Beck, the eclectic and award-winning musician of Odelay and Sea Change fame, is often noted for his dense and inventive soundscapes that deliberately toy with genres rather than simply obeying them. But the acclaimed singer hasn't released an album since 2008's The Information, leading many to wonder what he's been doing with his time since then.
Turns out, he's been helping make video games. Mathew Kumar of the Toronto-based indie game studio Queasy Towers announced Friday on the official PlayStation blog that Beck is contributing three new songs to its coming game Sound Shapes.
Beck's more than just familiar with the world of video games, Kumar wrote. In fact, with his 2005 album 'Guero' he actually snuck out a wee EP, Hell Yes, which remixed tracks from that album as chiptunes.
But Kumar was quick to note that Beck's new work was not video-game music, pointing out, One of the powerful things about Beck's music is the variety of styles he's comfortable working in. ... Sure, if you're looking to have a really good cry that lasts about 52 minutes and 24 seconds, you probably want to cue up his (brilliant) album 'Sea Change,' but in the middle of your weeping you decide you want to get funky with a capital KY, you just have to skip back to 'Midnight Vultures.' It's cool, Beck's like that.
The three new songs are titled Cities, Touch the People, and Spiral Staircase. Like the cover art for Beck's 2006 album The Information, Sound Shapes will come with a level editor that players can adjust to complement the music in different ways. This album shows just how well you can build fun levels around song structures, Kumar wrote.
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Attracting a musician of Beck's stature is a sign of the growing awareness of the importance of musical scores and unique soundtracks for video games. Just last year, for instance, Christopher Tin won a Grammy for his work on the opening theme for Civilization V, which was videogame music's first ever Grammy award, in the words of Wired's Chris Kohler.
Other musicians as diverse as hip-hop mogul 50 Cent, Industrial legend and David Fincher-collaborator Trent Reznor, and indie musician Jim Guthrie have worked with game developers to produce game play that complements their work. And this week Sony released another indie critical darling in the form of Dyad, a title that popular video-game site GiantBomb described as an abstract racing game in which music is procedurally generated by how the game is played and gives important game-play cues.
Just as the video-game industry is beginning to attract a more star-studded league of writers to craft dialogue and storylines for AAA games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (which is being co-written by one of the writers of The Dark Knight Rises), so too the industry will begin poaching a higher brand of musicians and sound designers from other areas of entertainment.
Sound Shapes is set for release on Aug. 7 in the U.S. and the following day in Europe for both the Playstation 3 and Vita consoles. You can watch a trailer previewing some of Beck's music and the game play here: