Marking “Sable” brought Japanese breakfast to a whole new world.
Michelle Zauner has been busy.
2021 saw not only the release of his long-awaited third studio album, Jubilee, under the stage name Japanese Breakfast, but also the publication of his memoirs, Crying in H Mart, which should be adapted into a feature film after being crowned New York Times Bestseller. Now Zauner’s latest musical project is in the wild, and it’s unlike anything she’s done before: a video game score.
Sable talks about a young girl’s journey through her “Gliding”; a rite of passage intended to enlighten its courageous participant and help him discover his destiny. Sable’s adventure sees her and her trusty hoverbike navigate a sprawling world of captivating landscapes filled with ancient ruins, remains of spaceships, and a rich history that lends itself to meticulous investigation. The game’s unique art style and self-paced world of exploration were the perfect canvas for Zauner’s first foray into composing a score worthy of an ambitious independent darling.
“It’s been a really, really long time to come.”
“I got involved very early on,” Zauner told Mashable in an interview. “Daniel Fineberg, one of the developers, invited me in October 2017. He was a fan of my music, but he also saw that I had released a little RPG to help promote Sweet sounds from another planet and had made a interview with Polygone where I talked about my love of video games. “
Because she joined so early in the development process, finding this SableScoring would appear to be a gradual process that took a lot of patience and small steps forward.
“It started out by just seeing the art and GIFs, and reading a Word document of what they imagined the different biomes in the game would look like. And then the next year it would be seeing actual clips and videos. , and compose for that. The year after that, I finally started getting versions of the game once a week and playing it, adding music throughout. So it was a very, very long time. future. ”
How music shapes the way we play video games
Zauner’s history with the game goes back a long way. “I really like a lot of early RPG games,” she said, citing. Secret of Mana and Chrono Croix like two of his childhood favorites. His admiration for these games is due in part to their accompanying soundtracks, and they would eventually inspire some of his work on Sable.
“It was really fun doing, like, variations on a theme. It’s something that I think Chrono Croix and Breath of the wild fine, where there are day and night variations of each song. ”
Zauner says finding little ways to manipulate established themes and create different sensations for each of them was an invigorating experience. “It was a really fun thing that I had never been able to do before, where I could say, ‘Oh, it’s nighttime, so I’m going to take the same theme, and the same instrumentation, and the same key, but I’m going to slow it down by around 20 BPM and make it more sparse. ‘ Or even make the percussion elements a little smoother and quieter to make it different from the daytime track. ”
‘Sable’ is now available on Xbox and PC.
While Zauner is no stranger to making music as a Japanese Breakfast, she admits that tackling a video game score is an entirely different beast that presents its own unique challenges. “Sable is largely made up of instrumental and ambient songs, so they’re the opposite of a Japanese Breakfast song, which sort of works within a pop structure where you’re always trying to captivate a listener with a good hook.
Build a sound identity for Sable It wasn’t about being eye-catching, however, she said. “You want to have these really sprawling loops that don’t take too much of your attention, because you hear them so often and it would be super boring to hear a hook repeated over and over again.”
Even when Zauner returned to the lyrical domain in Sable, the approach always contrasted with the way she would go about writing a song for a Japanese Breakfast album. “Lyrically speaking, this game has nothing to do with my personal life, as many Japanese Breakfast songs are hyperpersonal and explore a lot of very detailed observations about me or investigate some kind of emotional trauma that I lived. Sable had to be very broad and explore more universal and vague themes that didn’t yet have a lot of detail, as much of the game’s storytelling was still being worked on while I was composing for it. “
Getting involved so early in development has also allowed Zauner to help shape some of the game’s most important and spectacular moments. “One of the earliest references Gregorios and Daniel [Sable‘s two lead developers] mentioned was the scene in Red Dead Redemption or the José González track lights up as you make your way to a town and get on your horse. ”
It was then that Zauner knew she wanted Sable to have a moment of similar scope, which would become the game’s post-tutorial opening that frees players into an open world to the tune of the exceptional single, “Glider”. It’s the perfect introduction to hold your hand as you, the curious traveler, begin to cross Sableexpansive sands.
Holding hands is something that Zauner’s score does a lot in Sable, and this is vital for the experience. It’s a game that for long periods of time requires you to be on your own as you traverse liminal salt marshes and empty plains. It may sound boring, even scary to some, but it is not. It is truly magnificent, not only thanks to Sablebeautiful in artistic style, but also to what you hear when you walk through its many spaces. The game score is a presence that always guides you and reminds you that soon you will come across something magnificent. It’s a comforting hand on your shoulder, telling you to keep going when you feel like you might be the only person wandering this weird, lonely world.
Zauner made this a reality by carefully considering the instruments and sounds that would accompany each area of the game, developing distinct personalities that stood out from one another. “I knew I wanted the camps in each biome to have a warm and intimate feel. I felt more analog instruments would work better for those areas, so every time you hit a camp I use a nylon string guitar. But in the Badlands you’ll hear super reverb electric guitars and more wind instruments when you meet the open dunes. the changes they needed. “
SableIts remarkable visual identity helped indicate what exactly the “feeling” would be for each area. “There are many different eras in play in Sableof the world. Like, there’s a lot of really organic flora and fauna that you will see, and then there’s also this kind of industrial ships and sci-fi tech types. ”
Zauner kept this in mind when she composed the 32 different arrangements for the game. “[The dev team] There’s been a lot of talk about those “eras” in the game. The “atomic era” is the most industrial thing, so I knew I wanted to use a more futuristic instrument palette. Then there’s also the “monumental era” which feels very old and has a lot of history, so I incorporated more organic choir samples and woodwinds into those moments. “
For some composers, the creation of a musical arrangement begins with a theoretical basis. Zauner admits that technique is not his greatest strength. “I think it’s so much like intuition. I watched these 8-bit music theory videos on YouTube, which discuss the theory behind which certain sounds and chords make you feel tension and other emotions. But I was also talking to Aaron Maine about Porches about that, and he was like, “or sometimes you just find a” spooky deal. “it was just about meeting that” spooky deal. ”
Sable has been in the works for many years, and it’s finally on the heels of two of Zauner’s biggest companies to date. She says it’s an amazing feeling, even though that wasn’t necessarily the plan.
“It’s really surreal. I mean, I feel like people are really fed up with me because I’ve already had so many major releases this year, but like, I’ve been working on all of these. projects in the past five years and I didn’t expect them all to come out at the same time! I wish it had been more extensive, but it’s such a new and exciting medium for me and I’m really excited that people are finally experiencing what I’ve been through; to see what we did with Sable. “
When asked if scoring for a game was something she would be willing to do again, Zauner’s response was a resounding “yes”. “I can’t wait for people to see my abilities as a songwriter, because I don’t know if a lot of people see me that way. I hope I get another job!”
If the first reactions to Sable are something to do, it is almost certain that we will get another marked Japanese breakfast title in the future. Until then, you can fill the time by listening to the soothing sounds of Sable as you glide peacefully over its many desert dunes, ready to discover all that lies beyond the horizon.