Our first featured ReMix of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun comes in the form of a suspenseful cinematic/industrial take from Michael Hudak, who still manages to incorporate plenty of sound design magic:
"Aside from brief stints with Roller Coaster Tycoon and the first Sims, the Command & Conquer series were the only PC games I played growing up in the 90s and early aughts. My family didn't have a gaming PC, just a basic Gateway something-or-other we got in 1998. Peripheral controllers were over my head, but my next door neighbor showed me the first C&C: Red Alert one day after school, and I loved how you could micromanage everything with just a mouse and couple shortcut keys (kinda like a DAW, now that I think of it...). I was then hooked on the whole series for years. I loved the music; not only did Frank Klepacki compose full tracks for each game with unique titles and intro-chrous-verse structures that you might hear on rock radio, but you could select what track you wanted to hear from the pause screen, which was a first for me.
I loved Frank's stuff from these games, but there were a handful of great tracks in Tiberian Sun that really stood out amongst the others. They were more synth-heavy and quite melodic, more 80s soundtrack-y and less 90s industrial metal. After some digging, I found out that these songs weren't Frank's at all, but were composed by someone named Jarrid Mendelson. Apparently he never did much game music, but I really love what little wound up released, especially "Lone Trooper," which could pass for a somethingwave/proto-synthwave track today. If he's out there somewhere, I gotta say thanks for the cool tunes, because they made teenage me really happy. Big ups to Frank too, of course. No sleight on him.
Anyhow, my version has a protagonist that's alone out in a vast wasteland filled with hostile machines. Or something. This ReMix was an experiment in combining uncomfortably close noises with equally uncomfortable and threatening distant sounds. There's not much in the middle ground; If there's reverb on anything, there's a lot of it. Lots of reverb sends here, and I took a lot from Alva Noto's Unieqav record for this re-imagining. I wanted to convey the feeling of a soldier alone in a vast and extremely inhospitable environment, where almost everything is trying to kill him. Or get him killed, as is the case with his radio orders near the start. I was actually thinking of the guy on the front of the TIberian Sun box, with his helmet acting as a comms radio before it gives out, and then he's truly alone. I feel like the original tells a similar story, so maybe my ReMix is a kind of reboot as well. There's a lot of compression on the impact sounds here. Adding compression to explosions or gunshots is a common practice for sound designers in war films and FPS games to make everything that much more intense, so I wanted to try that here. In many cases, I created sounds from layering multiple samples, but adding different compression settings to each layer, rather than grouping them to a bus and using the same settings on all of them. Tons of high frequency sounds, but hopefully filtered back enough to prevent ear fatigue for the layperson. I reigned the panning in a little from some of my previous work to keep the beat moving, but there's almost no sidechain compression as I didn't want this to come off as danceable. Less fun, more sheer mortal terror, please. (I also think SC compression is starting to sound a little dated). There is some manually drawn volume automation ducking here and there to keep a pulse, but with slightly randomized slopes of db reduction, so no two instances are exactly the same.
The original song drones in C for a whole minute before it gets going. For my arrangement, I really wanted to keep the original keys, so the subs are in C1 at first, which is honestly too low for most music, but I think it works for how heavy I wanted this remix to be.
- 0:00-0:33 in source = 4:22-5:17 in remix
- 0:44-0:51 in source = 1:39-1:47 in remix
- 1:00-2:01 in source = 0:38-1:38 in remix
- 2:19-end in source = 2:03-4:21 in remix
I love how this turned out. Time to end this long write-up. Thanks a ton to all the judges, as always. Very much appreciate all the feedback, positive and negative."
The only C&C I played at length was Red Alert, but I did get into it, and I do remember digging the music. It's cool to focus on one of the additional composers that's contributed music to the franchise; Klepacki's name is synonymous with the series, and as Hudak writes Mendelson may not have a ton of VGM credits, but a good source tune is a good source tune, period. While still leaning heavily on sound design (very creative use of compression!), this is a bit less experimental than some of the mixer's other arrangements, and actually feels like it could work quite well in-game. Dystopian, suspenseful, and with plenty of ear candy in the form of selectively-bitcrushed, variable-verb drums, this is atmospheric & engaging work. Judges were unanimous; I really loved how DarkSim described the listening experience:
"Sometimes a ReMix has a title which bears little or no resemblance to the music itself, but ‘Hypervigilance’ perfectly describes this piece. The slow pace and sparse instrumentation helps the listener focus on each individual sound at different points. Combined with excellent sound design, you have these moments of tension which are punctuated by new stimuli that draw your attention, as if scanning a horizon for new threats. It’s a very well thought-out creative process here, and the execution matches the ambition.
The idea of near and far is subtle, but feeds into the overall theme of the track. Those very hard-hitting and erratic kicks to open up felt like a soldier’s heart skipping beats as they prepare to embark on a high-risk mission. Use of filters, distortion, and bitcrushing are evident throughout, but perhaps my favourite is the guitar that comes in at 2:05. It’s got such a grittiness to it, and the timbre fits the piece perfectly. The lead at 3:25 is also excellent, adding more higher frequencies and reverb to give it its own distinct character."
All of that; couldn't have written it better myself. Michael has a knack for taking almost anything and turning it into a mysterious, disorienting journey down the sound design rabbit hole, but in this case I think there's comparatively more of a synergy with the vibe & universe of the game in question. Excellent stuff, check it out!
on 2022-06-30 17:01:12
17 hours ago, ad.mixx said:
I am a fan of mr hudak now. He's got an ear after my own heart. Such cool design.
Can't spell HEART without E-A-R, after all.
on 2022-06-29 23:16:17
I am a fan of mr hudak now. He's got an ear after my own heart. Such cool design.
on 2022-06-29 21:40:02
Personaly I normaly prefer a bit more speed in the song but in this case I am totaly in love with this song. I cant place what exaclty it is about it but it a well done remix that can be played over and over without getting repetitious or boring. Well done.
on 2022-06-27 11:51:48
Sources Arranged (1 Song)
- Primary Game:
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (Electronic Arts
Music by Frank Klepacki,Jarrid Mendelson
- "Lone Trooper"
- Effects > Distortion
Effects > Lo-Fi
- 9,090,960 bytes
- Size: 9,090,960 bytes
- MD5 Checksum: a7b896291b266f9add9ca9cba8536d38
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