2K releases 12 orchestral tracks from BioShock for free

BioShock is an FPS just released on the 21st on this month by 2K Games. It is a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, another FPS that was developed by Irrational Games, which was acquired by 2K Games in 2006. The game is generally regarded as being pretty cool stuff.

A limited edition of the game was released with a figurine, making-of DVD, and CD. The CD was originally supposed to be a soundtrack of the game, but instead contained three remixes of classic songs from the time period the game is supposed to take place in (and which appear in-game), arranged by Moby and Oscar the Punk: "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin, "God Bless the Child" by Billie Holiday, and "Wild Little Sisters" by Brian Lovely and Paul Patterson.

However, 2K Games has just released twelve orchestral pieces from the soundtrack of the game, composed by Garry Schyman. While it's not a complete score, the twelve tracks still give you a taste of the creepy atmosphere of BioShock. You can download the music from 2K's "The Cult of Rapture" BioShock community site, or directly download it from their site through this link.


The Problem With Beginners

I'm back to once again write about more or less interesting things about OCR, VGM and everything else I can think of. This time I will tell you a story about OverClocked Remix and a phenomenon known as "Beginners" or more often "n00bs" and how they could potentially take over the world with their ever-evolving talents.

When I first got in touch with OverClocked Remix I was a boy that just wanted to hear more music that was connected to what I loved. At that time Final Fantasy remixes was all I ever listened to. Slowly but surely I started to find other pieces that was highly enjoyable even thought they were NOT Final Fantasy arrangements. My eyes opened to the world of VGM arrangements. I wanted to be a part of this too.

So eventually I started trying to arrange some of that music I loved oh-so-much. Being young (It was two and a half years ago damnit) I started playing some zelda themes at my guitar. I wasn't good.. at all. But that's beside the point. The point is that I thought I was really good at that time. I hooked up with VGMix and actually got some pretty nice reviews, they made my head grow to the size of the sun and I submitted it to OverClocked Remix. Instant reject if I recall correctly. I stopped remixing video game music for one and a half years after that.

And THERE folks we have it. The problem. I often hear a promising remixer with a wip that is at least decent and often very creative. Then they submit it as soon as they've worked at the song for a week or so. It gets rejected, sometimes with a message regarding resubmission. I never see the remixer again. And this my friend is a terrible loss. You see if the remixer would have stayed, maybe got some production and arrangement tips from seasoned pros who, by the way, often are very helpful we would have a winner.

It's also because of this we have judge hate. The remixers are so sure they will get accepted, so sure they are amazing that when somebody says they're not they often go in to some kind of rage. I know I did. But in reality judges have made OverClocked Remix a better place. Most of the time they give constructive criticism that can actually help the remixer evolve. Also, try to sort the remixes after year. Starting with 2007 and moving your way backwards. Do you hear the difference? OverClocked Remix is slowly but surely going towards a better future and the quality has really improved during the years I've been listening. And if the remixers that got rejected looked back at their rejected material a couple of months after they made the song most of them realize what was wrong with the remix. Then instead of sulking, use your new found skills to make an even better remix. Keep evolving. Evolution got OverClocked Remix this far, why couldn't it get you the same distance? Everyone has to start somewhere. And believe me, #ocrwip, wip forums, asking an ocremixer or even reading some online tutorials is all for the better. Some of you has the potential to be far better than everything OCR ever has seen if you just put a little effort in it.
Now go remix! :)

PS: I did start remixing again, took a lot of advice and it was worth it. Coming soon to an OverClocked Remix front page near you.

The OneUps take over Penny Arcade Expo

Ok, well in a perfect world, they'd have taken over Penny Arcade Expo. With prejudice. But as such, they're just performing. Today. I'm jealous, but we wish these bros the best, for undoubtably their biggest performance to date at Seattle's Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

When they were announced for PAX back in March, what resulted was a humungous influx of traffic to OneUp Studios and new fans for The OneUps. They look to be going stronger than ever headed into the festival where they'll be performing along with the NESkimos (also on today) and Minibosses (closing things out Saturday).


The Wingless makes the move to Pandemic Studios

We don't have enough eccentrics in the game arrangement community, but truth be told John "The Wingless" Burnett could fill in for 10 of them. He's his own improv troupe, although why he isn't in The Second City is beyond me (he's auditioned with them before).

Continuing in the vein of yesterday's blog regarding Mazedude, it's good to see individuals take their hobbies and successfully run with them into the professional world. Having already made his way into the gaming industry, The Wingless recently posted of an employment change via Facebook and MySpace, announcing a move from Chicago's Midway Games as a user interface artist to Los Angeles's Pandemic Studios as a senior user interface artist this past Monday.
So those of you in the know already caught wind of this, so if this is shocking news to you, please do not think ill of me for not telling you. Either there was no good way to tell (which happens) or I just flat-out don't like you (which, while implausible, most certainly is possible).

I accepted a job with Pandemic Studios in L.A.

So I'll be moving out to Cali (Westwood, to be specific) by probably the 10th of September to start my new life between Santa Monica Beach and Hollywood. My last day at Midway Games will be August 31st, the very last trembling drop of Summer.

