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Trover Saves the Universe and creates some impressive soundtrack work along the way

Last updated on October 28, 2020

Asy‘s Trover Saves the Universe Official Soundtrack – Deluxe Edition is a charming, eclectic, delirious mix of electro-indie-pop, techno-inspired blippy video game soundtrack drama, and boss fight songs. The album opens with the cheery, wubby electro-indie-pop cut “Track Star (Demo),” which I can fully imagine playing over the opening screen. It’s like a mash-up of Of Montreal, Odesza, and MIA. It is good. I am not sure what else would be in the not-demo version, but yo! Maybe some strings. It’s real good the way it is.

From there, the album goes into soundtrack mode. However, these are not ambient background sounds. These are bonafide electro compositions. “Hanging Out in the Sky” is a precise, staccato, bouncy track with ah-ah vocals that gives a weighty-yet-fun vibe to the proceedings. The more celestial “Young Stars” reprises the vocal intimations (reminiscent of Jonsi, here), but in a much more spacey electro vibe. “The Man on Whom It Depends” is a wacky bass-driven cut with atypical rhythms, choral-style vocal patterns, and big trumpet synths. I repeat: these are not just background tunes–there’s a lot going on in this collection.

There are some background tunes. The piano-led “Epic Sadness” portrays the titular feel and also feels like the intrepid hero may be wandering through a deserted castle or dungeon. (Even here, the wordless vocals are towering and mysterious.) The pizzicato strings and distant sounds of “Dream Cinema” evoke Austin Wintory’s Journey soundtrack, which is probably my favorite video game soundtrack. (So: High praise.) “Eating Swedish Candy on a Bus” is basically a Pokemon adventuring theme. (Also high praise.) “World’s Esophagus” sounds like a Sonic the Hedgehog tune with maximum bass. (Ah, perhaps less high of praise.) Still, many of these tunes are highly listenable and mesh together nicely.

The only conceit to “okay, this is obviously a video game soundtrack” are the boss fight scores. “A Chill Battle” is a nice bit of breakbeats plus layers of ethereal vocals, but “A Weird Battle,” “A Respectful Battle” and especially “Metal Cue” (which is exactly what it says it is: 74 seconds of thrashy, dissonant industrial/tech-metal) all break up the flow of the soundtrack significantly. I had “Metal Cue” on as my wife walked by and she said, “That’s what you listen to as working music?” Thankfully the brilliant, beautiful “The Way Life’s Moving” followed it up–I could say “no, it mostly sounds like this, not like ‘Metal Cue.'” So: not a huge fan of “Metal Cue.” The grumbly, squeaky “Swedish Bladerunner” is a bit better version of the same concept: breaks up the flow for some intense action, but not so intensely that the flow of the album is disrupted.

The whole album is 31 songs in 61 minutes, so these songs average just under two minutes long. That gives enough time for each song’s vibe to get established, variations to appear, and the song to float on without getting repetitive. Asy’s skill is in making big, complex spaces with a minimum of pieces; these are maximalist tunes that yet don’t have as many instruments/sounds per track as ODESZA; fans of ODESZA will still love this stuff, though. This is a wacky, wild, enigmatic, engaging album, and it’s definitely worth checking out for the adventurous and electronic-music-minded. You can also buy it on vinyl, which is awesome.