Three years on from the critical success of FTL: Faster Than Light, musician Ben Prunty has been hard at work on not only new video game soundtracks, but a lot of his own personal material too.
In fact, I reviewed a few of these self-published albums last year and struggled to find anything negative to really say; it seemed that each one carried with it not only a unique-sounding flavour, but a central theme or identity that made it feel distinct and likeable.
Released just this month, Ben Prunty’s eighth release titled Dark Window continues in very much the same fashion as it promises a departure from his previous work by offering, as the description tells it:
“…atmospheric, horror-themed ambient and industrial music… inspired by my love of horror fiction, creepypasta, urban legends, and the fine tradition of unsettling ambient music made for its own sake.”
The FTL Original Soundtrack featured popular tracks of a similar design and I wonder if Dark Window is partly intended to be a bit of fan service on Prunty’s part; delivering a whole dedicated album of those “unsettling” ambient tunes that we’ve since come to know and enjoy. Either way, you really can’t fault the man for knowing where the money is!
Dark Window opens up, as it were, with Teeth; a track that’s easily the most energetic offering on the whole album. It’s in this song that Prunty’s trademark sound is most easily recognized with its nice riffy bassline and infectious beat. Although it’s perhaps furthest from the album’s overall concept, I find Teeth to be the strongest track on the album and that’s in spite of its overall short length.
In general I feel I should add that the tracks presented here are the perfect length, but Teeth is such a solid tune that I could have quite happily enjoyed another 60 seconds of such quality.
From there the album begins it’s steady introduction of more methodical ambient music, starting with the foreboding sounds of Basement (that makes wonderful use of sampled sound) and ending with the mist-covered undead graveyard tour that is The Sky is Dead.
Along the way you’ll hear the more epic sounds of The Faceless as well as the creepily repressed numbers (wonderfully) titled Cold Universe and Hallway.
A slight departure arrives in the track White-Haired Shadow, which plays out to the accompaniment of not only a digitized narrator, but also a record box playing a classical tune that’s highly reminiscent of BioShock’s more creepy milieus.
Indeed, the short uptempo track Quadruped also bears a similarity to Halo of all things, specifically the sections in that opus where you encounter the parasitic zombie-like enemies called The Flood; threatening video game moments in their own right.
Whether these ties are simply me reading into things too much or just plain coincidence, they do give the impression of where Prunty’s influences are coming from and the effect works very well for an album of this style.
Musically Dark Window is very different from the rest of its artist’s work, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t played to his strengths. The palettes and tool sets tapped for the album sound very fresh and the emphasis on theme here is also very well implied throughout.
A great use of horror-themed ambient music is as an accompaniment for similarly-themed tabletop role-playing games and it’s something that Prunty is quick to point out in the album’s description.
Having personally hosted a few horror RPG campaigns in the past (namely under the World of Darkness rule set), I can tell you that Dark Window would make an excellent addition to any such session in need of some heady “mood music”.
It should be noted that the album is a tad short to perform this specific job on its own however and whilst I don’t think its overall ‘horror factor’ reaches full on “this is freaking me out” territory, the tracks themselves are still of excellent quality and they won’t fail to set the scene for a few spooky stories.
Despite not being much of an audiophile in general, I have to say that I’ve enjoyed exploring more alternative music over the years with the electronic/darkwave and industrial genres being a rapidly growing favourite of mine in particular.
As an ardent follower of his music, the merest suggestion of ‘Prunty does industrial’ was to me a real “you had me at hello” sort of deal and I have to say that I’m very pleased with the results.
Overall Dark Window is another solid hit in Prunty’s expanding discography. At this point it’s clear that he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone: if he continues to record albums as strong as this, I’m sure it won’t matter what themes or styles he chooses to explore as their quality will speak for them.
If the foreboding sound of industrial ambient music appeals to you then Dark Window will not disappoint. It may not attack the horror-inspired theme in a myriad of different ways, but when it’s all done with the same kind of nuance and flair that Prunty typically brings to his material, who cares?