The barn at night has a soundscape all its own: the crickets, the night birds, and, interestingly, the creak and groan of wood as the frame gently sways in the wind. Much of this is muffled through the walls, but a bit creeps in fresh like a breeze through the open door.
When the two of them talk, we get an unusually stark shift to the mix, with their voices foregrounded and the backing atmosphere drawn way down to make room for music to strum in around the vague cinema stage.
We pan up to a black screen, on our way to a stylized flashback, and Garnet’s narration zorps right to the front, gaining presence and depth. It sounds exactly like Cate Blanchett’s narration at the start of Fellowship of the Ring.
Curiously for such a stylized depiction
(Hi, Lapis.), the foley continues strong as ever here. Sapphire’s hair rustles as she moves. The Rubies’ feet clomp solidly along. Don’t know what to make of the reverb situation. It suits an open air arena.
As Ruby stumbles into Sapphire and hems and haws in apology, an atmospheric whirring enters the mix. It’s not music. It doesn’t seem to be wind. Maybe an engine of some sort? A power source? It adds tension anyway, without ever clearly announcing itself.
As Sapphire enters Blue’s palanquin, her voice becomes muffled. Lisa Hannigan isn’t present, though; Blue hasn’t officially been introduced yet. So all we get is Garnet playing her part—in deep foreground, narrator-space, separated from the zone occupied by the story she’s telling.
There are some deep, skronking bowed bass notes here as Ruby clocks the nature of what’s happening and makes up her mind whether to react or not, and rescue this nice Sapphire who had been the opposite of awful to her just before.
And yeah, when they fuse it swoops out and saturates the entire stage, in all phases and channels and spectra. I hadn’t noticed either the deep bass thrumming or the light sparkling noises when just listening through speakers.
As the crowd closes in, we get the sound of jackboots in unison. Then this tactile “slam,” like someone punching a metal wall, as (through Garnet’s narration) the spectators chime in with their opinions. Followed by a scraping, swooshing, mechanical sound as the palanquin rises.
I hadn’t noticed that as they land the clouds break. I mean, yeah, there’s the fire scene, but it just happens so quietly… unless you’re wearing headphones, at which point suddenly they’re in a very real, tactile environment compared to the abstraction of the sky arena.
Footfalls are all authentic soggy foot on wet grass noise, as they would be. Everything sounds freshly, moistly recorded. And yeah, the cave has its own atmospherics, changing the sound of the rain outside and providing its own close yet sustained reverb.
As they flash back to their fusion and ponder what the hell just happened to them both, the soundtrack keeps abruptly shifting with each cut, from this warm, slightly reverbed crackling fire to stabs of swooshing musical score and sparkle effects. It’s intentionally jarring,
but as the cuts go on, the reverb on the effects and some of the notes of the score sustain a bit longer each time it cuts back. It’s like when you dip your toe into hot bath water then jerk it out, then dip it in again more slowly, then tentatively insert your foot, etc.
I hadn’t caught Ruby pondering the gem on her palm, then eyeing Sapphire’s corresponding palm.
A Gem’s relationship with her gemstone must be pretty strange. She literally is that rock, and her body is just an illusion, but the gem itself has no awareness; only her projected body.
I really dig when the show dips into what fusion feels like, experientially; the implication, they never quite state outright, that it’s this transcendent high that one never wants to come down from.
There’s so much work on the expressions in this scene.
Oh God, I’d definitely not heard this song in headphones before. With the deep bass drum; the sounds of wet, waking nature as a backdrop. And also just the right space between Ruby’s and Sapphire’s voices that their harmony works: a bit awkward and stumbling but in sync for that.
The cut to crickets and general night atmosphere, and the way their vocals fall out of the soundstage back to diegesis, for the “Oh, um, I just can’t stop thinking…” sequence, it really sells the sense of budding romance, and the idea that they’ve been stewing on this a while.
The tangibility of the environment, and the way the characters are cemented in it even as they continue the song, lends weight to every word they speak.
“So, um. Did you say I was different?”
“And you hadn’t before?”
“Of course not… When would I have ever?”
Again the subtle things; this small yet tangible pat of foley when she touches Ruby’s hand:
“Well, you’re here too. We’re here together…”
As Sapphire begins to hum “Stronger Than You” against all the night sounds, they step into a more-stylized glen, away from the reality of Earth back into the world of myth, and her voice begins to echo. After nearly bumping gems, nervously, Ruby joins in, their voices blending. And the moment their harmony perfectly syncs up…
Again the foley. The hard two-handed smack against the tree, selling the weight and clumsiness. And I think her feet actually make different noises on the grass; one bare, one shod.
Where there’s a Pearl, there’s a piano. Then Rose brings the strings, allowing for a sparse take of “Stronger Than You,” sketched with the instruments of the Crystal Gems, as they… basically conduct their first job interview.
I like how pretty much immediately Garnet shifts any reference to Ruby or Sapphire to the third person. It’s confusing at first, but she’s not them. But if she’s not them, then who is she?
Their gems don’t even look the same anymore. They’re her gems now.
Nice reversal, by the way, panning down from that shot back into the present (which sounds so much more… present), now with Garnet sitting where Rose was and Steven lying where Garnet had been.
Apropos of nothing, a really nice Garnet face in the second-to-last shot:
Anyway. Yeah. The sound design really adds a ton to this episode in particular. Even more than usual, and the usual standard for this show is pretty high.