A key name on the video-game music landscape is Jesper Kyd. He created an impression on people when the Assassin’s Creed franchise exploded in the late 2000’s. As the AC brand bled into the mainstream market, the chance of hearing his music was significantly increased. “Oh yeah, that guy who did the Assassin’s soundtrack!”, I’ve heard a number of times when providing his odd (Danish) name.
Apart from the bonus luck of being attached to Assassin’s Creed, Kyd has made it in the industry through long term consistency. Starting out in the 90’s, he’s witnessed and heard the change in gaming technology. Digital music was along for the ride, too. Composing for Sega’s Genesis (and even a 32X game) then took him to MDK2 and the Hitman series. For other projects he worked with important names such as Rom Di Prisco on the Unreal Tournament 3 soundtrack, Sascha Dikiciyan (aka Sonic Mayhem) for Borderlands and Lorne Balfe for AC: Revelations.
They’ve all got that Jesper Kyd style that is combining orchestra, smooth synth and percussion that heads towards tribal. For me the Assassin’s Creed II soundtrack is the one I have returned to most often. A great use of strings and voice, guitar and subtle synth. Highlights include Earth, Florence Tarantella, The Madam and Home in Florence. Another gem on his list is the Darksiders II soundtrack. Because it wasn’t the best selling title I actually only came across the OST recently. The Makers Theme, The Floating City and Crystal Spire are great examples. Borderlands, which did quite well when released, has highlights such as the Prelude, Welcome to Fyrestone and The Junkyard Vista for example. The challenge of balancing atmospheric and battle type music is important in the video game world. The action / calm juxtaposition is core to movies as well but generally in games its’s more stark – the player controls the pacing to a greater degree. Jesper Kyd is a composer who strikes that balance very well.
According to some recent (and slightly older) interviews his kit is based on Cubase, vintage hard synths like the ol Prophet 10, Korg’s MonoPoly and a range of older sample sets of the likes of ProjetSAM.
If you haven’t heard any of his stuff, now’s the time. Keeping his cards close to his chest means it’s not too clear what he’s up to next, but it certainly will be something good!