Steve Kirk
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Steve Kirk

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Format: Audio CD
Publisher: Microsoft
Label: Sumthing/Music Works
Release: Out now

Where do I begin? This soundtrack exudes such energy and creativity that it simply blows away the majority of game scores I have heard in the past few years. Steve Kirk has engineered a masterpiece of game audio, and not since Grim Fandango and the golden era of Lucas Arts music has there been a soundtrack that exhibits such virtuoso and resounding energy.

It all starts by collecting a talented pool of instrumentalists – but no, not an orchestra. Hiring an orchestra is an entirely different monster. I am talking about compiling a talented group of friends who can sit down together and enjoy the beauty of carefully crafted songs. What ensue are skillful performances with the power and expressiveness that can only come with live sessions.

Kirk is a competent studio engineer on top of being a skillful musician. The album carries a vintage sound with a very “pure” feel; it is not over-produced and the overall dynamics are simply wonderful if you listen on a quality sound system. With the host of instruments included on the soundtrack, Kirk keeps the wacky voodoo vibes going, and every track is tightly performed and recorded, thanks in part to the wonderful beats laid down on many tracks by John Hanes.

Hanes’ kit adds the fundamentals to this very organic mix of drums, guitar (acoustic, slide, various electric), and bass, with more often than not a full brass section. Other solo and featured instruments include piano (jazz and honky-tonk), violin, saxophone, accordion (check out the sea-faring Jean Lafitte’s Ship), organ, banjo and the occasional vocals. The last track even features a sort of swing/jazz ballad dedicated to Voodoo Vince himself (the music is solid even if the lyrics are silly at best).

As I mentioned in the introduction, many people might compare Kirk’s score to Grim Fandango, Peter McConnell and Lucas Arts’ masterpiece. Naturally, the game involves some similar elements and a number of Voodoo Vince’s tracks have that swanky jazz feel that made Grim Fandango so great. While Crypt City, Bones Theme, Clock Tower and others reflect a similar sound, they were all ultimately tributes to the jazz and swing movement of the 1930’s. Yet Kirk blends even more into his creations. From Cajun and Zydeco, sea chanteys to funeral marches, he definitely ensures that each track bears his mark as a composer.

Back Stoop and Main Street are among my most favorite pieces on the album because of the wonderful jazz fiddling brought to you by Carla Kihlstedt. She completes a wonderful groove that is both energetic and laid back at the same time. When Kirk enters in harmony with the violin on his acoustic guitar, you really get a feel for how well-crafted the composition is on the Voodoo Vince soundtrack.

Another favorite of mine is Fanboat Race, a two-step featuring an accordion and banjo duet over the up-tempo drumming. Something about it appeals to my love of bluegrass music and of artists like Béla Fleck, who most convey the dynamo that a well-played banjo can exhibit. Of course the lap slide guitar is not to be outdone, and demonstrates the punch and versatility each performer brings to the score.

A few of the tracks feel a bit too tight, possibly because they were sequenced. Fighting Ace Vince, for instance, features a xylophone that is so strangely perfect it sounds artificial, especially with the song’s unrelenting “oom-pah” beat playing underneath. But innovative pieces like Glowberry Tangle are great changes of pace and keep the upbeat, punchy tracks from getting out of hand. Featuring the banjo, a number of sequenced instruments and a soprano sax, the song is patient and gives the featured instrument room to play amongst the textures.

While it is definitely not your typical “game soundtrack”, the music Kirk created further proves the room for musical diversity within the video game industry, and with great success. Rarely do the Voodoo Vince songs slip into the repetitive sort of rut that appears in even the highest budget games. This is not only a great game soundtrack but a great album that fans of more than just video games will be sure to enjoy. Be sure to check this out. Heck, even give the game a try! After all, with music this superb, it can’t be all bad!


- Music 4Games- Jay Semerad


An amazing musical score (for a very fun game), September 30, 2003
Reviewer: A music fan from Port Townsend, WA United States

It may come as a surprise to some people that music for video games has progressed far beyond the bleeps and squawks of the old days. The latest generation of game console now supports full CD quality sound, surround audio and all sorts of whistles and bells (literally). The soundtrack to Voodoo Vince is a great example of what can happen when good technology meets amazing artistry.