But in the meantime, I'll be around for at least 3 weeks and I would *love* to spend as much of my time with all of you as possible. Send me a line if you'd like to do something, and I will try my best to be with you. Also, if you've had a crush on me, but were bereft of a charming way to ask me out, now's as good a time as any :)

In any event, I will miss you all very much. Believe it or not, the hesitation to move was based largely on all the resplendent personalities I have met. I adore everything about you.

All my love and all my luck. I have more than enough to spare.
With the move, John's now in the hub of American video game development. If you've followed his website over the years, through its many core design changes and plethora of side projects, his design skills are already mutil-faceted. Will he eventually make the transition to sound design or music composition? Well, he's already got some mutual acquaintances with VGM professionals based in the area through friendships with members of OneUp Studios, so the future looks bright no matter what the angle is. We definitely wish The Wingless the best of luck as he valiantly attempts to trim the wings off of the City of Angels.


Mazedude's music featured on Capoeira Nation

The members of the VGM fan arrangement community are a diverse bunch. But arguably no one stands further away from the mean than Chris "Mazedude" Getman. Not only are his sound programming and composition styles unique unto themselves, but he's got some attention-grabbing hobbies.

He's a stuntman. And he can dance while kicking your ass, because he's a disciple of capoeira. A truly lucky individual is able to mesh his hobbies with his professional life, and Mazedude has done just that yet again by providing music and video production to a website promoting instructional videos on the art of capoeira, Capoeira Nation.

Chris says, via the OC ReMix forums:
I am very proud and excited to announce the launching of a new website. It is the first of its kind - to teach the martial art of Capoeira via Instructional Videos on the Internet.

I am even more delighted to share the kickass news that I am the composer for the website, and all of their video productions. For those who are not aware, Capoeira is from Brazil, and the music that accompanies the martial art is very unique and ethnic. The vocals are in Portuguese, and the beats are performed by such instruments as the berimbau, atabaque, and pandeiro. I play each of these instruments, and am fluent in the various traditional beats and songs. However, for this project I have been given the freedom to fuse the traditional style with that of my own, and I've had just oodles of fun putting it together. :)

I invite everyone to check it out: http://www.capoeiranation.com

Even better examples can be heard in the Promo videos [...] although the timing is off slightly due to YouTube's conversion.

Enjoy the music, but furthermore, enjoy the site. If you're at all interested in learning Capoeira, but don't have any teachers near you, well, that's what this website solves!


SGX & zircon offer 3-CD sale

SGX & zircon are teaming up to bring their material to the masses with a limited time sale on their electronic warez. Via CDBaby, US$15 (plus shipping & handling) will get you...

SGX's Better Than Sliced Beats

SGX's Chroma

and zircon's Antigravity

How long will said sale last? I've got no idea, those cryptic bastards! Check out the free previews and hook it up soon, because as zircon says, "this deal won't be around forever." Good things come to those who ORDER NOW!

Fast Talk: Gamer Controls Music 2.0

Andrew "zircon" Aversa is a long-time colleague of mine on the OCR judges panel, and has a remarkable business sense about him. He's always trying to learn everything he can not just about the creation side of music, but the fiscal side as well. Currently attending Philadelphia's Drexel University, he's in a great place to soak up knowledge, and always passes along cool information he picks up along the way.

Via the July issue of Fast Company (#117), Andy clued me into something regarding Electronic Arts that I read about a year or so ago in the conception phase having recently resurfaced. The article by Cora Daniels features EA Worldwide Executive of Music and Marketing Steve Schnur discussing his plans for a record label inspired by video game music.

Well, not in the traditional sense of releasing original or arranged soundtracks. But with the Artwerk label (a cooperative venture with Nettwerk), Schnur feels that the exposure from popular EA franchise games like Madden NFL and NBA Street have the potential to launch breakout bands with original albums after clinching fan interest via the game soundtracks. So far, the label's first big signing in Tom "Junkie XL" Holkenborg this past March looks nothing but good. With such a conservative approach by Schnur and EA purposefully not aiming to create a big label, however, do you think a format like this could fully achieve its stated goals?


Sefiros releases new original album, Under the Roots

Bryan "Sefiros" Henderson announced the release of his new original album Under the Roots this past Friday via MySpace bulletin.

The album is free to download, so there's no cost besides time. Why should you check it out despite the cost of time? Well, Bryan's been on my radar for a while due to his material at VGMix. He later scored an successful submission to OC ReMix with a Final Fantasy VIII arrangement entitled "Everything = Nothing" which featured some of the most beautiful and emotive string sequencing I've ever heard in my time in the community.

With that said, Bryan constantly keeps himself busy with periodic album releases, never allowing himself to get stagnant. On the production side, some of the levels should be toned down, but my favorite tracks on the album have to be the opening track "Dependence", the high-powered "Warfare", as well as well-textured"Degeneracy" and the unassumingly titled "Oh". Swing by Sefiros's space and grab 'em all.


LaLa reviews Reyn Ouwehand's new album "The Blithe, The Blend & The Bizarre" at Remix64

One of my "failings," as it were, in covering the VGM arrangement scene is giving fair representation to the European side, primarily focused on the Commodore 64 and Commodore Amiga computers (as well as lesser focus on the Atari ST and ZX Spectrum). I never have been as familiar with the Commodore scene as much as the U.S.-based one, so it's certainly more difficult to familiarize oneself's with the history AND goings-on.

