They were so on board and prepared for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst to be a mainstream success and the jump-off point for a new franchise, they even commissioned a theme song for their video game.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
CHVRCHES
“Warning Call”

Licensing existing music for use in games is common, not just in the myriad of sports titles, music games, and the Grand Theft Auto series, but also in cases like the Hotline Miami games. Far rarer, however, is getting an artist to write original songs specifically for a video game. The history of this subgenre of songs is...interesting, to say the least.

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It seemed to show up the most in the PS2/Xbox-era early 2000's, when gaming was culturally in a very different place than it is today, and perhaps not coincidentally, when original songs for movies were also very much in vogue. Wherever that showed up for games, it seemed to usually take the form of nü-metal or other hard rock; see Halo 2 and Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, for example.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, thankfully, had foregone such a direction in favor something more aesthetically and thematically appropriate. Their choice for their theme song was Scottish electronic pop trio CHVRCHES, coming hot off their second album Every Open Eye with alt-radio hits like “Leave a Trace” and “Clearest Blue”.

They came up with “Warning Call”. Sure, it is very identifiably a CHVRCHES song, even in many ways an Every Open Eye song; the DNA it shares with “Never Ending Circles” and “Down Side of Me” is quite evident. Phoned in it is not, however. Rather, I think it is a synth-pop gen that is a good companion piece to Mirror’s Edge’s utopian-fronting urban dystopia setting, a stand-out in CHVRCHES’ catalog, and deserving of a better fate than existence as a curious footnote to one of EA and DICE’s strategic misfires. 

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There are a couple of things that distinguish this one from the others. First, it has this place-of-refuge-from-the-outside-world vibe that’s rather appropriate for the game. In that regard, weird though it may seem to highlight, the drums—more specifically, the snare drum—cannot be overlooked. It’s got this filtered and lo-fi snap to it that sounds like a technological relic, similar to what’s used in the retro-synth overload vaporwave of HOME. The wistful nostalgia it suggests does much to enrich the song.

Second, it goes in a different musical direction at the halfway point without you even realizing it. Following the second chorus is what seems to be the bridge, a flipping great and emotional bridge at that, complete with the beat dropping out, even throwing in a sort of noise-synth solo.

At that point, you’d expect the song to resolve itself by bringing it all back to the chorus a third time. Instead, they repeat the bridge, essentially making it the replacement of the chorus. That third chorus never comes back. You never get that resolution. You’re left hanging with a jolt of feeling that won’t get dissipated through catharsis.

“Warning Call” is all the better for that.

RedStripe Loved Trax—originally from days of Tumblr past—is a series about the music Justin adores, with special emphasis on songs from (or introduced by) video games and anime.