In the videogame DYAD, a mysterious, micro organic particle zips through a Pollock-like tunnel that intensifies in shape, color and feel as players advance through the game. But like DYAD’s predecessors, games aiming to be all-out sensory assaults, the synapse-frying player experience is inherently tied to the game’s extraordinary soundtrack. Designed and produced by Oakland based composer David Kanaga, the soundtrack to DYAD will be made widely available for the first time by Software Recording Co.
David Kanaga’s maximalist score for DYAD fuses a breakneck array of sound events to rich, ambient segues of layered harmonies and melodic color. Like the ceaseless forward movement of the game itself, where the protagonist particle encounters cascades of oncoming enemies, the elements of the music also shift in concert with the events of the game. There are drops in octaves according to speed of the particle, and synced musical events signaling an array of hallucinatory actions on screen. Textures morph, pitches drift, events quantize and de-quantize in meditative “flows” that sustain repose one moment, and sonic assaults the next.
Kanaga casts a wide net stylistically; a kaleidoscope of influences ranging from acid-fried happy hardcore, to jungle and drum-n-bass rhythms to re-applied fragments of Top 40 production tropes, not to mention more than several sublime passages of hazy, cosmic coloring. Importantly, even with this stylistic range, the soundtrack never veers from referencing the particular intensities of the events in play. The frenetic music shifts in accordance with the game’s own digital psychedelia, becoming on its own a kind of virtual stand-in for the game itself.
David Kanaga’s foray into videogame soundtracking first reached acclaim with 2011’s Proteus. The peaceful approach of the soundtrack heightened the ‘natural environment’ of the game, imbuing it with a sense of cryptic quietude. The soundtrack was awarded Indiecade’s award for Best Audio, was heralded by The Guardian as “beautiful and affecting” and was also exhibited at MoMA.
In DYAD, Kanaga pivots away from the drifting ambiances of Proteus in order to score this “rail shooter.” (A rail shooter is a type of videogame where a player’s protagonist is guided along a pre-set path, typically within a technoidal tunnel filled with rapidly appearing obstacles at high velocities, ala Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Rez or Jeff Minter’s classic Tempest) This kind of speed-play forces the player to grapple with time and motion in constantly shifting spaces. Kanaga’s audible results are aptly mystifying — it’s a soundtracked journey that relentlessly pushes forward into an ever more abstract provenance.
Extensive liner notes in the DYAD CD/LP release include notations, schematics and game instructions hand penned by Kanaga himself as well as snippets of the code behind the music (programmed by the game’s mastermind Shawn McGrath). David Kanaga, who is an experimental music composer, active writer and new media artist, is continuing to explore interactive possibilities of music in games and other dynamic environments with a prolific stream of projects forthcoming. DYAD: an essential node in today’s expanding base of trailblazing game music by one of the brightest minds in the field.