orchestra.

What does it sound like?

One of the first things that spring to mind about “Ori and the Blind Forest” is how light and airy and how colourful it is. There is a strong presence from light metallic mallets, providing a shimmering atmosphere, as well as wooden mallets for that earthy sound. Flutes and wordless vocals often take the lead; but one of the most prevailing instruments here is the piano (…and that’s alongside a full-sized orchestra).

Opening with “Ori Lost in the Storm”, Coker present his main theme on piano, accompanied by Aeralie Brighton’s atmospheric wordless vocals. It’s a lovely melody, in a ‘gentle pop song’ sort of a way. It’s reprised numerous times, in all sort of variations, throughout the score. “Naru, Embracing the Light” is a playful, and at times soaring, cue for piano and flute that really opens this score up; and is one of many tracks that feel like complete entities in their own right. There are quite a few of them here – tracks that are just perfect all on their own.

“Calling Out” offers a secondary piano theme (similar, but different to the first), and also introduces an Indian flute – a wonderful, fitting sound that is to return several times throughout the score. In fact, the score shows quite a few ‘Eastern’ influences, without actually sounding Eastern. Elsewhere “Riding the Wind” makes beautiful use of Indian flute and percussion against warm strings; whilst “The Crumbling Path” offers a new dramatic take on a secondary theme.

Wooden mallets and a string ostinato lend a whole new character to the main theme when it appears in “Climbing the Ginso Tree”, whilst Indian flute and percussion recur in “Completing the Circle”, alongside another piano theme. Again, it has a certain ‘pop’ directness, despite the orchestral arrangement. And to avoid misunderstandings: I really like it! It reminds me a little of Joe Hisaishi, who also has a knack for coming up with these modern, catchy melodies, whilst retaining a fully orchestral setting. And I would imagine fans of studio Ghibli’s scores to enjoy Coker’s work for “Ori”.

Cues like “Escaping the Ruins”, “Finding Sein”, “Restoring the Light, Facing the Dark” are exciting, fast-paced tracks for strings, percussion, piano, winds and vocals. “Fleeing Kuro” ups the ante with stronger percussion and a very infectious melody. Other tracks like “Gumo’s Hideout”, “Inspiriting” offer beautiful, forest-like soundscapes through their use of flute, occasional vocals, wooden mallets, bells and other light metallic sounds.

The metallic mallets of “Kuro’s Tale II” or indeed opener “Ori Lost in the Storm” may remind of Hans Zimmer’s “Beyond Rangoon” (not that he has a patent on using those instruments, of course). “Lost in the Misty Woods” is an intriguing cue with mysterious chord progressions and instrumentation. “Mount Horu” is a dramatic and atmospheric cue, with “Titanic”-like vocals and harmonic shifts appearing towards the end (I have to say, this did confuse me somewhat).

“The Sacrifice”, “The Spirit Tree” and “The Waters Cleansed” are three phenomenal cues reprising the various themes in all their glory. “Up the Spirit Caverns” offers plenty of bells, woodwinds and solo violin, evoking a pastoral sound akin to “A River Runs Through It”. The score comes to a fantastic end with “Light of Nibel”, another easy highlight, where Coker somehow manages to take the main theme to a new level, with lively percussion, strings, piano and vocals.

Is it any good?

Gareth Coker’s “Ori and the Blind Forest” is a magnificent piece of work. There are moments where it sounds ‘familiar’ and yet it has a personality all of its own. It’s a wonderful blend of modernistic melodies and classical (and ethnic) orchestrations, that probably owes a bit to composers like Joe Hisaishi (and maybe even John Powell). It’s never quite as intricate as their works, and there are few moments where the piano reminds me a little bit of the kind of muzak you might hear in a restaurant, but that said… what’s really impressive is: that over the course of 32 cues and 88(!) minutes this score never out-stays its welcome – even when listening to it in the wrong order, as I did, hence my track-by-track analysis may seem a little odd!

“Ori” is so varied and colourful, and there is so much to explore, probably much like the game itself, I would imagine. It works so well as an album on its own too. This really is a stellar effort from a young-ish (careful assumption there!)  composer, who really should be catapulted into film music stardom. You best buckle up mate!

Rating [4.5/5]

Tracklisting

01. Ori, Lost In the Storm (feat. Aeralie Brighton) (1:08)
02. Naru, Embracing the Light (feat. Rachel Mellis) (1:24)
03. Calling Out (1:28)
04. The Blinded Forest (3:28)
05. Inspiriting (1:22)
06. First Steps Into Sunken Glades (4:34)
07. Finding Sein (1:45)
08. Up the Spirit Caverns Walls (feat. Tom Boyd) (5:36)
09. The Spirit Tree (feat. Aeralie Brighton) (1:48)
10. Kuro’s Tale I – Her Rage (1:16)
11. Thornfelt Swamp (feat. Tom Boyd) (4:07)
12. Down the Moon Grotto (3:55)
13. The Ancestral Trees (1:48)
14. Gumo’s Hideout (3:05)
15. Breaking Through the Trap (0:56)
16. Climbing the Ginso Tree (5:39)
17. Restoring the Light, Facing the Dark (2:28)
18. The Waters Cleansed (feat. Tom Boyd) (2:02)
19. Lost In the Misty Woods (4:45)
20. Home Of the Gumon (5:07)
21. Escaping the Ruins (2:19)
22. Kuro’s Tale II – Her Pain (1:56)
23. Riding the Wind (feat. Rachel Mellis) (5:00)
24. Completing the Circle (feat. Rachel Mellis) (2:20)
25. Approaching the End (feat. Aeralie Brighton) (1:08)
26. Mount Horu (2:56)
27. Conundrum (1:22)
28. The Crumbling Path (2:27)
29. Racing the Lava (0:28)
30. Fleeing Kuro (3:48)
31. The Sacrifice (feat. Aeralie Brighton) (3:07)
32. Light of Nibel (feat. Aeralie Brighton) (4:19 )

More Information

Find out more about Gareth Coker on his website and listen to samples of his work on SoundCloud.

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