For the better part of the past 4 years, composer Chris Tilton has been hard at work starting his own studio, Exploding Tuba, and developing their first game, Divide. This isometric sci-fi action game oozes familiar themes of conspiracy, espionage, and dystopia, but grounds it firmly in an engaging narrative that keeps you involved in the gameplay. Tilton's score follows suit by utilizing strings, brass, guitar, and synth to create a dynamic score that brings the world of Divide to life.
It is not very often that subtle electronic music demands detail and focus, but Tilton does it so effortlessly here. Echoes of Vangelis' Blade Runner and Don Davis' The Matrix permeate the soundscape, but it is Tilton's signature string ostinati and blaring trumpets that really bring the action home. "Divide Main Theme" starts things off with a bang, with rousing orchestra layered over minimalistic synth. It showcases the great duality of the score and how it naturally shifts between tense underscore (hear "Searching For Hashes") and chaotic action (hear "Administrative Delay"). Regardless of instrumentation or tempo, however, Divide always manages to exude the humanity and longing that sits at the core of the story. For a score with such an important emphasis on electronics, cues such as "Marian's Case," "Adventure Dad," and "Longlasting Endeavor" do a tremendous job of translating the emotions of the characters and their journey to the audience by how the notes sustain and linger in their harmonic passages. It's heartbreak, mystery, and paranoia defined by a musical phrase, and it is these types of moments that keep the music endlessly endearing.
For those interested, there are three different presentations of the score. The first, an EP, features a small sample of the music as well as the game's original song. Then there is a standard release as well as a Deluxe Edition. The former offers a leaner 51-minute presentation while the latter, reviewed here, presents 75 minutes of music. One may prefer the other depending on tastes, but the expanded Deluxe Edition provides more of the gorgeous underscore as well as a more dynamic pacing structure, despite the extended runtime.
One listen to Divide's main theme is all it takes to be drawn into the fantastic world Chris Tilton and the team at Exploding Tuba created. From deeply textured minimalistic synth rhythms to powerful brass and string melodies, fans of science fiction adventure scoring will find much to love here, for it is the first great score of 2017.
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