This music was composed, arranged and produced by Steve Kirk, who students of cool, obscure music may recall from his time with the Clubfoot Orchestra. Like his much under-appreciated work on the short lived Felix the Cat series, Kirk blends a great fusion of jazz, pop and classical influences. Most pieces are played by a small ensemble of horns, woodwinds and keyboard. All feature Kirk's masterful, lush guitar work.

The style of the soundtrack varies from vintage jazz, which is clearly inspired by Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France to more contemporary jazz/rock fusion. Hints of classical music and even a few pieces reminiscent of Tom Waits sneak out in certain compositions. In spite of being so eclectic, this body of work hangs together remarkably well.

The audio quality itself is terrific. Each track was lovingly recorded, mixed and mastered by Kirk himself. I highly recommend this soundtrack album not just to fans of the quirky video game, but anyone who appreciates truly refreshing music that defies categorization.

- Amazon.com ***** (five stars out of five)



"Beep (Industries) went to great lengths to provide Voodoo Vince with a superior musical score. The entire game is set to jazz and classical music with (a) New Orleans flair. It sounds almost like you're listening to a live performance that's leaking out of a nearby club or bandstand. Voodoo Vince wants to make you feel like you're in Louisiana, experiencing New Orleans and the surrounding area, and the music really creates this illusion since you're greeted with voodooish jazz at every turn."
- ign.com


The title, Steve Kirk Pop is, if anything, a relatively deceiving one. Classic pop is living underground, hanging around piss-soaked clubs and indie record stores, and modern “popular” music has been reduced to little more than a marketing plan drawn up to give the increasingly idiotic masses a sound track for a Saturday night. Kirk has little in common with the former and nothing to say to the latter. Instead the title and the music contained inside suggests that this is what pop could be, if we were all willing to scrap the system of compartmentalization we’re all guilty of living by and start from scratch again. Why can’t prog rock and jazz and European folk and classical structures all be mixed together and still be called good? Kirk, an arranger first and a front man second, proves that structure can collide with dissonance, that oddball and beautiful can be married. Daring signature changes, fluid orchestral swells, off kilter phrasing, solid rock hooks, and understated vocals are all cobbled together to form a style of music that is both challenging and digestible. Even more fascinating is that while many of the arrangements are built for eight to ten pieces, there is never a wasted note or over-indulgent moment. Every tune has been thought out and constructed in a discernable brick-by-brick manner that makes repeat listening a requisite. Steve Kirk Pop is a terrific first effort from a guy who should prove to be a pretty formidable songwriter.


- John O’Neill- San Francisco Bay Guardian


Steve Kirk is a long-standing Club Foot Orchestra member that also works in creating music for commercial TV. On Pop he combines the refined approach of a pop-rock scientist with the emancipating freedom of an avant-garde artist. His results are never merely quirky, but instead captivating, sophisticated and unexpected. These arrangements of horns and strings with extended instrumental passages make for compelling and unique listening.


- Tom “Tearaway” Shulte- Outsight Communications


Discography

Pop Quiz- available on CD Baby
Steve Kirk Pop- available on CD Baby
Voodoo Vince Original Soundtrack- Sumthing Records- available on Amazon.com. Sample tracks available for preview via these links:

http://www.stevekirkpop.com/hear-samples.htm

and this one:

http://cdbaby.com/cd/stevekirk

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

We've played music all our lives, and have been influenced by all that surrounds us- music, politics, hope and despair. This band plays the compositions of Steve Kirk, whose scope is far ranging, with influences from pop to jazz to R&B, fusion and contemporary classical, but everything he writes sounds like Steve Kirk. The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant, Stravinsky, Nino Rota and others have all had their influence on him and his band members- diehard individualists of the Bay Area East Side- a world of oddball improvisation, idiosyncratic organized sound and musicianly verve undaunted by any lack of commercial viability.