However, the scene across the Atlantic has things covered well by Remix64, the first source on all things going on with the Commodore arrangement community. Unlike the American scene, the European side has a lot stronger ties to the demoscene as well as more acknowledgement and interactivity with the actual game music composers that inspired the movement. That means I'm extremely jealous!

But back to the love, Imre "LaLa" Olajos Jr. has recently reviewed the album The Blithe, the Blend & the Bizarre by Last Ninja 3 and Flimbo's Quest composer Reyn Ouwehand and put out by Reyn's label Prevue Productions.

I don't wanna crib Imre's whole review, which you should go out of your way to check out at Remix64, but part of his opening paragraph sums things up nicely.
If I had to choose one word to describe Reyn Ouwehand's latest SID remix album, it would be "fun". Because doesn't matter what mood you're in, I guarantee you will be 100% happier after you listen to it, even if you are not familiar with the original SID tunes the album is based on. The style of music here ranges from 70s rock to jazz, from carousel music to soundtracks, from the blithe to the blend, and even the bizarre...

That's a solid endorsement from LaLa expressing accessibility and diversity, and one you should take to heart with this album. Check out the tracklist and preview clips available via the album's page on C64Audio.com and you'll find some solid stuff including arrangements of the works of Chris Hülsbeck (The Great Giana Sisters), Martin Galway (Comic Bakery, Wizball) and my personal favorite VGM composer Tim Follin (Ghouls 'N Ghosts, Magic Johnson's Fast Break). Track 6, arranging Ghouls 'N Ghosts would be welcome on Dirge for the Follin, that's for sure.

The album clocks in at a relatively brief 40 minutes, but Weezer's asked for more money for less muzak. Via C64Audio, not only can you preview every track in high quality, but you've already also got access to fully downloading 5 of the album's 20 arrangements, perfect for getting a taste of the action. So considering plunking down for Reyn Ouwehand's The Blithe, the Blend & the Bizarre and making a really sound investment for a change!


I was brought here by HUMANS who wish to pay ME tribute

During my periodic search for the word "Dhsu" on Google and YouTube (for reasons completely unrelated to stroking my own ego), I came across this vid by YouTuber Dekreme:

To say that I'm flattered would be an understatement. To say I'm impressed would also not be enough...even though it isn't my most complicated arrangement, learning the whole thing by ear takes a special kind of dedication. Mad props, my man!

As surprised I was by this though, I'd be lying if I said this sort of thing hasn't happened before...

Though my name isn't specifically mentioned in the description, the source of the arrangement is obvious. Kazamajin1, the performer in the video, asked me directly for the sheet music to "A Clockwork Vampire" and kept me personally updated on his progress in learning this piece. The culmination of his efforts was the video you now see here.

As for the implication by certain smellyjdgfgts that I might be jealous of or threatened by these rising talents, I can assure you such claims are preposterous. I am in fact quite glad that "Nayru's Love" is fulfilling its purpose of getting people to give the Zelda Oracle games more, well...love.


Overlooked Soundtrack #1: Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!

Steven Spielberg didn't start off directing extremely well-known movies like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In the beginning of his career, he directed small, independent films like Amblin', episodes of TV shows like Night Gallery, and made-for-TV movies like Duel. And even after becoming a big-name director after such box-office successes like the Indiana Jones trilogy, he still managed to direct some films that fell under the radar, like Always and The Unfinished Journey.

Tangent: the VG Frequency record for most links in a single paragraph is now 11.

The point is that, when a person has a large body of works, it's inevitable that some of them will be overlooked in favor of others, even if the person is as famous as Steven Spielberg. The same principle applies to video game composers as well. Most people are probably familiar with Yasunori Mitsuda's work on games like Chrono Trigger/Cross and Xenogears (certainly remixers are), and maybe even some of his lesser-known works like Tsugunai: Atonement and Graffiti Kingdom (his best soundtrack no matter what anyone says), but he's also worked on other games that don't immediately come to mind, like Mario Party.

I mentioned in my very first post that I'd write something about "overlooked works by big-name composers." And exactly two months later, here's the first one!

And since I used Mitsuda as an example above, let's just go with that.


Bomberman 64: The Second Attack!
Composers: Yasunori Mitsuda, Yoshitaka Hirota
Platform: N64
Release date: 1999-12-03 (Japan), 2000-05-28 (United States)
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Vatical Entertainment

Bomberman 64: The Second Attack! box front

Mitsuda and Hirota have worked together three times, including this game; their other shared works are Shadow Hearts (co-composed with Masaharu Iwata and Ryo Fukuda) and Shadow Hearts: Covenant (co-composed with Kenji Ito, Tomoko Kobayashi, and Ryo Fukuda). And, if you listen from a distance and squint your ears, the soundtrack of Bomberman 64: The Second Attack! does sort of sound like what the soundtrack of a Bomberman RPG would be, if a Bomberman RPG existed.

