Disco Elysium’s Soundtrack Connects to the Narrative Perfectly

Since its original release in 2019, ZA/UM’s Disco Elysium has received critical acclaim for its non-traditional approach to the RPG genre and unique sociopolitical themes. Heavily inspired by the tabletop RPG genre, Disco Elysium transports players to an urban fantasy setting where they are immersed with detailed worldbuilding and storytelling. While Disco Elysium succeeds on a number of fronts, its greatest success lies in the phenomenal soundtrack that connects back to the overall narrative. Composed by English alternative rock band British Sea Power, the soundtrack is a perfect match for the eccentric yet atmospheric universe of Disco Elysium. From melancholic sounds of isolation to ambient soundscapes to tense riffs, British Sea Power manages to convey the variety of moods in Disco Elysium beautifully.

These days, it’s common for video games soundtracks to be created by a composer or sound designer in a similar fashion to movie scores. While bands or artists can appear in a game’s soundtrack, they don’t usually play a role in the OST. It’s rare for a video game soundtrack to revolve around the sounds and ideas of a band but this is exactly the direction that Disco Elysium takes. Robert Kurvitz, lead designer and writer of ZA/UM, sought out British Sea Power during a tour and asked them to score the soundtrack for Disco Elysium. Before working on Disco Elysium, British Sea Power had made a name for themselves in the UK indie rock scene with their unique sound reminiscent of bands like The Cure and Joy Division. Favoring the experimentation of post-rock passages, British Sea Power became known for their moody atmospheres and art-rock-inspired passages. Their versatility with completely different sounds on their albums is what led to Robert Kurvitz seeking them out. Although it’s not common for video games soundtracks to revolve around a specific band, British Sea Power’s ability to craft a diverse palette of sounds made them the perfect match for the ambiance of Disco Elysium.

Although Disco Elysium’s soundtrack was composed by British Sea Power, it’s almost impossible to tell from playing the game. Like most video game scores, many of the songs lack vocals and are designed to deepen the atmospheres of the game instead of functioning on their own. At the same time though, many of the songs found in Disco Elysium are based on existing British Sea Power songs or reuse melodies and passages from their discography. It’s incredible how the Disco Elysium score manages to retain the indie rock charm of British Sea Power while giving it enough flair so that it feels like an organic extension of the game.

In particular, Disco Elysium seems to favor the post-rock-styled passages of certain British Sea Power songs as they help connect players with the atmosphere. Featuring multitracked vocals and slow instrumental movements, the soundtrack creates a haunting yet beautiful sense of wonder. As the game introduces new characters and environments, the soundtrack naturally shifts alongside these changes so players exploring the world of Disco Elysium are fully immersed. From the desolate district of Martinaise to the mysterious Pale, the score slowly changes to reflect the player’s journey. For a game that revolves around its writing and storytelling, it’s imperative that the soundtrack reflects the emotional moments and thematic concepts. In the case of Disco Elysium, not only does British Sea Power manage to compose an incredible score, but they also manage to connect it back to the narrative changes naturally.

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I turned my incoherent ramblings on music, anime, and video games into an entire blog.

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