Kevin Penkin's masterful touch at creating haunting or ethereal music elevates any piece of media it inhabits. His scores utilize classical and ambient music elements while occasionally dabbling in new age to craft impactful environments. The power of his music is on full display when the sun rises as Riko and Reg reach a point where they can see the Abyss. The addition of his composition makes it clear that Made in Abyss will be something special.
The music adds that extra element to the atmosphere that renders Made in Abyss the complete package. As our protagonists descend into the seemingly bottomless Abyss, haunting, spacey music utilizing emotional percussion in "The First Layer", playful and eerie strings in "In The Blind", and gorgeous vocals in "The Underground River". Without these songs, Made in Abyss would be a lovely adventure, but it would lack the atmosphere that makes it stand out
The sequel film showed that Kevin Penkin could compose music that could reach grandiose levels when the stakes grow even further. Adding an antagonist that increased the stakes that no one felt safe deserved a decisive change in score.
Kevin Penkin answered this call through the songs "Transcendence and Hanezeve" and "The Rumble of Scientific Triumph". These songs have electronic music elements, and gothic tones that ensure the film and the foreboding antagonist stand apart from their manga counterparts.
Kevin Penkin had a knack for making things stand out. Star Wars Visions is a mixed bag of nine animated shorts added to the Star Wars universe led by seven different anime studios. Kinema Citrus' entry, "The Village Bride", is a stunning but slow entry that only stands out thanks to Penkin's score. Echoes of John Williams's classic score bleed through "The Village Bride (ft. Emii Evans)" and "IZUMA". These familiar motifs provide the necessary Star Wars vibes to the soundtrack.
The gorgeous animation and stand-out soundtrack carry "The Village Bride". Kinema Citrus and Kevin Penkin's strengths from Made in Abyss shine through the forest and planetary exploration scenes paired with something akin to spiritual music. The potency of Penkin's tracks, especially "MAGINA x FORCE", bear the burden of adding most of the emotion to this short. His compositions can elevate their respective shows powerfully.
Eden is a Netflix original anime in a post-apocalyptic world where humans are in suspended animation. The world has a Fallout New Vegas vibe with giant clunky robots inhabiting desert terrains. Wonder and tension build through a score that uses ethereal vocals and emotional piano-driven songs. The computer-generated animation of Eden is jerky at times which could disconnect a viewer from the world. Penkin's immersive score is even more important to strengthen that connection.
"Sara", "VR", and "EDEN 3" exemplify the wonder Kevin Penkin can create through music. The elegantly paced ambient music builds suspense and emotion as it elevates the show to new levels. Impactful moments are further highlighted by those delicate piano pieces, like "The Place Where Everyone Laughs". These songs build the world's emotions and vibes with elegance and expertise refined from his time on Made in Abyss and other works.
This world and atmosphere building through music is also heavily displayed in Tower of God. As if by fate, Tower of God is another mystical and gorgeous world filled with mystery akin to Made in Abyss and Eden. Kevin Penkin's knack for creating music that fits this kind of world is in full force, as nearly every track is gorgeous and impactful because of his usual musical tricks. The ambient and electronic music elements couple nicely with the science fiction fantasy world of Tower of God.
Ssongs like "Church", "Two Cathedrals", "Star", and "Ma" give Tower of God its timeless setting. The character songs, a trend in shonen anime, are also composed with elements that add layers to their portrayal without requiring extra dialogue or internal monologue. Rachel's eponymous track "Rachel" and Shibisu's "Facing the Enemy" help add small touches to characters that did not see as much screen time.
Kevin Penkin's discography is far more profound than these four examples and contains fantastic examples of similar atmosphere and world-building music. Utilizing the intensity of electronic music, the ethereal vibes of ambient songs, and the potent emotion of new-age vocal tracks, Kevin Penkin molds soundtracks that enhance and elevate their series. Creating a sense of wonder or increasing the tension through the right choice of instruments and music style adds an unrivaled draw to a piece of media.