A Video Game Music Tribute Field Trip …or, A Review of Joshua Morse’s Indie B-Side, Vol. 1

Joshua Morse's Indie B-Side Vol 1Joshua Morse takes us on a half hour sonic romp through virtual worlds with his album Indie B-Side, Vol. 1. A tribute to the indie games and composers who originally created these tracks, this album is full of thoughtful, as well as delightful, reinterpretations sure to please anyone who’s either listening to these arrangements for the first time or who might be familiar with the originals.

The album opens up with “Onward Via Rotation,” an homage to the 2D platforming game FEZ, with music composed by Disasterpeace. Referencing FEZ’s “Adventure,” Morse’s choice to open with this song was a fantastic decision. With its added funky grooves and beats, “Onward Via Rotation” makes you feel as if you’re flying above the horizon, peeking through layers of clouds to the land beneath you. Before I cheated and looked to the bottom of the page to see which game the song came from, I really did feel as if I were embarking upon a listening adventure; the track starts off quickly, with lots of energy, and after a series of encounters with additional layers of synths, gradually slows down, granting the listener a dose of blissful release and satisfaction in the song’s smooth ending.

Ranging from playful riffs to more serious tributes, this album truly showcases Morse’s talent as a composer, as he adds his own unique flair to songs from virtually every genre. For instance, the title of the fifth song “Packaging and Shipping,” is an apt name for this fun reimagining of Melvin’s Madness from the game Cardboard Box Assembler. “Healing Places,” the sixth song of the collection, is a beautiful tribute to “EliasPalace,” from online game La Tale. The song remains relatively simple and slow throughout, but with the sweeping sounds of strings and echoes of quivering piano synths, the emotional punch is huge. Hopefully my readers won’t hate me for this next reference, but it brought to my mind the anime adaptation(s) of the visual novel Kanon, particularly the song “Last Regrets.” (I challenge anyone who thinks I’m crazy to listen to both and compare, then get back to me)

Admittedly, I’d only ever heard of a handful of these games before listening, and the rest were completely foreign to me. But while I may have missed out on the nostalgic attachment that a more experienced gamer might have brought to the songs, the songs that Morse picked were striking and evocative. As I continued to listen to them, over and over again, I found myself becoming increasingly hooked. It was like the aural equivalent of going to a craft brewery, getting a 2 oz. sampling glass of various kinds of beers, and then going home with a eight-pack of all my favorites. Except instead of beer, I’ll have to buy and play all of these games now! This album is only volume 1 of what is sure to be many more tribute compilations to various indie games, and I can’t wait to see what more awaits us in the future.

Intrigued? Hungry for more? Just want some beer? (if yes, grab some, then come back and listen) You can learn more about Joshua Morse and his music by checking out his website, Facebook page, and bandcamp.

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