Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us was one of the milestones in 20JFG travails through the lands of fiction last year, and proof of how history and gameplay can come together in a video game to immerse you fully in the lives of others – in this case, worn-out smuggler Joel and teenager Ellie cruising the ruins of America after the apocalypse. It wouldn’t have been the same without the outstanding soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla, whose compositions for the game were beautifully organic and grim, like flowers sprouting from the mulch of decomposed bodies, perhaps your friends, perhaps your family?
The part where he is featured in the bonus documentary for The Last Of Us, ‘Grounded’, showed Gustavo building makeshift instruments for the soundtrack, which fit with one of the core activities in the game – scavenging for supplies with which to patch your wounds, and shank the cannibals and infected out to get you. Which makes sense, for the music didn’t just feel as it had been made in the world it was conveying, if felt as if it was an important tool to help you survive in it, by providing the rhythm for a massacre, and the poetry for a process of beautiful decay.
In ‘Left Behind’, the downloadable content that finishes the Last Of Us story released a few weeks back, the emotional intensity is ratcheted even further as Ellie flashes back to her exploration of an abandoned shopping mall with her friend Riley.
The soundtrack is, once again, by Gustavo Santalaolla, and it is as amazing as what he produced for the first game. Just check Fleeting, which gets under your skin like a John Carpenter theme tune with the emotional tonalities flipped about– green instead of grey, intimacy instead of alienation, a glockenspiel delicate like an Ennio Morricone music-box standing in for synthesisers that have gone mute, in a world where the power has gone out.
You can get the soundtrack here, but only if you live in the US (WTF).
But in what sense?
12 years in terms of the time over which they were produced? [This is true, bit only part of the story]
Or in the sense of erosion, abrasion, despair and enlightenment that they convey? Snakes shed their skin several times each year, what about humans?
Perhaps it is in the weird warp they open around you, as if you had taken a wrong turn in a road-trip and entered a barren province our of whack with reality, a place where the rules of physics have been replaced with the relativism of surrealists, where emotions melt and stretch like the shadows of a gothic architecture, a nation where the apocalypse happened but no-one noticed, que siga la fiesta.
Think of the premises of a Philip K. Dick short story, implemented in the language of Lynch, spoken in the Spanish of Jodorowsky, which is the patois of super-humans.
12 years? 12 minutes? It depends on where you set off your stopwatch, here or within the dream.