- Composed by Olivier Deriviere
- Capcom / 2013 / 49m
A video game set in Paris (or more accurately “Neo Paris”) in the near future, Remember Me sees the player take control of a character called Nilin, a “memory hunter”. These memory hunters can access other people’s memories and alter them. The only trouble is, someone’s done this to Nilin, who has had her memory wiped entirely and must now fight to gain it all back. Still with me? Some readers are no doubt wishing that someone would wipe their memory of this paragraph so far. Stick with me, though, because Olivier Deriviere’s music is really quite something.
Don Davis’s music from The Matrix and its sequels caused quite a stir at the time – not least with me. It was so fresh-sounding (for film, anyway – the John Adams influence is pretty clear). It was so different from the general dumbed-down trends in film music (particularly for big action films). I thought it was sensational. But it didn’t seem to create any real ripples – no other scores came along that were similar to it, somewhat mystifyingly Davis didn’t seem to get any other jobs off the back of it – it seemed to just stand there alone. Now, with Remember Me, Deriviere has gone back to something not too far from that style of music, but added his own twist to it to create something rather special.
To reflect the memory-altering theme of the game, what Deriviere has done is to record a symphonic score and then manipulate some of that recording electronically, distorting, repeating, otherwise transforming various sections. To some people, the very idea of such a thing would put them off – and, understandably, there will be those who will just be plain irritated by the experience. But what impresses me so much about it is just how organic it all sounds – of course, you know it’s been manipulated, but it sounds so natural – it’s clear just what an incredible amount of effort has been put into it.
The album opens as it means to go in the excellent “Nilin the Memory Hunter”, which presents the expansive, sweeping main theme. There are plenty of opportunities to hear it performed “cleanly” by various acoustic instruments, also various segments in which it’s played around with. I particularly like the distinctive use of some sort of electronic wind instrument (it sounds a bit like an ondes martenot – but I don’t think it is one) – again, somehow it just works. And that opening track is breathlessly exciting, one of a large number of wonderful action cues here. A sampled vocal is introduced in “Fragments”, along with a bit more sampled percussion – the orchestra’s barely around this time, but even an old fart like me can appreciate how well-crafted it is. “The Enforcers” is even more hardcore, the sort of thing you might hear in a nightclub. (I imagine the Movie Wave demographic features quite a large number of nightclub-goers.)
“Chase Through Montmartre” introduces something new, with some heavy-duty, brassy action music that has something of a David Arnold feel to it. It’s breathlessly, brilliantly exciting. “Memory Reconstruction” adds a little more to the distortion effects – and then comes the magnificent action centrepiece of the score, “The Fight”. It’s an astonishing assault on the aural senses, really – layer-upon-layer of material is added, some orchestral, some manipulated orchestral, some purely electronic – it’s a brilliantly-constructed piece of music by anyone’s standards. “Memorize” is also very dynamic, brass thrusting confidently amongst beautiful, fluttering passages of strings and winds. I love the contrast in “The Ego Room” between the fast-paced action and the slightly heavenly beauty of the synth vocals. The final action set-piece is the driving “The Zorn”, with a Goldsmithian ostinato running through it, with bludgeoning force.
Impressively, it’s not all action – there are several moments of greater reflection. Indeed, the album’s second cue, “Rise to the Light”, has a kind of ethereal calm to it, with wonderfully impressive keyboard writing. A secondary theme is introduced in “Still Human”, with a slightly macabre, gothic tint to it – it’s strangely beautiful. An epic sweep is introduced in “Neo Paris”, an evocative portrait of a bustling city, with the pinched sound of the manipulated trumpets adding a brilliantly unsettling feel. “Our Parents” is a remarkable diversion, an elegant classical-sounding piece of great beauty, full of raw emotion. There’s emotion too in “Remember Your Childhood”, which amongst more dynamic passages does feature some very touching moments with the score’s main theme. The score ends on an optimistic note, with the appropriately-named “Hope” – a rousing, sweeping, positive way to round things off.
Remember Me is one of the most creative, daring, original scores I’ve heard in a long time. The contrast between it and and predictable monotony of some of the big tentpole film scores so far in 2013 couldn’t be greater – this score really does have steel. It would be great if a few film producers would give such licence to composers to paint on such a canvas. From the classically trained Deriviere, I’ve only previous heard Alone in the Dark, which was itself impressive but nowhere near on this scale. It won’t be something that will appeal to everyone, for sure – some just won’t like the electronic manipulation of the orchestra at all. I just can’t stop listening to it – I suspect many others will find themselves in the same boat if they give it a chance. At the time of writing, the album’s only available on iTunes, and it comes with my very highest recommendation.