Bastion’s Caelondia is destroyed minutes before the game’s opening. The Kid, waking from his bed, sets off through a dream that is beautiful and haunting as a nightmare. Supergiant Games crafted a fiction where every element adds to the cohesion of its story. Part of why it works is it’s great sense of place- a fiction that is mysterious and evocative.
It was Greg Kasavin’s writing that created a world that seems to have been full of life and living until it ended; it was Jen Zee’s oil paint strokes that filled that world with color and character that juxtaposed the life before the Calamity and the death after it; it was Darren Korb’s music that made it seem serene and calm but filled with tension and strain.
This post is about that music.
The first track ‘Get Used to it’ is narration from The Stranger, played, as he was in Bastion, by Logan Cunningham. I love that. It immediately establishes that the music on the rest of the soundtrack exists in the larger Bastion world rather than merely torn out of the game- the dialogue is a remembrance of Caelondia and reinforcement of its place with ‘Bastion’ the game.
‘A Proper Story’, the next track, is the first composition. It’s quick, playful and establishes the whole album as a sci-fi western in the vein of Firefly and Cowboy Bebop. The Firefly comparison is particularly apt as Bastion’s world is dangerous and wild with a sad, longing undertone that is perfectly enhanced by the music. Listen to ‘Percy’s Escape’, track 8- its hand drums are quick, its violin cuts sharp.
Much of Bastion’s fiction come from these tracks. Not only are they appropriate for the areas they accompany but talk for the character, a majority of whom have only a line or two of dialogue to their name.
‘Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme)’ is the first piece with vocals. Sung by Ashley Barrett, it creeps up on the player in the game as The Kid pulls Zia from her isolation in the wilderness and takes her back to the Bastion. The guitar chords are light and sparse but give as much characterization to the young Ura singer as is found in the games narrative. Its a song about The Rippling Walls, Caelondia’s perimeter fortification, that protects from the Ura threat outside its border but gives the impression that its citizens are prisoners within. It’s the sad tune of a chain gang. It gives the sense that Zia, who had been born on one side of the wall and raised on the other, exists welcome in neither.
Same goes for ‘Mother, I’m Here (Zulf’s Theme)’ where Darren Korb finally gets behind the mic as Zulf. This is a song about searching, about longing for a place he has never seen nor can prove exists- “I set my sails, fly the wind it will take me, back to my home, sweet home”. You hear the melody before you see its singer’s face. It leads The Kid, it’s Zulf’s salvation. An Ura trying to create peace between the Caelondian’s and Ura’s, Zulf is brittle and this song is his plea.
‘Setting Sail, Coming Home (End Theme)’ is a great combination of both these songs. Zia and Zulf are singing in harmony but both are still desperately alone. They are talking to each other, to no one yet to themselves. It’s great.
The album comes full-circle with The Stranger’s lyrics in the final track, ‘The Pantheon (Ain’t Gonna Catch You)’. It’s a warning. “Them gods gonna hurt you, son, when you play with a loaded gun.”
You can get the album from Bandcamp or clicking the BUY button on the player above. It’s available as a digital download for $10 but $15 gets you that plus a physical copy.