17 Jun 2016

Power Glove: "Trials of the Blood Dragon OST"

Hits but mostly commercialised misses for undiscerning fans
Mysterious Australian elecro-duo Power Glove have been lurking and looming for some time, poking their cyborg heads out once in a while to drop off a new track, an EP or a soundtrack at regular intervals. Their hugely popular soundtrack for the Ubisoft game Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon in 2013 was many people's first look into the neon-bathed vector lines of retro-futuristic synthwave music, and now they're back, revisiting the franchise that to some degree broke new ground for them.

Trials of the Blood Dragon is a spinoff of the popular platform racing game Trials, reskinned to tongue-in-cheek 80s glory. Power Glove now returns to the soundtrack trade, opening with an atmospheric jungle mood setter set to the familiar notes of the original Blood Dragon theme music. It feels like you're picking up the controller right from where you left off, all cyborg limbs still intact. The following track, however, is a severe change of pace - Something more akin to a rejected Miami Vice chase piece.

"...in actuality I suppose they are more video game music composers than synthwave artists by now."

Though all the components that make up a great synthwave (or Power Glove) album are present, it feels like there is something missing. Something about the duo's latest OST opus feels anticlimactic, and Trials of the Blood Dragon as a result doesn't have the same atmospheric drive and wholesomeness we've come to expect from Power Glove. They've released more music for video games than as independent musicians, so in actuality I suppose they are more video game music composers than synthwave artists by now.

They remain true to the decade and the pop culture, but their sound has become commercialised and run of the mill. Though I will never forget the first time I heard their track NightForce through the dark backalleys of YouTube, their Trials accompaniment feels somewhat far removed from the music that got them signed to Invada Records.

"...so too does this soundtrack feel repurposed and reused with reckless abandon."

The Trials of the Blood Dragon music feels forced, almost like a check too good to pass up. As you would expect, the duo looks back to their previous effort for recognisability purposes, but every element they borrow feels copy-pasted to the point where you might as well be listening to the old version. True, Trials is a vastly different game to Far Cry, but like these two games were more or less just reskinned versions of the originals, so too does this soundtrack feel repurposed and reused with reckless abandon. Even the group's remix of Roller Mobster, one of Carpenter Brut's most ruthless and uncompromisingly driven tracks, feels stale and derivative by comparison.

Though a handful of the almost thirty tracks stand out as being somewhat reminiscent of Power Glove's glory days, the duo's signature cyber ambience seems abscent. The album is not without its moments, but throughout one hour and fifteen minutes, it feels rushed, artificial, unambitious and lazy. If boiled down to fifteen or twenty minutes of high points it would make for a great EP, but long term it is just too samey and unfocused.


Released in 2016 by Ubisoft Music


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