Although I’m not in the habit of reviewing game soundtracks (nor do I intend to be), Siddhartha Barnhoorn’s accompanying score for Out There: Omega Edition could easily find a slot in the collection of your average spacemusic fan. These are small slices of music, with 23 tracks crammed into less than an hour’s time, each a well-made expression of some aspect of the game’s celestial landscape. Expect plenty of standard science fiction tropes in the music, from twinkly starlight things to the deep, bass-loaded chords of a black hole. Expect also for there not to be a real discernible through-line. While the soundtrack flows nicely enough and the music is pleasantly spacey, we’re not able to forget that Barnhoorn is actively writing to fit particular moments within an existing framework. One effect of being handed all those bite-size snippets is that I find myself wanting to hear more of the ideas expressed more fully. As with his debut album Pillars of Light, which I reviewed in 2011, I feel that the constrictive framework here really hampers the listening experience. Within the confines of the game, I am sure it works well. Tracks like “Out There I” and “Supernova” show a lot of interesting potential as they break the background-music mold and reach for a fuller form of expression. Barnhoorn’s “longer” tracks, “The Story Unfolds” and “The Final Chapter” allow him more running room, and they are, perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the best pieces on the album.
By his trade, Barnhoorn is a soundtrack composer with more than 70 films to his credit, and he certainly has found a niche for himself in game soundtracks. (The last piece of his that I reviewed was for a game called Antichamber.) And while Antichamber and this release have been fairly interesting and I appreciate the opportunity to listen to them, since Pillars of Light I’ve been waiting for a bigger, more expressive standalone ambient/electronic album from him. I always enjoy listening to his work; personally, I just want more out of it.
Available from Siddhartha Barnhoorn’s Bandcamp page.