Experimental composition meets video game melodies on this unique record.
On Flower Knight, Murdoch works with the limited tools of the earliest video game soundtracks to exploit their simple pleasures in a different way. He uses a stripped-back palette of sounds that feel like artificial nylon string twangs—sometimes they pluck out familiar melodies, like on "Bench Theme," which could soundtrack the protagonist resting somewhere safe after a battle, or "The Grounds," which might be from a dungeon crawling scene. But most of the time the music is elegant, almost baroque, like "Forgotten Drawbridge," which captures the pseudo-classical approach of Japanese RPGs. Or the Emile Frankel collaboration "Cornifer's Song," whose skewed, almost random poly-melodies sound like the work of an AI raised on the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.
Using mostly the same sounds, Murdoch creates a remarkable variety of moods and textures on Flower Knight. It's legitimately experimental yet still approachable, using its conceit as a palatable disguise for some pretty out-there music. But the best moments might be the sweetest, and they come at the end: the five-minute "Escape (For Nepeta)" presents flurry after flurry of arpeggios, like a modern classical composition in 8-bit. It's followed by "New Game +," which offers an optimistic, triumphant finish—that feeling in some video games of winning and gaining access to a new, harder version. Like the composers he was probably inspired by, Murdoch wrings complex emotions via catchy melodies with the sparest of sound palettes. This might not be face-melting club music, but it's nearly as impressive.