Unfortunately, the Flash player I've been using to provide music samples, JW MP3 Player, chooses to play the tracks from this game at an accelerated speed. It actually is kind of amusing to listen to, but instead I'll just give direct links to the tracks. So long, convenience of being able to listen to the songs without navigating away. You shall be missed dearly.

>> "Sthertoth, the Demon"

>> "Warship Noah"

The music is unlike that of any other Bomberman game, befitting the fact that this is the only game in the series either composer worked on (and also befitting the fact that the story and atmosphere are unusual for the series as well). However, the music is also unlike that of the Shadow Hearts series which the two composers collaborated on; noticeably absent are the series's music's quirks and Mitsuda's Celtic trappings.

>> "LD Angel"

>> "Miheale Theme II"

The music of the game is quite difficult to track down, since there exists no complete rip of the game as far as I know (the samples in this post come from an incomplete rip where every track is 3:10 in length). If you're feeling adventurous and have the ability to play USF sets (as I am unable to, being Mac'd), there exists a preliminary USF set at USF Central that might not be complete, or work. There are also ten MIDIs over at VGMusic.com.

Sephfire interviewed re: Shadow of the Colossus by Tales of Shadows

After I read Alex Rowe's interview with SGX over at Tales of Shadows, I let him know that he should talk with other OC ReMixer fans of Fumito Ueda's games, including Sephfire and Binster. But before Alex ever heard from me, he already had his plans in motion to interview Daniel "Sephfire" Floyd.

Released yesterday, the interview discusses Sephfire's plans to arrange material from Sony's recent blockbuster hit Shadow of the Colossus. Floyd's arrangement, entitled "Snowfall on Forbidden Lands," was also his first released collaboration with his wife Carrie "ceili" Floyd, which made for an excellent pairing, resulting in a whole that, in my opinion, was greater than the sum of its parts.

Floyd also provided background on how he got into video game music arrangement as well as his own take on the artistic merits of the Fumito Udea series of games. It's a quick but interesting read for fans of all types that you should check out. Let's hope Alex goes for the OCR trifecta down the line!


Songs The Lady Likes #1: Shivers "Cerebral Rose Jam"

Some of you might remember me from my days of guesting as Larry's friend, and later Larry's Lady, on his radio show. Back then, I was what people might call "a hater."

Most of the video game music I had heard back then was stuff I didn't like. It was too electronic, not very compelling melodically, and I wasn't familiar with most of the games being referenced to appreciate VGM even from a nostalgic perspective.

Back then, Larry was diligent in his effort to bring me over to the dark side. We had always shared music we liked, and Larry refused to see VGM as a point of departure in taste like the Beastie Boys.

Why is it that every guy I know creams himself over that band? I'd much rather listen to "Lonely Swedish" than "Brass Monkey" if I had to make a terrible choice in hell or Abu Ghraib.

My esteem for VGM, well, more accurately, OCR, grew slowly, hesitantly. Perhaps, it was my pride, or my general tendency to be sparing with my praise, but upon hearing a track that wasn't offensive, I would say something like "not terrible," or shrug my shoulders non-committally.

Over the years, as the musical selection available at OCR grew more diverse, and the quality of musicians and production increased exponentially, I found there were more and more instances where I would begrudgingly say "I don't hate it."

And then, one fateful day, the sky fell in and I actually liked a song...in fact, I liked it so much, I unabashedly added it to my iPod.

Israfel (aka Michael Dover) gets full credit for the dastardly deed, with his most appealing "Cerebral Rose Jam" from the game, Shivers.

When djp wrote his write-up of the ReMix, he was on target when he said, "I'd imagine this ReMix will get more listeners from fans of Israfel than of the source material."

What I loved about this mix was how atmospheric, exotic, and totally unexpected it was. Not to mention the fact that you can lull yourself into a gratifying stupor listening to CRJ on loop.

It's a pretty moody mix, that alludes to summer evenings in Cairo, smoking a cheroot as you wait for your "man" on the dig to bring you a souvenir from King Tut's Tomb.

It's also damn sexy, and I wonder if Israfel didn't spend his nights dreaming of someone special's flat, sweaty tummy as he added in the darbuka (I think), finger cymbals (possibly tingsha), and jingle bells.

There's lots of space in this track, which is what I think makes it so successful compared to other instrumental versions of "Middle Eastern-like" music, where usually the rhythm is so driving it's hard to really immerse yourself in the theme.

In that respect, I think Israfel's got a good vibe going on of what is very similar to maybe some Rabih Abou-Khalil's Blue Camel and Sufi trance music.

Larry says, "Damn, that's esoteric as fuck! Sufi trance music?"
I showed Larry a sample of what I was talking about. Larry thought I was talking about this.
That's "trance" as in meditative music.

Now my suggestion to the haters, or, ahem, lovers as it were, is to pick this track up from OCR, put it your Winamp and turn off the lights. It will give you the "shivers."

So, folks, if you like this, I'll come back regularly with other songs I, the nay-saying mistress of mainstream (and mystical world music), actually like.

Ayako Saso Chronology

A month ago, I blogged about two composer chronology videos, looking at works by two Namco composers, Shinji Hosoe and Nobuyoshi "sanodg" Sano.

