2011’s Vainglory EP was going to be Jay Tholen’s last musical release for awhile so that he could shift his focus to video game development. One of his planned games is The Trembling Bridge, which Tholen postponed until 2014 in order to focus on his primary game project, Dropsy. The Trembling Bridge will be redone entirely, along with its soundtrack, which brings us to When Ominous Red Sailing Stones Sleep Beneath Fire Rainbows.
The original soundtrack for The Trembling Bridge, When… is both what you’d expect from Tholen as well as something different. The whimsy and eclecticism is still there, but it’s pretty far removed from the chiptune praise and worship of Control Me or Mud Pies or Bread and Wine?. The retro 8-bit tunes have been replaced by a kaleidoscopic array of exotic sounds — samples from vintage Christian LPs, trippy bhangra rhythms, dulcimers, synth arpeggios, glitchwork, and eerie drones — that has more in common with Enjoy Your Rabbit-era Sufjan Stevens than Anamanaguchi.
Over the course of the release’s two tracks, which together span 17 minutes, Tholen moves seamlessly from one sound or style to the next, creating a continuous stream of evocative music that, if nothing else, is quite unlike any video game soundtrack I’ve ever heard. I can only imagine how it would’ve synched with The Trembling Bridge’s pixelated graphics.
It’s not as catchy or immediate as Control Me, but When Ominous Red Sailing Stones Sleep Beneath Fire Rainbows continues Tholen’s streak as a fine purveyor of weird, fascinating music from the fringes of Christendom.