Developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by gaming giant Capcom, Remember Me boasts an original concept in a stunningly realized world. Regardless of your feelings toward the gameplay itself, it's difficult to argue that the environs you get to explore whilst playing are absolutely beautiful, teeming with imagination and displaying an impressive attention to detail. The streets of Neo-Paris really come alive, bombarding you with visual and audio stimuli from every angle. Neon signs, bustling shops, the constant presence of technology, it all adds up to this fictional yet scarily plausible world. What also helps make the world of Remember Me so special is an utterly captivating, staggeringly original score by French composer Olivier Deriviere.
Quite strangely, the closest likeness to Deriviere's Remember Me might be David Arnold's Die Another Day, the final (and weakest) installment of the Brosnan Bond era. A guilty pleasure, yes, but a somewhat failed experiment in blending orchestral and techno/electronica styles. It's a bit of a disservice to compare what Deriviere has accomplished with Remember Me to the "just decent" Die Another Day, but the basic thinking is not dissimilar: attempt to blend a full orchestra with electronics, manipulating the organic sounds and creating a new, "hybrid" palette. To a certain type of listener, what Deriviere has done here may be every bit as objectionable as Die Another Day, but make no mistake, Remember Me is leagues beyond the complexity and listenability of that score, and might even be one of the best orchestral/electronic mashups ever attempted. Matching the electronic and the orchestral is nothing new in scoring films or videogames; composers have been merging the two since electronics were still just novelties. That being said, what is remarkable about Remember Me is just how seamless the integration and manipulation is. It's as if the orchestra is being peeled away to reveal electronics underneath, or vice versa. Deriviere's "hybrid" orchestra is fresh, exciting, and something you probably haven't heard before.
The score opens with the jaw-dropping "Nilin the Memory Hunter", an elaborate introduction of Deriviere's main theme. With bold, blaring horns, fluttering woodwinds, and string work alternatively lush and energetic, it's clear that even without all of the electronic manipulations Remember Me would still be a superb score. A sturdy orchestral foundation bolsters all of these added elements and both that, and the sheer ingenuity of what Deriviere does with his electronics, is what makes Remember Me so good. Over racing strings, an otherworldly, theremin-like instrument pronounces the main identity of the score, before building electronics lead to the full unleashing of the "hybrid" orchestra. Frenetic synth beats and notes, coupled with frequent skips of the orchestra undoubtedly make this an unusual, even startling experience first time around, but I implore you to stick with it. Once you've become accustomed to the freneticism, the skips and distortions of the layered electronics, their presence will seem quite natural. Even with all of this manipulation, though, Deriviere finds plenty of time to let the Philharmonia Orchestra breathe. With the exception of some electronic underlay, he lets rip with the orchestra in a stunning display of the main theme from 1:49 - 2:17, and the cue closes out with delicately swirling woodwinds and a female voice singing "remember me". Kitschy as the latter inclusion may be, it's still one more thing that makes this score different from so many others.
The main theme's constructs litter the score, as if being retrieved along with Nilin's lost, fragmented memories. In the context of the game, in fact, we are only rewarded with a full assemblage of the main theme at its conclusion. "Nilin the Memory Hunter", then, might be more appropriately placed at the end of the score, though a stunning opener it remains.
"Risen to the Light", the second cue on album, is the actual piece that ushers us into the gameplay. Intermittently featuring a rising, two-note motif eerily reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's Alien (also heard in "Nilin the Memory Hunter", among other cues), "Risen to the Light", conveys a feeling of awe with a hint of foreboding as we take in our futuristic surroundings for the first time. The primary identity of the cue at 2:09, an ethereal adagio of sorts, communicates the strange wonder of the memory-wiping process as Nilin approaches its blinding light. It's all very dream-like. The primarily orchestral "Still Human", flows and ebbs like a waltz, slightly crooked but beautiful nonetheless. The cue ends with a fantastic little crescendo and a hint of the main theme.
"Fragments", an almost exclusively electronic piece, is an altogether different beast. With a strong sense of beat, it's much more electronica than anything prior, a heavily processed female chorus singing the word "memory" further setting it apart. Hardly the only one of its kind, such tracks prove the composer's adeptness and apparent comfort in both styles of music. The enchanting strings and light, rapid brass of "Neo Paris" pull us in a different direction, as Deriviere establishes some identity for the 2084 setting. The cue experiences more and more electronic manipulation, however, as it proceeds and builds in urgency, and we return to full electronica with "The Enforcers", a somewhat hard-edge piece for one of the game's primary adversaries. Though I personally enjoy it, this may be where the die-hard traditionalists bow-out. Their loss. Following this, the thrilling "Chase Through the Montmarte" plays with a few fragmented variations on the score's main theme before turning into a complete powerhouse of Deriviere's hybrid orchestra. Under all the electronic manipulations, this is expertly constructed action music. Amidst the cue's energetic bombast, be careful not to loose sight of a brief bit of earnest, purely orchestral beauty at 3:20. This idea later informs the highlight (2:08 - 2:32) of "The Fight", a truly bold bit of heroism in a slightly more electronic track.
The first half of "Memory Reconstruction" is positively magical as strings swirl and swiftly build for one hell of a dazzling show. It's not too long though until things turn a bit more dire, and towards the end of the cue the same idea is translated into a more frantic, uneasy mix with heavier electronic emphasis. The entirely orchestral, almost classical "Our Parents" dances elegantly around the motif featured in "Chase Through the Montmarte" and "The Fight", before giving way to the pressing urgency of "Memorize". A brief, fluttering string interlude in this cue informs "The Ego Room", with choir performing the increasingly frequent motif of "Chase Through Montmarte" and "The Fight". As we drawn nearer to the end, the harrowing and moving "Remember Your Childhood" explores parts of the main theme with only light electronic manipulation, amounting to a very harmonically satisfying piece. The threat of "The Zorn" (accompanying Nilin's battle with the robot) signifies the score's last significant employment of the electronic / orchestral mix, and it is perhaps the score's most frenetic, intentionally disjointed use of it. Thus, the sheer beauty and optimistic exuberance of "Hope" is a wonderful kind of catharsis to the deftly constructed chaos. With the exception of some extremely minor manipulations, this piece is almost entirely orchestral, the concluding expanse following 2:11 being some of the warmest material the score has to offer.
Early on, there was much talk about how Olivier Deriviere would approach scoring Remember Me. Should he make the location, Neo-Paris, the primary focus? Should Nilin, the memory hunter and protagonist, take the center-stage? Or, rather, should he attempt to score the story itself? Ultimately, Deriviere perfectly balances these various elements, following the narrative of the game while also establishing themes for the setting and, by way of the score's softer orchestral side, staying in tune with Nilin's character and emotions. The new, hybrid sound that Derivere creates, exposing itself more and more as Nilin "glitches" the world around her, is perfectly in touch with the world of the game. Indeed, like the game's digitized memories or Neo-Paris setting, the composer has taken something beautiful and altered it, messing a little with its purity to produce something altogether new. As a result, few scores in recent memory have managed to seems so fresh. Quite simply, Olivier Deriviere's staggeringly original Remember Me is one of the most remarkable marriages of music and game I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
A Few Recommended Tracks: Normally, I'd take this time to pick out a few favorites and, truthfully, "Nilin the Memory Hunter" would take the cake, but you're better off experiencing this score as a whole. Every single track is worth exploring.
Label: Ameo Prod, Inc.
Availability: 15 track edition