The creator of those two videos, TYKUN, now has a third video about a third Namco composer, Ayako Saso:

Lots of love for the Ridge Racer series.

nyoro~n (You Sure Look Chilled Out!)

If I did quit the OC ReMix judges panel, I'd hope the aftermath was exactly like this:Who even made that? :-D I've seen the stock image before, but not with a black guy until now.

I've still got lots more work to do in terms of judging submissions. As of press time, we've got 54 submissions still on the panel, and I've yet to evaluate 11 of 'em. It was 12, but I just YESed one (t'was good).

In terms of my personal progress, where I'm at isn't so bad, but it's certainly time consuming going through the submissions, comparing them with the original tracks and formulating opinions. Guys like Vigilante and DarkeSword have the ability to crank out brief but accurate criticisms down to a science.

Hopefully by September 9th though (the end of The Lady's vacation), I'll be all caught up to present day, which will be the first time anyone's ever done it since what I'm guessing would be the first year of the OCR's existance. It's like moving a mountain. And there's nothing glamorous about moving a mountain.


"Into the Score" podcast blends VGM with academia

In my regular perusal of the various blog trackers, I came across one blog/podcast yesterday that was very unique, so I was surprised that I hadn't heard of it before. Kenley "siven7" Kristofferson's Into the Score is dubbed "the only podcast devoted to the academic study of video game music," which is a hell of a format and one worth checking out as soon as possible.

In the second part of Into the Score's tenth episode (entitled "...to the Orchestra!"), Kenley gives a great overview of arranger Jeremy Robson and Robson's Final Fantasy VII "Philharmonic Suite", the first and fifth parts of which are hosted at OverClocked ReMix. Included are a rundown of Robson's musical influences, a reading of djpretzel's writeup for the first movement at OCR, and complete playthroughs of all five movements in the suite.

Kenley's a little rough on the delivery but no more so than me during my time with college radio, plus he's got great energy, an earnest respect for video game music, and genuine knowledge about the technicalities and structure of music. He also claims to play a mean euphonium, having studied at the University of Manitoba. And he sounds like a nice guy. If you've heard Mazedude's voice before, this guy is just as good natured. (Ironically, he also looks like Makke.) He's got a good voice, and, with more poise on his delivery, could quickly be mistaken for someone on NPR or XM Classics.

For those that aren't into music theory discussions or referencing the roots of classical music, Into the Score's subject matter may feel difficult to access, at least for a bum such as myself. But whatever subject matter goes over my head pales in comparison to the enjoyment of what does remain accessible to me, that being a sincere appreciation of the medium of video game music. New episodes of the show come out infrequently enough that one can't set their watch to it, which impedes the building of a large audience. But don't sleep on Into the Score and this podcast's unique and enlightening format; you may just learn something. Give it that look.


NPR covers Video Games Live in Washington, DC

While attending Video Games Live in Washington, DC this past June, I saw some young reporters from NPR interviewing fans for an upcoming story. Checking around the web, I finally caught onto the story, having been released about a week ago by Benjamin Frisch in both written and broadcast form. They're two different presentations of the story, so check them both out.

Joystiq's Justin McElroy (employing the royal "we) had me laughing with his observation of one portion of the broadcast version:
We have to admit to being a little bit perturbed by the tone of the reporter, who appears to be mystified by the idea that anyone would be in the seats. "Why is video game music so compelling to these people?" he wonders aloud, the disdain deliciously audible.
Sure, one could interpret it that way, but I'll give Ben the benefit of the doubt, as the tone of his question is mean to evoke what a casual listener may be thinking, and may not necessarily be his own point of view. We may never know, but I also don't lose any sleep over it.

OverClocked ReMix's djpretzel was interviewed for the article, but in the final cut NPR went for a generalized angle on video game fandom and the increased attraction it's brought to the orchestra rather than the rise of the profile of video game music. More's the loss, I say, but I have my preferences. :-D

Tommy Tallarico reasoned that Beethoven would have been a video game composer, which has gained some criticism from various people who've encountered the article. While Tommy was wildly speculative in his assertion, when you think about it, it is really that far out there a scenario? Not to merely be biased toward video game music, but when one thinks about the decline of the traditional symphony in terms of attendance and cultural relevance, you realize that orchestration remains healthy in the mediums of film, television, and video games.

As mentioned, the story is still a good read and listen, even if the overall tone of the piece is very much in layman's terms. Give it a look and see what you think. And the next time Video Games Live or PLAY! or Eminience shows up in your town, make every effort you can to head on out there and partake in the experience.


Maximo's Bombos vs. Everything published by Tokyopop

I first met Maximo V. Lorenzo at MAGFest 5 this past January. I was hoping to sell OC ReMix t-shirts in the game room, and Mustin was nice enough to give me some room next to him as he sold CDs from OneUp Studios and others. The most cringe-worthy moment we had was when a fan of OneUp Studios came by to talk, and praised Mustin, but subsequently mentioned that he had obtained all of OneUp Studios' albums illegally. When the guy left, Mustin said under his breath something to the effect of "Yeah, thanks a lot buddy." Then we laughed at how the guy had the sheer nerve to actually tell him he stole the albums. Oy!

