Soundtrack of 'SOULS'
Sometimes I thought it might never happen—but Ecology of Souls is here. The release includes not only Volumes One and Two, but also a companion book (available for purchase or as a free download here) and the eBook, which combines V1 & V2. That's neat.
I'm equally excited to hear what you think and glad it's over. It was an exhausting undertaking. To get me through the process, I kept several albums playing in the background on constant rotation.
It occurred to me sometime in Ecology of Souls's endgame that this wasn't just a soundscape for me to write to—it had become a part of the book itself. How fitting, for such a big project to come with its own soundtrack?
I thought it might be nice for readers to have these albums at their disposal, to further enhance their experience. Most of these are instrumental—for the most part, I can't write or read when lyrics are playing in the background—so they should compliment your journey into the ecology well.
So crack open Ecology of Souls, click the links below, and enjoy the ride.
Dear Esther original soundtrack (2012). This little gem of a game haunts your mind long after the credits roll. So does the soundtrack. Jessica Curry's austere opus received countless accolades after release, and it's easy to see why. The primary theme is simple yet memorable, a perfect complement to the wind-swept Hebridean island you wander over the course of the game.
I loved Dear Esther, and have listened to the soundtrack while writing many times. However, it didn't strike me until late in writing Ecology of Souls how well the game's source material fits the books. It's a game about loss and death. I didn't realize until my second play-through that you, as the player, are dogged by ghosts the entire time, appearing so distantly that they might be mistaken for a trick of the light. Play Dear Esther's soundtrack in the background while reading Ecology of Souls. You won't regret it.
Beowulf original soundtrack (2007). I know people who loathe this adaptation of the Old English epic poem. I am not among them. Yeah, you've got your uncanny valley, and yeah, it's not unfailingly faithful to the source material—but I think it does an excellent job in many respects, including how it gives the eponymous hero a satisfying character arc. Plus, after reading Ecology of Souls, you start seeing some things in it which you can't "unsee." The soundtrack—by under-appreciated badass Alan Silvestri—brought a lot of the Norse mythology in my writing to life for me. Hopefully it does the same for you.
Labyrinth original soundtrack (1986). Yeah, you knew it would be on here. The film is cheesy in many respects, but also surprisingly faithful to faerie folklore in others. Can't ever go wrong with David Bowie, really.
Fever Ray - Fever Ray (2009). Fever Ray's self-titled debut might well be the witchiest album I have ever listened to, and I mean that in a good way. I bought the album after hearing her opening track, If I Had A Heart, used in the opening credits to the television series Vikings. To my pleasant surprise, the entire album brings the same vibe and energy. Her follow-up album was, in my opinion, less enjoyable—it eschews a lot of the occult vibes this one throws off—but listening to this record felt like I was descending on my own personal katabasis while writing Ecology of Souls.
Ágætis byrjun - Sigur Ros (1999). Unlike Fever Ray, Sigur Ros's second album is a classic, in my opinion, especially the first half. Appropriately enough (given the album art), Ágætis byrjun often feels like a return to the womb—a return to the ecology of souls, if you will. The ethereal impression is augmented by the band's lyrics, which are not sung in Icelandic, but rather "Hopelandic," an entirely invented language. Turn it on and let the lyrics drift you into the Otherworld while reading.
The Dark Crystal original soundtrack (1982). Trevor Jones's soundtrack to The Dark Crystal doesn't get as much love as Labyrinth. It's likely the lack of Bowie. But that absence makes it an even better fit for reading and writing. There's a lot to love in here, and the whole affair is quite ethereal in parts. Fun fact: I am 99% sure Jones repurposed one the Gelfling pipe tunes for his composition "A Sad Old Day" on the Brassed Off! soundtrack. (It's okay, Trevor. All composers do it, including yours truly.)
Bone Machine - Tom Waits (1992). There are probably a lot of Tom Waits albums that you could listen to while reading Ecology of Souls—The Black Rider is a strong contender—but the subject matter of Bone Machine places it a notch or two above the rest. It's an unflinching look at the yawning grave, and is even grittier and more overdriven than a lot of other albums in his catalogue.
Stranger Things original soundtrack - Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein (arr. Gruber) (2017). Now for something completely different. While the soundtrack for Stranger Things was already noteworthy for its heavy synth use, hearkening back to the classics of '80s horror, something about the simple, low reverberation of the chiptunes edition really spoke to me. Many a day I would begin writing Ecology of Souls in the park (a park with WiFi!), and the first thing I would do would be to fire up this version of the soundtrack. (Since I won't get the opportunity to write about this elsewhere, how great would it have been if Season Two had done the smart thing and moved on to the 1990s, and tried to capture the zeitgeist of that era? My version—the best one, which will never be made—opens on a sleepy southwestern town. It's slowly wracked by cattle mutilations until a mysterious female psychic arrives on the scene to help. It's not until halfway through the season that we realize it's Eleven. Would have been a great way to allow the series to continue its limited-hangout vibe, tying in "real-life" mythology surrounding Dulce Base and how it's authorities, not aliens, who are responsible for cattle mutilations. Call me for the reboot, Netflix, there's still time.)
As Autumn Falls - Lex Wahl (2013). Lex hosts the podcast Anything Ghost. I do enjoy it from time-to-time, although sometimes ghost stories get a bit repetitive for my tastes. Lex is actually an accomplished composer, having written the show's fantastic theme song. Along the way, he's released a few albums here and there. I play As Autumn Falls every... well... autumn. It also got a lot of play when I was writing Ecology of Souls. Another fine accompaniment to reading the books. As Autumn Falls used to be available on YouTube, but can now only be found for purchase on Amazon. Show Lex a little love and stream it, won't you?
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice original soundtrack - David García & Andy LaPlegua (2017). I'm almost at a loss for words to describe how I feel about this game, and by extension, its soundtrack. Hellblade is among the rare games that I have played through more than five times. It hits, emotionally, with a strength games rarely elicit in me.
Imagine my surprise when, upon replaying it while Barbara Fisher was editing Ecology of Souls, I found almost every motif in the books presented before me. I remembered that it was one of the best depictions of shamanism ever presented in video games (semi-offendingly presented as mental illness, but whatever). What I had forgotten was how closely it picked up upon the motifs my Ecology of Souls journey had uncovered. I sat there, open-mouthed, as the beginning of the game showed the protagonist traveling to the realm of the dead in a psychopompic boat carrying her dead lover's severed head. Events continue to unfold throughout the game, bringing even more persistent themes into the mix. In some ways, it is Ecology of Souls: The Video Game.
In addition to García's and LaPlegua's original soundtrack, the final battle is set to Passarella Death Squad's Just Like Sleep, which I would literally put on repeat while writing. It's that good. If there is an Ecology of Souls single, this is it.
Happy reading, folks.