Separated from Nintendo’s videogame, Winifred Phillips’ music for Sim Animals stands very well on its own as a collection of insanely cheerful themes that manage to avoid the pitfalls of being cloying and saccharine.
The game was design for kids as well as ‘animal lovers,’ and while the concept seems straightforward – you interact with different forest species in order to gain their trust and enter far deeper into a forest menagerie – the music on this compilation album goes through a number of distinct theme variations, with some pretty startling orchestrations.
Phillips uses elements from a large orchestral palette, and the samples are extremely diverse, as well as her choice to move between traditional orchestra and jazz in certain cues. “Hard Times” begins with a rock-jazz percussion and brass intro, and slowly morphs into an eerie modern style with echoing strings before converging on delicate flutes and chimes.
The main theme is the score’s highlight, and Phillips’ variations include a pop-styled instrumental (“Forest Song”), a sleek jazz version with gliding brass (“Happy Place”), theme interplay between woodwinds and strings in “Friendship,” and the buoyant main title track, with its free-spirited tempo that propels and prepares the listener for a an amiable adventure.
The album mix includes occasional sound effects – generally twittering birds and the odd sound of rushing water – but they’re not distracting and usually fade away as a cue shifts to a different mood. “Perfect World,” for example closes with choral samples that back up the theme as played by woodwinds, whereas “Misty Bog” features distant fowl sounds that don’t distract from the woodwinds, which span clarinet, oboe, and twittering flute.
Most of the cues transform into different moods, and it’s clear a lot of thought went into crafting specific tones for the game’s levels – an aspect that gives the album a strong dramatic drive within the parameters of a fanciful adventure.
Other videogames scored by Winifred Phillips include Spore Hero (2009), Speed Racer (2008), Shrek the Third (2007), The Da Vinci Code (2006), and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).
To read an interview with Winifred Phillips, click HERE.
© 2009 Mark R. Hasan