Sitting on my right though was this artist with a killer portfolio. Tons of original artwork as well as excellent stuff from the worlds of manga, anime, comics and video games. We got to talking, and he showed me some cool art of his, including his take on the characters of Mother 3. He also had a REALLY badass black & white Hellboy print that just caught my eye and I knew I had to part with my money. I promised him I'd hit the ATM and be sure to make the purchase. None of this "Yeah, I'll buy something maybe" BS. A couple of bucks later and I was the proud owner of a fine piece of art.

As you've figured, the guy's name was Maximo, and I knew he had the talent to make it in the art game. And it's not just hollow sentiment like "Yeah, I knew he'd make it." I didn't know he'd "make it" make it. I just said I knew he had the talent to make it. For a pessimist like me, I know that many talented aritists (visual and musical) will unfortunately never get their due, even for someone like Max who's an alumnus of The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.

But in the time since I met Maximo at MAGFest, he's since helped Mustin by providing some cool art for OneUp Studios' free web releases, with one piece done for Mustin's tracks, as well as a pair done for the OUS EP's Club Game Music and the swanky Bad Dudes.

But now, he's got a much bigger milestone realized with the release of his first full professional work via Tokyopop entitled Bombos vs. Everything. It's been in the works for a long time, and you can pick it up at fine bookstores everywhere. (I'm partial to Borders, as I used to work there and their customer service policies are better.) If you're a fan of manga and anime (hey, who knows; enough support could eventually get the property picked up by an animation studio), definitely get a hold of Bombos vs. Everything, pimp it to friends and get the word out. Max'll be glad you did.


Cheaters in the 21st Century

The Slate usually has some good reads about just about anything in popular culture, including the occasional pieces on gaming. A recent article by Luke O'Brien on the evolution of cheating in video games entitled "Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, B, A" was pretty interesting, though I wish more depth was permissible for how cheating functions in this day and age, especially the measures given to eliminate it. Still a good read that you should check out.

And as mentioned, be sure to "compare Contra with World of Warcraft." Hidden plugs? I'm cheap like that.


Tom Clancy Really Happy With How Latest Video Game With His Name On It Came Out

This man looks really happy. That's because, I'm really looking forward to Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Black Ops, and he's gonna get my cash. Excellent coverage of this pending business transaction is provided by The Onion.

And here's a free track from OC ReMix arranging Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear; classic stuff with Jared Hudson, who (if all goes well) will eventually score a future Tom Clancy-named interactive cash cow.


IGN posts list of best ten 8-bit soundtracks; the universe laughs

IGN has started a new weekly column called "Top 10 Tuesday," in which they, predictably, post a new top ten list of some sort every Tuesday. Their very first list, published this week on the 8th, is entitled "Top Ten Tuesday: Best 8-Bit Soundtracks," covering, among other systems, the NES and Sega Master System:

We realize that, in addition to the Nintendo Entertainment System, the 8-bit console era also included the Sega Master System. And while we considered titles like Phantasy Star and Wonder Boy, the truth is the best Master System soundtrack isn't as good as the tenth best NES game.
Erm, scratch that. But anyway! The list!

  1. Super Mario Bros.

  2. Castlevania

  3. The Legend of Zelda

  4. Contra

  5. Shadowgate

  6. Punch-Out!!

  7. Dr. Mario

  8. Wizards & Warriors

  9. Blades of Steel

  10. Metroid

Their honorable mentions include such vastly inferior soundtracks as Mega Man II's.

But the very best part about the article is that IGN decided to include samples of each game's music to show why each game deserved to be on their list. I personally was unsure that Contra should rank as high as fourth, but after hearing their audio sample, the seven-note title theme, I was convinced. Likewise, the song that comes to my mind when I think of Dr. Mario? Why, the game over theme, of course!

NOTE: The list says that the #8 game, Wizards & Warriors, was developed by Acclaim. This is incorrect; the game was actually developed by Rare (the soundtrack was done by resident composer Dave Wise). But after coming up with such a well-reasoned and carefully researched piece, I think we can let that one little mistake slide.


Dwelling of Duels: July 2007 Results (Donkey Kong)

I haven't formally introduced Dwelling of Duels around here yet (of course, I have during my radio shows, but the blog is new territory). It's a usually monthly compo where artists are encouraged to predominantly perform the arrangement live, usually via live instruments rather than sequencing, gravitating toward rock. \m/

Every month at DoD features a different theme based around the world of gaming. Usually franchises, occasionally with broader concepts, always with cool customized game art (see below). Songs are released anonymously near the end of the month, accompanied by a listening party for community regulars. Voting takes place in the following days via a point spread of the voter's choice, and on the 1st of the new month the results are unveiled along with the new theme for next month.

So just a quick one with this past month's results, where anything from the Donkey Kong franchise of games was up for grabs.

There are so many new faces that first come to light into the video game music arrangement community via The Shizz's Minibosses message board and Dwelling of Duels, so it's no surprise that a relative newcomer like Scared Sim was able to walk away with the gold, with an arrangement of Donkey Kong Country's "Aquatic Ambience" called "Swimming Monkey".

