GEM’X / Super GEM’Z Soundtrack, Chris Hülsbeck, 1991
Chris Hülsbeck’s mastery of 2d platformer scores is legendary, but how would he adjust to the necessarily more sedate stylings that a puzzle score demand? Very well, as GEM’X and its unreleased successor Super GEM’Z prove. Not surprisingly, GEM’X is a more minimalist affair than Hülsbeck’s Turrican scores, but it’s still an intricate piece of work that patiently and confidently paces the presentation of its carefully layered ingredients. Tinkling arpeggios that double as meditatively repetitive melodic figures intertwine with often syncopated rhythms, topped off with those immediately memorable power pop melodies that Hülsbeck writes with ease. It’s perfectly tailored puzzle music that both excels as soothing background music and rewards closer listens. Super GEM’Z is a markedly different take on the same formula: much more rhythm-focused (with some 90s hip hop influences in its pumping bass lines), punchier and with an edgier feel to it. But while Super GEM’Z may not be as immediately accessible as GEM’X, its concise song writing and playful energy make it just as worthwhile.
Purchase on Bandcamp.