This is the first effort in the series from Tim Larkin, a sound designer for Cyan who has been working on the Myst series since Riven. And it is a thing of beauty, with a distinct tribal feel to it that Larkin probably got from Jack Wall’s use of the duduk in Myst III. And while that game may have started the tradition of more elaborate music in the series, I thought that some of the age themes didn’t quite fit. This isn’t the case here, making the Uru soundtrack an unquestionable success and one of the genuinely good things about the game. The only problem is that not all the tracks have been released in album form and thus some don’t have official names, so I provide my own in those cases. All can readily be found within the game files, however, making them easily accessible.
Perhaps the main highlight is the haunting “Gallery Theme”, heard in the Kadish Gallery, a simple background ambience accompanying a ravishing, wordless song in the crystalline voice of one Tasha Koontz, only 15 at the time. She contributes another track (let’s call it “Alive”) at the end of the Path of the Shell, this one with more triumphant, yet disquieting overtones, and more elaborate background music. She can also be heard in “Baron’s Theme”, the melancholy, lonesome melody that plays in Sharper’s Office in D’ni.
Other outstanding pieces include “Convergence”, which plays in the outside areas of Gahreesen, blending percussion, chimes and duduk into a soaring, sweeping whole, or “The Well”, from its indoors areas, ponderous and coldly menacing. “The Moon Room” and “The Vault”, from the eponymous locations in Kadish Tolesa, have a similar hypnotic quality, but the former sounds like dust motes in moonlight, while the latter adds a mystical rhythm to it. There’s also “Air Stream”, which plays in the desert outside the Cleft and gives the sense of hot air shimmering under the sun, with some country-like sonorities. “The Harvester”, which you hear while riding the eponymous machine in Er’cana, is also oddly compelling, with a slow, hazy start gradually building into an adventurous theme. You’ll eventually hear a track that I will call “Space” on Ahnonay, which I can only describe as a stellar melody, as if celestial bodies were singing in the depths of the universe. The music in Minkata uses several variants of the “Badlands” track, such as “Badlands Cave”, which starts playing when you near one of the kivas, giving your desert explorations an amazing tribal groove. The final reprise of this track, which I will call “The Way Is Found”, is particularly successful, giving the melody a goosebump-inducing, mystical swell. And as icky as Teledahn is, I actually quite enjoy the dreamy strains of “Spore Me”. In a different register, “Fall of D’ni”, which plays in the Kahlo Pub, instils a profound sense of unease and dread.
Some tracks are less successful, such as the rather bland “The Library”, which plays in the Great Library in D’ni. “The Bahro”, which plays in the various bahro caves you visit, sounds eerie enough for its purposes, with its Tibetan-like chanting, but it’s also rather disjointed. And while I rather like Peter Gabriel, why was “Burn You Up, Burn You Down” even included in the game? You can hear it playing on Zandi’s radio at the beginning of the game, but it has no thematic link with the storyline at all and sticks out like a sore thumb.