I'd include direct links, but then you wouldn't visit the actual site. Results follow below, and keep an eye out for DoD's current PC Month competition for the month of August :

Scaredsim - Donkey Kong Country - Swimming Monkey
Paragon - Donkey Kong Country - Fibonacci Factory
thesamareaye, aklmfreak - Donkey Kong Land - Templo de la Fantasía
Fourth Place (tie): Bobby Winston, pingosimon - DK: King of Swing (GBA) - Jumping and Swingin'
Fourth Place (tie): Kodiak Attack - Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong 3 (NES) - Grizzlies Crush Rolling Barrels and Beehives
Sixth Place: Corax, Zachariasmith, Ryan Bennet - Donkey Kong Country 2 - Stickbrush Brambles
Seventh Place (tie): CB+ - Donkey Kong Country 3 - Unrefinery
Seventh Place (tie): tibone - Donkey Kong (NES) - Monkey can´t tune!! Monkey need bananas!!
Seventh Place (tie): Vegeroth, Battlerager - Donkey Kong Country 2 - Tides of Darkness
Tenth Place: AFM SwordBreaker - Donkey Kong Country 2 - Instigating Whispers


SGX interviewed re: ICO by Tales of Shadows

Alex Rowe (not to be confused for this OTHER Brit) of the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus blog Tales of Shadows interviewed Danny "SGX" Adler yesterday as part of the blog's ongoing series of "Player Interviews," where celebrity fans of the two Sony/Fumito Ueda hits discuss their own expressions of fandom.

SGX was questioned on his love of ICO, as brought to life by his arrangement of the soundtrack's "heal" and "continue" known as "Save Me". ("Save Me" is freely available in an edited form at OverClocked ReMix, while a wholly original track comprised of the non-VGM bits of the arrangement called "Saved" is available for purchase on SGX's fourth album Synesthetic.)

Danny shed light on how arranging video game music was responsible for building his fanbase, and even suggested that he may not be entirely done with video game arrangements. Always good news to me. Check the interview out for a good read.


Destiny releases double-album "Inside Myself / Once Upon a Time"

Although Helen Trevillion hasn't been around the OCR community for a while now, she has always been highly regarded for the Enya-quality vocal and instrumental work in her submissions to the site under the ReMixer name Destiny.

Helen's first album is a 2-CD endeavor via her personal label Faefly Records, with a total of 22 tracks. The first disc is called Inside Myself and contains the bulk of the songs on the album, while the second disc is entitled Once Upon a Time, having a fairy tale theme. You can buy the whole shebang at her CD shop. Google Checkout only works for orders within the UK at the moment, unfortunately.

The price is a bit hefty at 8.49 GBP (~$17 USD), especially with international shipping if you're in the US (another 2.00 GBP, for a total of about $21 USD), but most people who have heard her work will agree that it's worth it for 2 CDs of Destiny goodness. In addition, each copy will be personally signed by Helen, with an optional message of your choice. Here are a couple previews from her site in case you're still not convinced:

Inside Myself

Once Upon a Time

There are also additional full-length samples available on Helen's MySpace.

Better grab a copy while you can though: there are only 100 in print.

Doujin Spotlight #1: Saitama Saisyu Heiki (S.S.H.)

So CHz thought it would be clever to get up all in my grill/step on my turf by talking about S.S.H.'s original work, while still including enough info about him in his writeup that a second entry would be practically pointless.

But I'm not going to let him stop me. No sir, not today. I'll post about S.S. flippin' H. whenever I durn well please. And now with that out of the way, onto actual content...

Here we see the S.S.H. in his natural habitat of ROCK'N. The S.S.H.'s sound is very distinct, with complex sequenced electric guitar and synth "wank" a common identifier in the species. Anyone who's heard the S.S.H. could most likely spot it from an arbitrary number of miles away. Here we see one of the most famous specimens:

"The Decisive Battle"
Final Fantasy VI (Super Famicom)

Okay, so silly nature show parodies aside, suffice it to say S.S.H.'s style is fairly distinguishable. However, it's also...shall we say...consistent, perhaps to a fault. To give an analogy, you could call S.S.H. the DragonForce of doujin. That is to say, it's definitely awesome for rocking out to when you're in the mood, but after a while it starts to wear on you, and you begin to notice the structure and instrumentation of his songs becoming predictable and formulaic, despite the impressive variety in source material from classic favorites such as Castlevania and Final Fantasy to slightly more obscure titles like Shin Megami Tensei and Super Robot Wars.

Of course, there are exceptions, such as these poignant arrangements:

"Red Tint"
Atlach-Nacha (PC)

"Home Sweet Home"
Final Fantasy V (Super Famicom)

S.S.H. has (at least to my knowledge) released only one solo video game album, entitled "Underworld Shade Saitama," which is by now undoubtedly available only on Japanese auction sites. No need to despair however, as most of his work is still available on his site.

As to his current whereabouts, unfortunately I must admit I'm completely in the dark on that subject. But hopefully he'll resurface again someday and give all us doujin fans another big dose of ROCK'N.

