Axiom Verge by Thomas Happ
…Trace… …Wake up Trace…”
Awaken and fulfill your destiny this week with Axiom Verge by Thomas Happ. Pressed on purple marble vinyl by Ship to Shore PhonoCo., the soundtrack to one of the greatest indie games ever made has been immortalized on vinyl. Will you have what it takes to overcome the realities of this timeline and help Elsenova save Sudran and the universe beyond its own Primordial Shores?
Thomas Happ is an award winning developer, composer, loving father and husband based out of California. Working as an engineer, artist, programmer, and animator for various game studios including Electronic Arts, Red Eye Studios, Hypnotix, and Petroglyph Games, Tom set out to achieve, like many other talented developers, his own dream. Driven by the passion and creativity of wonderfully imaginative indie games at the time, he began slowly and methodically, chiseling away at the marble of his creation. Posting regular updates on his own personal dev-blog, Tom soon garnered the attention, love, and tenacity of the gaming community at large.
Although only slightly educated in music from two years of piano lessons in high school, to messing around while in attendance at his alma master's music building's practice rooms, Tom became a master of all trades. From coding his own game, to designing and crafting the very music that brought it to life, what Tom has accomplished with Axiom Verge is not only a milestone in his own career, but a literal cornerstone in gaming history that will stand the test of time, which is large in part due to its music.
Axiom Verge isn't just a game or an experience, it's a transformation of one man's own dreams into a reality. Most people might have hired on a musician to help them during the development process and help shape their creation in an even more artistic way -- however, Tom's approach to the kind of work he does is so inspiring. As mentioned in the liner notes of the amazing pamphlet included in this release, Tom's view on this matter is summed up quite perfectly: "Would they pay someone to eat their dessert? To go skiing on their behalf? To do whatever it is they love doing?" See Tom's passion in what he does transcends the medium in which he creates. The dedication and love that he has for any project he works on is just contagious; breathing new life into every aspect of his work. Axiom Verge is the embodiment of that work ethic, and is one of the reasons why I believe this soundtrack is quite possibly one of the greatest we have seen come out of the indie games scene.
From pulsing bits, to heart pounding bass, what Tom has achieved here with Axiom Verge is just astounding. While watching the 2 Player Productions documentary, and subsequent unedited interview with Tom, I was able to garner a greater understanding for his work on Axiom Verge as a whole. About halfway through the long-form interview, the moment I had been waiting for happened: he was asked about it's music, and the burning questions I had were soon to be answered! The way in which Tom talked about the musical process was kind of exhilarating. The music, while effortless according to him, was relaxing and much more so than the work that he was used to. This sort of catharsis that drove his compositions is something that I think can be felt in its execution. Every song on this album just broods in the otherworldly ambiance and synthetic drones, all while being wholly reminiscent and nostalgic of great works such as Yuzo Koshiro's Streets of Rage, which Tom references directly as a huge inspiration for him. Among others referenced are the likes of the original Mass Effect and Bionic Commando Rearmed. Axiom Verge's music breeds and begins to germinate in your mind, and before you know it, Tom has completely infected your brain with brilliant fluctuating tones.
While only featuring a selection of tracks from the original soundtrack, what is present here is outstanding. You can tell a lot of thought and care went in to sequencing this single LP's tracklist, and it goes a long way towards enjoying what has been lovingly pressed into the grooves here. This was not only a passion project from Tom, but it truly feels like a passion project from a label that cares about the products it produces.
Mastering on this release, was carried out by Dietrich Schoenemann of Complete Mastering, and absolutely impeccable, it adds so much depth and tone to Tom's work. The bass is absolutely rocking and totally hits like a truck in all the best possible spots. The clean noise floor is wonderful and leaves so much room for the synths and snare hits to echo and bounce from channel to channel in a super satisfying way. The tones truly fill the room in the wild and chaotic way that really embodies the original composition. Overall, it makes for a wonderful listening experience!
As the first ever Ship to Shore PhonoCo. release I ever picked up, I was immediately blown away by its presentation. The purple marbling here is outstanding and fits the cover so well. Over the years, this album has seen a lot of play on my table, and is without a doubt one of Ship to Shore PhonoCo.'s greatest releases of all time. The gorgeous album art featuring Elsenova and Trace in that iconic first meeting is just stunning and makes for a magnificent display piece. While originally pressed on "Disruptor Orange" (250 copies) and purple marble (750 copies) in 2015, the album was quickly re-pressed the following year on "Lab Coat White" (1,000 copies) and has since never been seen again on vinyl. While the demand is there, a pressing was teased by Ship to Shore PhonoCo. earlier this year, but has been subsequently canceled due to unknown circumstances. While it is a shame, I hope that we will soon see this soundtrack awaken from its egg-shaped machine!
I can't talk about this album and not mention a way in which you can support Thomas' son Alastair. For those of you who don't know, Alastair is affected by a condition known as Kernicterus, which happens when a newborn doesn't get jaundice treated in time. This condition severely impairs the person's motor functions, but leaves brain functioning intact. As Thomas' main source of providing for his son's frequent, expensive treatment plans, as well as physical therapy sessions is Axiom Verge and any future project he sets his mind to, I implore you to consider purchasing the game or it's soundtrack directly from Tom's Bandcamp page. In this way you can tangibly help Tom and his family in a positive and truly meaningful manner. You can also make a donation to the Children's Mercy Kernicterus Center of Excellence in order to fund research into more treatment plans, or possibly find a cure for this debilitating condition. If you want to read more about this, you can check out Thomas' own website where he talks about this situation in great length and passion here: http://www.axiomverge.com/blog/the-indie-special-needs-dad
Where to Buy?
Unfortunately this album has completely sold out of the three available pressings. While there was talk of a re-press earlier this year, plans for that release have since ceased, and there is no word on if or when a possible re-press could occur. Keep an eye out on Ship to Shore PhonoCo.'s website, social media, and mailing list for any and all possible updates on this amazing vinyl soundtrack.