The upcoming Capcom and Dontnod sci-fi action title Remember Me features a world where memories can be altered by corporations in the futuristic metropolis of Neo Paris. With this interesting concept in tow, musician Oliviere Deriviere had the challenging task of crafting the music for this game's world.
Part of Deriviere's inspiration came from the world itself. "I feel very lucky, since Remember Me is a completely new world. Because [its setting is] futuristic, there is a lot to explore and experiment with musically."
Deriviere said the electronic stylings of Aphex Twin helped narrow down his direction in music composition. His other influences in crafting Remember Me's sci-fi soundtrack were the music of '80s sci-fi films like Blade Runner and Marathon Man. "A lot of [these movies] take their references in 19th-century music. This is one of the reasons I used a symphonic orchestra. Although Remember Me takes place in a futuristic Paris, you still have buildings from the 19th century; it makes sense to keep the cultural history of the city within the music," he said.
Deriviere said he was entranced by the personal journey of the game's main character Nilin, a journey that is laced with self-doubt. "The music is not an illustration of the world, but reflects the inner emotion of Nilin," he said. Her quest to restore her memories is reflected in the first song players will hear: "Nilin the Hunter".
The track's mixture of synth, electronica, and orchestra sets the tone for the entire game, with the song's stuttering and raw, unfinished feel highlighting Nilin's confusion and stoicism. Deriviere said the full piece only plays at the end of the game as a way to signify Nilin completely recovering her lost memories at the journey's end.
Speaking of orchestra, the composer feels that the way he used the Philharmonia Orchestra at Air Studio for the background music was unique. "In the game, an organic form's memory can be digitized. The creative director Jean-Maxime Morris has decided that this idea has to be reflected in the soundtrack, so he and I decided to create an acoustic recording, digitize it, and then manipulate it. When [players] hear the live orchestra, people may think the electronic [layer] of the song is a synth, but it's not. It's the manipulation process of the actual orchestra," he said.
Coming up with the technique to modify the orchestra's recording and making it sound "synthetic" and electronic was a big challenge for Deriviere. "Since the game follows Nilin's memory reconstruction, most tracks are reflecting her quest. Throughout her journey, you will have different themes, but at one point, you will hear all of them on top of each other like a counterpoint."
The theme of conflict is most obvious with the track "Fragments", as it is one of the early combat themes in the game. The tune made frequent use of a synthesized voice sample saying "memory" that accompanies the dynamic pacing of the electronic music. The theme of abuse of power is prevalent in the track "Memoreyes", which is named after the corporate antagonist of the game, Memoreyes. Deriviere said that this track portrays the omnipotence of the company, and how it messes people up with its technology.
The track "Hope" also brings in the theme of comfort, as it plays during key moments between Nilin and her close friends. Deriviere keeps the track's electronic manipulation to a minimum to make it natural sounding, as well as to give out positive emotions from its slow tempo and strings. The central cue that ties the music together is the track "Memory Reconstruction". While the tune starts out in a gentle manner, its static effects and incompleteness teases a larger composition that reveals more layers as the game comes to a climax.
He feels that the Blade Runner musical influences helped in tying the score together. He followed composer Vangelis' method of complementing the dark atmosphere of Los Angeles 2019 with soft, major key, and contemplative music. He said that creative director Jean-Maxime Morris wanted Neo Paris' dark atmosphere to be hidden beneath the surface.
Deriviere finds it hard to nail down a genre for what he has made. "People are used to hearing a hybrid style between electronic and orchestra, but Remember Me's music is not that. It's difficult to explain that the electronic you hear when the live orchestra is playing comes directly from its manipulation," he said.
The music's overarching theme of recovering lost memories also hints at the game's story secrets. While the track "Fragments" is anything but subtle in its delivery, Deriviere assures gamers that voice samples are synthesized discreetly throughout the entire soundtrack just for that touch of mysteriousness. Listen to "Nilin the Hunter" carefully, and players can hear the words "remember me" etched within the track's purposely fragmented form. "I'm not sure people will notice all the details in the melodies and harmonies," the composer concluded, "but I can tell you that it is a lot of fun to spread clues in every track…and a lot of work!"
Action game fans can experience the full aural bliss of the game's sci-fi-themed hybrid music when it comes out on June 4.