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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves by Greg Edmonson

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

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 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Soundtrack)  by Greg Edmonson
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Poster and Memorabilia)

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Poster and Memorabilia)







Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Soundtrack) by Greg Edmonson

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Composed by Greg Edmonson
Concord Records (2008)

Rating: 9/10

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“’s noble, it’s memorable, it’s dynamic, it’s exotic, and — perhaps most importantly — it’s just plain fun.”

A Shiny Sequel
Review by Marius Masalar

The rain is pouring down outside my window, which seems appropriate since I feel like I ought to be in some tropical jungle climbing improbably large ancient monuments and pillaging treasures instead of sitting here and reviewing GREG EDMONSON’s score for the multi-award-winning video game sequel, UNCHARTED 2: AMONG THIEVES. Good music will do that to you: it will move you, inspire you, and conjure up vivid images in your mind. In the case of UNCHARTED 2, the images are probably of a dashing adventurer performing various acts of extreme archeology with significantly less concern for te laws (of the country, of physics…) than, say, Lara Croft. All while trying to get his true love and true lust to get along as they accompany him for the ride. I’m sure we can all sympathize. Especially with such a rousing musical score to represent the journey.

Fans of the first UNCHARTED game are in for a treat right off the bat when “Nate’s Theme 2.0” (1), a familiar and iconic melody, bursts out of their speakers as this album’s introductory track. This cue sums up the game aptly: it’s noble, it’s memorable, it’s dynamic, it’s exotic, and — perhaps most importantly — it’s just plain fun. “The City’s Secret” (2) introduces the sequel’s primary thematic material in the form of a plaintive Erhu line before continuing on into a fairly subdued example of exploration music that showcases EDMONSON’s philosophy of structuring cues as suites of short build-and-release segments that reflect the non-linearity of the gaming medium. This structure is encountered consistently throughout the game’s score. In a frenetic action setting, one notices it in the next track, “Bustin’ Chops” (3).

Many of the low-key gameplay cues, including “Breaking & Entering” (5), and “The Heist” (23) don’t really distinguish themselves particularly well as dynamic listening experiences, but keeping in mind that they’re meant to be fairly unobtrusive in-game, one can only fault them for injecting moments of blandness into an otherwise exciting and engaging album listening experience. The action cues, on the other hand, are spectacular and occasionally surprising (the “Western” fiddle interjection around 1 minute into “Helicopter & Tank” (7) comes to mind). The percussion layering is admirable and helps emphasize the exotic locales visited by the cast of the game over the course of the narrative.

Unlike in many video games, there is a deeply moving and profound level to the music of UNCHARTED 2, reflecting the game’s emphasis on storytelling alongside its gameplay. Tracks like “Reunion” (4), “Marco Polo” (8), and “Train Wrecked” (12) really showcase this tragic and stirring side of the score, making spectacular use of the game’s main theme and making use of some shiver-inducing elements of beauty, including Erhu solos and a short vocal passage in the latter track that’s sung in a similar manner to the haunting opening of ARMAND AMAR’s score to HOME.

Among the more typical Erhu and Duduk statements of exotic ethnicity in the score, EDMONSON makes use of something large, loud, and a little bit terrifying. Your first opportunity to hear it clearly is in “The Monastery” (9), a cue for the harrowing level in the game that requires you to infiltrate a beautifully rendered old Tibetan monastery. After a lull in the music, you hear a blaring, thunderous monstrosity of a sound that apparently belongs to an ancient type of Tibetan ritual horn, vaguely resembling the European Alpenhorn. Along with it, there are brief statements of Gamelan and traditional Tibetan percussion — contributing to an undeniably localized sound. The combination appears along with iconic Tibetan throat singers and a strangely lilting, Bhangra-like rhythm in “Broken Paradise” (16).

While the original release concluded EDMONSON’s work with a nice summation of the game’s themes between the titular “Among Thieves” (18) and “A Rock & A Hard Place” (19), the recent CD release also includes 3 bonus tracks to close off the album after CARMEN RIZZO’s contribution, “The Road to Shambhala” (20). The bonus tracks are worthy additions, exploring more highlights from the expansive set of material written for the game. It’s worth mentioning how fundamentally cool RIZZO’s track is. Combining the game’s ethnic instrumentation with a trance-ambient vibe and a mesmerizing off-kilter beat, the track is a suitable and authentic contemporary spin on the traditional elements of the score.

I’m happy to be reviewing in an age where game scores are raising the bar so consistently in terms of creativity, craft, and emotional content. Scores like UNCHARTED 2: AMONG THIEVES remind us just how inspiring the gaming medium can be for composers, and how lucky their audiences are, having been spoiled with such rich musical accompaniments to their exploits. The comparatively huge ensemble of live orchestral and solo players perform brilliantly, and the mix — especially on CD — is powerful and vibrant. From the sweeping themes, to the exotic soundscapes, GREG EDMONSON wields his talents expertly and delivers a listening experience that’s nearly as effective out of the game as it is in it. A rare and laudable achievement.

Rating: 9/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Nate's Theme 2.0 1:46  *****
2 The City's Secret 3:33  ****
3 Bustin' Chops 2:08  ****
4 Reunion 1:42  *****
5 Breaking & Entering 3:13  ***
6 Desperate Times 3:27  ****
7 Helicopter & Tank 2:07  ****
8 Marco Polo 1:31  *****
9 The Monastary 4:10  ****
10 Refuge 2:11  ***
11 Warzone 2:14  ****
12 Train Wrecked 3:07  ****
13 Cat & Mouse 2:21  ***
14 Cornered 3:36  ***
15 The GAtes of Shambhala 3:17  ****
16 Broken Paradise 2:29  ****
17 Brutal Combo Mambo 2:24  ***
18 Among Thieves 1:39  ****
19 A Rock & A Hard Place 3:44  ****
20 The Road to Shambhala (Carmen Rizzo) 5:17  *****
21 Bonus: Take That! 2:28  ****
22 Bonus: Tunnel Vision 1:59  ****
23 Bonus: The Heist 2:35  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 63 minutes  



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