Dark, Beautiful, and Catchy as Hell: Bastion Original Soundtrack

Have you ever felt like wandering the world as a bad-ass post-apocalyptic techno cowboy? I know I daydream about it at least 6-8 times a day. Thankfully, if you ever plan on making that dream a reality, the Bastion Original Soundtrack will be there to make your transition an easy one.

Now, let me start by saying this: I have yet to actually play Bastion myself. I know, I know, how dare I. It’s been on my wishlist for a while (an especially long while, since it was released in 2011). Unfortunately, there are so many games I already own that I still haven’t even played, and as evidenced by this entire website, I enjoy way too many things.

BUT. I figured I’d at least enjoy the pieces of these games that I can fit into my schedule. So, in a recent binge, I started listening to my backlog of over 20 new video game soundtracks that have been on my radar.

Very, very rarely have I been totally swept off of my feet by a soundtrack for a game I don’t know. But let me tell you, Bastion‘s OST did just that.

What to Listen For

I’ll be including a few of my favorite tracks from Bastion below. However, if you can, do yourself a favor and listen to the soundtrack in its entirety in order on YouTube. Composer Darren Korb has an ear for layered detail that you’ll want to soak up as much as possible — it’s an audio hour you’ll won’t regret.

The first “song” of the OST is one of the most intriguing opening track choices I’ve ever heard. Unlike most game soundtracks that start with the main theme of the game (often the strongest track), narrator Logan Cunningham’s gruff monologue is the first thing you hear on Track 1. Over the distant sounds of a guitar and a crackling fire, Cunningham relays a few solemn memories of a time gone by to the listener. Purely objectively, this is just awesome. It sounds so cool. Cunningham’s vocals make a few other brief appearances on the soundtrack as well, which was totally fine by me.

Track 1: “Get Used to It” – Darren Korb (ft. Logan Cunningham)

The soundtrack as a whole dances around between a variety of different instruments. The through-line of deep strings and echoing acoustic guitar give a sense of Bastion‘s darkened, lonely world, one that you can wander through without quite knowing how or why you got there. But within there are these glimpses into other more nuanced tones. An electric guitar mixed with the warbling harmonica turns the brooding atmosphere into a bad-ass futuristic wild west adventuring theme. The pairing of synthetic drum beats and a banjo, which sounds weird as hell on paper, actually had me bopping happily along. Throw all that in with the elegance of the Japanese koto in “A Proper Story,” the catchy Indian sitar heard in “Terminal March,” or the hardcore harp/drum combination of “The Mancer’s Dilemma” (I know, what the hell) and you’ve got some of the most fantastically weird, hard-hitting beats you’ve ever heard.

Track 16: “The Mancer’s Dilemma” – Darren Korb

Bastion pic 1

Even aside from this, what really stuck with me was Korb’s clever use of continuity, carrying a few main themes throughout the pieces and molding them to evoke vastly different emotions. One of my favorite examples is between Track 12: “Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme),” and Track 13: “Spike in a Rail.” In Track 12, Ashley Barrett (who voices Zia in the game) sings her chilling theme along to nothing more than an acoustic guitar. The song is gentle, mysterious, and filled with quiet vengeance, especially when paired with Zia’s simple assurance that there is nothing anyone can do to stop her — the wall will fall, and tears are gonna spill:

Track 12: “Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme)” – Darren Korb (ft. Ashley Barrett)

As soon as this song ends, on comes “Spike in a Rail” to carry on the melody, but completely reverse the emotion. Track 13 takes Zia’s Theme, doubles the tempo, and adds Bastion‘s signature hardcore drum beats. One by one,  we hear the addition of the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, and harmonica to turn Zia’s haunting melody into one of the catchiest adventuring songs on the soundtrack — my second favorite track overall.

Track 13: “Spike in a Rail” – Darren Korb

The journey concludes in the second-to-last track entitled “Setting Sail, Coming Home (End Theme).” I was shocked to discover that this song, #21 of 22 total songs, would be my favorite. I won’t include it here, because you really deserve to hear it as a culmination of everything else the soundtrack has to offer. Its mixture of vocals, melody lines, harmonies, and instruments caught me by such surprise that I forgot to turn onto my street when I was walking home from work. It was that good. Then, fittingly, the soundtrack closes out with Cunningham’s narration once more in Track 22 — a song that sounds as deliciously gruff as it does threatening, especially for an exit song.

Overall

Bastion pic 2

Simply put, Bastion’s OST is so worth your time. It’s modern, bold, filled with interesting ideas, and just all-around great music. Whether you’re a video game fan or not, this soundtrack builds a story within a visceral world that you’ll be itching to know more about. I certainly know I do, which is why Bastion has risen above tons of AAA game titles to now sit #1 on my “Must Play” video game list.

*****

Listen to the entire Bastion soundtrack on YouTube.

Purchase the 22-track Bastion OST on Bandcamp.

Watch the Bastion trailer and/or purchase the game on Steam.

Any movie soundtracks, game OSTs, or other albums you think I should hear? Shoot an email over to mamamia8bits@gmail.com and I’ll give it a listen!

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