A few days ago, my curated Facebook feed let me know that one of my favorite record labels, Ghostly International, would be releasing a vinyl edition of C418's Minecraft soundtrack. I hadn't listened to the music for a while, but I remembered it being one of my favorite parts of the game when I still played it in Alpha five years ago. I found the song that I remembered the most, titled Sweden, and was reminded of why I liked the game at first... and then why I stopped playing it. Minecraft had moved too far from the theme of its soundtrack that resonated with me: simplicity.
Daniel Rosenfeld's wonderful soundtrack perfectly set the mood for what I was loved about Minecraft: the procedurally generated LEGO simulator with wonderful opportunities for discovery. The song begins by slowly fading in with a simple piano melody, just as the player is dropped into a new world. It is clean, fresh, and peaceful. There is lots of room to move around and just see what is out there for the taking. As the song progresses, new melodies are introduced to augment the original cords. The player moves from the starting point to discover wild animals jumping around, maybe there's an endless sea to the east over which the pixelated sun is rising, to the west there is a forest with wood that can be used to create work benches, building materials, and tools. Danger is at a minimum. Nightfall holds the promise of monsters to come, but it is beautiful, for now.
Strings enter the equation. With tools built and some materials to build with, a home base can be constructed. Simply a small dugout in the side of a hill with a wooden door to keep out intruders. Maybe a few flowers outside if you are into gardening. After getting a pick and shovel, the real adventure begins. In the alpha I was interested in the sense of discovery, not necessarily building and winning any kind of end game. The only crafting that anyone was talking about included simple tools, armor, maybe some cooked food and simple furniture. Nothing was discussed about potions, magic, or anything I have heard of recently. Equipped with ladders and picks, it is time to head to the granite mountain in the distance with signs of coal to use for light in the darkness.
Pizzicato strings. We enter the darkening cavern in the side of the mountain, creating torches to light our way as we go deeper into the darkness. Sudden shafts require ladders to descend, or possibly some creative back and forth digging. A small corridor at the bottom with signs of life... or unlife. Zombies and skeletons! A dangerous battle, but fun nonetheless, with their jumping and boxy structures. Finally, I find what I have come for. The corridor expands into an enormous underground vault. A giant lake is fed by a waterfall from the surface. Shafts of light create an underground oasis to wander and explore. Lava pours from an errant magma shaft mixing with the water to create voluminous smoke and stone. What lies further beneath? Untold treasures, diamonds, gold... who knows? As the song fades, we must return to safety in our home so that we may set off in the other direction the next day to see what lies in the infinite unknown.
I stopped playing Minecraft around the Beta phase of testing. I didn't stop because it was bad, but it just wasn't for me. I enjoyed exploring and building simple structures, finding secret vaults of treasure, and just walking around the world with the backing of the peaceful soundtrack. Walking along the beach with songs such as “Subwoofer Lullaby” or seeing the sun rise to the sounds of the title track “Minecraft” brought me to another world. Upon trying to return to the game a few times during the last few years, I found a stranger in what was once comforting. New patches had come out to make the game more versatile. New tools and potions were introduced to allow different abilities. There was a place called the Nether which hosted a slew of scary monsters and could only be accessed by a carefully constructed obsidian gate. Eventually, I even read about an end game with a dragon. Children and adults alike worked together to create the most amazing structures, machines, and working computers in the game using simple tools. I was amazed... yet wanted no part in it. I loved the simplicity of the game that C418's soundtrack crystallized in audio form. I was a stranger to the game, but I respect it. Much like that person you like so much, yet are comfortable leaving them to find their own way.
Congratulations to C418, as well as Mojang, for the vinyl release of the Minecraft soundtrack. Ghostly International is one of the only labels I could see pulling this off and doing a wonderful job. They release top quality productions with wonderful packaging, tasteful artwork, and great mastering quality. If I still had my turntables, I would certainly buy the transparent green vinyl. Please support them, and this soundtrack, if you are a vinyl junkie like me and like good, relaxing music.
My life has been very exciting for all the wrong reasons lately, and I will return soon with more writing. Thank you so much, everyone.
PS: If you would like to know more about Ghostly International, or like good electronic music, please check out the videos below for some of my favorites. Fort Romeau's release “Insides” is my favorite album of 2015.