Michelle Zauner (AKA Japanese Breakfast) on Sable’s Wistful Soundtrack

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in her own The word, Michelle Zuner, aka indie-pop artist Japanese Breakfast, didn’t grow up in a home of high culture. He was not shown fine arts, foreign directors or classic literature by his parents in Oregon during the 1990s. Zooner had a video game, first on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and then on a PlayStation. She remembers playing a co-operative JRPG, 1993 secret of the mind, with his father at the age of 5. Because she was so young, she didn’t have complete command of her hands, it literally took years to complete. “When we finished that game, it felt like we really did something together,” she says over the phone from San Francisco, the afternoon before a Japanese breakfast show. “It was a real journey.”

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While composing the soundtrack for an open-world adventure sable, Zuner often returned in Hiroki Kikuta’s secret of the mind song music. “NS main menu music Very special,” she continues. “I thought a lot about that game, how is it Brief introductory animations and music made me feel—and I really wanted to take for granted Sable.

It makes perfect sense that Zooner should adopt his childhood for inspiration. sable A coming-of-age story set in a vast, mythical desert filled with destructible spaceships, crumbling monuments and ancient temples. Its titular character, the young Sable, is about to undergo gliding, a rite of passage on its way to adulthood. She is small and courageous but the world is big and scary. Zooner’s soundtrack of awe-inspiring pop tracks, gorgeous ambient numbers, and goofy character-driven ditties deftly articulates this inner and outer journey.

Zooner joined the project in 2017 after a Twitter DM from the game’s technical director, Danielle Fineberg. He was aware of Zuner’s love for video games because of promotion for his second album, Engineer, which includes a 30-minute SNES-inspired RPG called . is called japanese breakquest. Fineberg and creative director Gregorios Kytiotis also wanted an artist who sat outside the established pool of video game musicians, someone who knew video games but could infuse existing tropes and conventions into something new. Zuner saw the start of the game gif On Twitter, one featured a hoverbike gliding quietly through lilac-colored dunes. “The art was very striking,” she recalls. “I felt like our tastes were aligned from the start.”

With only a rough sense of the game’s vibrancy based on these images, as well as a handful of field details in a Google Doc, Zooner immediately got to work. First, he composed on a laptop and OP-1 synthesizer in the back of his tour van. Then in 2018 and 2019, longer recorded video clips began to arrive, helping to clarify whether she was on the right track. A year later, playable builds of the game were shipped, which is when the real work began. The bulk of the soundtrack was recorded during the lockdown at her studio in the Adirondacks, upstate New York, but “cartographer’s theme, a funny number that recalls quirky character themes zelda The games were cut at a week-long retreat in the parents’ cabin of sound designer Martin Kewaly. “That was what I managed to do there,” says Zuner, laughing.

She describes the creative process as a “real learning experience.” While his songs for Japanese Breakfast are rooted in standard pop structures, sable Meaning Zooner had to compose a mood-setting instrumental piece. To maintain a seamless atmosphere, these tracks should be written in such a way that they can be repeated. to eternity To adjust how much time a player can spend in a single area. That’s not how Zooner originally wrote them, so he had to go back and tweak the midi files to create a “whole surround loop”. The composer credits sound designer Kewalya for helping him achieve this, but also for making him feel part of the game’s cliffs and ruins architecture.

Zuner says: “If you go into a building, there’s a high pass filter, or if you go into a cave, reverb is added. Martin is responsible for that. He’s replaying all the music, So the world feels really, really immersive. It was such a unique experience to hear him do it.”

Zooner joined the project in 2017 after Daniel Fineberg’s Twitter DM said, sableTechnical Director of

Photograph: Nathan Bazar/The New York Times

The soundtrack feels embedded in the landscape, and not just because of Kevala’s sound design. Zooner envisioned the instrument as representing various directional points. “Beetle’s Nest“Repeats in various critter-infested locations, but if you’re near Hakoa, the theme starts to incorporate the “creepy, crystallized piano sounds” of that area. “I started thinking of creative ways,” she says. where you were in the world,” and then learning to repeat themes and create feelings based on that.

Overall, the score is slowly reminiscent of Japanese. environmental music From the 1980s and ’90s, unmatched synthesizer music that was often intended to be heard in specific physical locations. NS”sable inspection“The playlist is filled with the leading practitioners of the Zooner compilation genre including Haruomi Hosono. The ringing bells and metal chimes of her tracks,”mercuric dance, “echo in”Exploration (ship)“A song that the player hears in the grand, atomic ruins of Midden. But the music is emotional as well as functional. Zooner mentions Brian Eno”big ship“And Yo La Tango”green Arrow, “the first instrument that carried her as much as the lyrics with the song. On”sansi (day), “You can hear this big-hearted approach to ambient composition; it fills the negative space between of sable Wavy dunes and high cliffs.

Despite Zunner flexing new musical muscles on the instrumental works, this vocal track is “better mask“that he is particularly fond of – a sad counterargument”glider“Which repeats the major themes of the game. I really hope the song gets its due,” says Zooner. I’ve been thinking a lot about those who have struggled with aging, even in their thirties, and I’ve been given a lot of advice for them just to try. Every day something happens, whether you stop, whether you wait. You just have to move on, and I think that’s about the game. “

In a way, “Better the Mask” also represents a transition, albeit of a musical type, for Zunner; This was the first time he had composed for piano with strings. “You know, I never went to music school, and it’s always been seen as composing a string arrangement as a very appropriate, serious thing,” she says. “It always felt out of my reach, and it was the first time I really felt confident enough to go on as a arranger and musician.”

Photo: Shedworks

it could be because sable There’s a rare project for the Zooner, where he’s not the center of attention. With Japanese Breakfast and its best-selling memoir cry in h martoZauner ditched her private life for public consumption, writing in candid style about almost every aspect of her existence, including, most poignantly, the passing of her mother. Feather “paprika, ” he calculated with the intensity of making such art. “I opened the floodgates,” sang Zooner. “And found no water, no stream, no river, no crowd.” sable What has been a liberating experience, free of the expectations that usually come with her work?

“Yes. And honestly, doing interviews like this is so liberating because, for the first time, I feel like I can be approached on the technical side of composition in a way that I don’t get a chance to talk about very often, Even if it is a huge part of my work,” says Zauner. “For the past six years, I have spoken about the death of my mother, and how much my music is about grief and loss. This is the first project I have worked on, which has nothing to do with me or my personal life. I’m just this creative team in a big machine. “

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