Review: No Man’s Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe by 65daysofstatic

It might take 5 billion years to fully explore the vast, procedurally generated universe of No Man’s Sky – but it only takes 65daysofstatic to soundtrack it.

Few bands could take up the task of generating an atmosphere for the infinite vacuum of deep space – but the resulting double album shows that it’s exactly the kind of project the Sheffield four-piece were born to do.

From their earliest demo, //watch the stars fall, the band’s marriage of electronic glitches, drones and guitars has aimed to transcend earthly boundaries, and Hello Games boss (and Dungarvan native) Sean Murray has spoken of how the scale of 65daysofstatic’s music enabled him to dream of building a universe of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets.

With one soundtrack under their belt in their re-score of sci-fi cult classic Silent Running, 65 were eager to get involved after Hello Games licensed their track Debutante for the announcement trailer that brought the gaming world to its feet.

Such was Hello Games’ respect for the band, they issued one instruction – “make a 65daysofstatic record.” As a result the mature explorations of melody that were hallmarks of last release Wild Light are still present here – but they’re not quite in Kansas anymore.

On opener Monolith – described by frontman Joe Shrewsbury as “something we haven’t quite done before” – malevolent guitar complements an anxious synth line to create a claustrophobic atmosphere that conjures images of creeping around deserted alien industrial complexes.

Lead single Supermoon organically grows – no, soars – to a euphoric crescendo built around a piercing vocal sample that beautifully captures the heady idealism of the game and plants a twinkle in the mind’s eye of the kind of far-out possibilities that are promised to await in the game’s vast expanse. Heavily featured in trailers, it’s one of 65’s finest works yet.

The human mind cannot fully comprehend eternity though, and in lighting up the afterburners and reaching for infinity each time 65 run the risk of simply wearing us out. End of The World Sun sounds like its name and is an effective closing track – but it’s nothing Mogwai weren’t doing in 1997.

The climactic moments of Heliosphere and Blueprint For a Small Machine work well in isolation, but after multiple playthroughs one yearns to hear the off-kilter, delicate keys of the former and the sweeping, celestial grandeur of the latter without being rushed.

This is where the album’s second Soundscapes disc comes in. Here, 15 compositions which wouldn’t necessarily fit Hello Games’ idea of “the next 65 record” are presented across 6 tracks.

Importantly, the most ear-catching moments here – the slinky beats of Noisetest, the thrillingly ominous chords of Celestial Feedback – are given space to breathe by the presence of ambient drones. It’s a wonderfully balanced listen, full of arresting moments.

There’s an interesting dichotomy at play when it comes to No Man’s Sky and it’s reflected in both halves of this album. An indie title from a tiny studio in Hello Games, it’s been backed to the hilt by Playstation and given the marketing budget to match, and 65daysofstatic have landed themselves this opportunity from a similar position.

Those drawn to the game by the scale and glitz promised by the trailers will find much to love in the ambitious, reaching moments of Music for an Infinite Universe. For those drawn by the promise of exploration and the idea of making a small corner of the cosmos their own, well, there’s similar discoveries to be made on Soundscapes.

Stephen Keegan

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