8-Bit Artist, 16-Bit Genocide

Chris "8-Bit Artist" Olan is out of steam for now. As he announced this past June, he's gonna be going on an indeterminate hiatus once the upcoming video game music and art showcase 16-Bit Genocide goes down. That's Saturday, August 25th in Baltimore, MD. If I wasn't possibly headed to TooManyGames with Mad-Gear the following day in Reading, PA, I'd be there.

Garish looking promotional poster, but it gets the job done. :-D On top of the great bands there (The Protomen, Entertainment System, Powerglove, Anamanaguchi, This Place is Haunted and Temp Sound Solutions), there are gonna be some artists there also bringing the nostalgia, including Chris.

Now every time Chris posts something on his DeviantArt page, I check it out, but his recently posted piece from Super Mario All-Stars' Super Mario Bros. 3 blew me away:

Pretty swanky, eh? And many of those are configurable pieces. Read up on it.

Wait. 3 fireballs at once??? Blasphemy!

I kid, enjoy.


Live VGM #1: S.S.T. Band

You may have heard of The Black Mages. Formed in 2003 with, among other people, three Square Enix composers (including Nobuo Uematsu), TBM is the closest thing Square Enix has to an official band. Other game companies (especially during the 90's) have had bands featuring one or more in-house composer, like Konami's Kukeiha Club and Taito's Zuntata, but TBM is probably the most prominent modern example.

Live performances of VGM have been not necessarily commonplace in Japan, but certainly more frequent than in the United States and elsewhere. However, in the past few years, there have been an increasing number of video game concerts like PLAY! A Video Game Symphony and Video Games Live. So, I figured it might be kind of cool to look at other, earlier VGM performances, including those by in-house bands and those like VGL. I mentioned the S.S.T. Band in "Composer Spotlight #3: Koichi Namiki," so that's as good a place to start as any.


The S.S.T. Band was one of the first, possibly the first, official developer band, starting way back in 1988. "S.S.T." stood for "Sega Sound Team," befitting the fact that, of the six original members, three were Sega composers (Hiroshi Miyauchi, Jouji Iijima, and Koichi Namiki). A fourth member, Kimitaka Matsumae, would later become a Sega composer, as well as would two future band members who were not part of the original lineup, Hisanori Kumamaru and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi.

I was going to make an info file about the S.S.T. Band's members, discography, etc., but their Wikipedia article is very thorough, probably more thorough than anything I would have written, so I'll pimp that out instead. The only full arrangement albums are MEGA SELECTION I & II and BACK IN THE S.S.T. BAND!!; all of the others contain both arrangements by the S.S.T. Band and original soundtracks.

An interesting thing to note is that every single S.S.T. Band member had a stage name, most of which were taken from Sega arcade games:

Jouji Iijima: GALAXY (Galaxy Force)
Shingo Komori: BURNER (After Burner)
Hisanori Kumamaru: SPLASH Wave ("Splash Wave" is the name of a track from OutRun)
Kimitaka Matsumae: HARRIER (Space Harrier)
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi: R360 (refers to the R360 arcade cabinet)
Hiroshi Miyauchi: Hiro
Koichi Namiki: Mickey or Pretty K.N.
Masato Saito: TURBO-kun (Turbo OutRun)
Takehiko Tanabe: THUNDER (Thunder Blade)

But the best part of the S.S.T. Band, even moreso than their rockin' arrangements, is their appearance. Remember when sleeveless vests, ponytails, bandanas, and sunglasses used to be cool on musicians?

"After Burner" (arrangement of the track of the same name from the game of the same name)
video from the S.S.T. Band Live! DVD (1990 concert)
Jouji "GALAXY" Iijima: Guitar (red)
Kimitaka "HARRIER" Matsumae: Keyboards (right)
Hiroshi "Hiro" Miyauchi: Keyboards (left)
Koichi "Mickey" Namiki: Guitar (yellow)
Masato "TURBO-kun" Saito: Bass
Takehiko "THUNDER" Tanabe: Drums

The band's arrangements always strayed close to the original, usually being covers with the occasional solo thrown in to retain the feel of the originals, all of which were from Sega arcade, Master System, or Genesis games. Since the band's instruments were guitars, keyboard, and drums, they usually picked upbeat songs that could easily be converted to synthrock, like the title theme from After Burner seen above. However, as the material dictated, they were not above slower, jazzier pieces like their medley of Galaxy Force tracks and ballads like their cover of "Last Wave," the high scores theme from OutRun.

Other videos from their 1990 concert on YouTube are "Magical Sound Shower" from OutRun and an After Burner medley featuring other tracks from the game other than the title track. One last video, from no concert I can identify, is a cover of "Like the Wind" from Power Drift. Soak up the retro.

Cave Story creator releases simple shoot 'em up, Guxt

I'm ironically not much of a gamer, so anything having to do with actual game releases I'm bound to be slow on. DarkeSword recently made mention that Cave Story creator Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya released a new, even simpler free homebrew shmup called Guxt. (Have Japanese characters installed on your comp, please.) With Cave Story under his belt, Pixel's already got the buzz needed to give any new project of his a good deal of attention in the gaming community, and February's release of his most recent game has already got people talking.

I make mention of Guxt, because Pixel is not only a programmer, but a composer as well. With his one man Studio Pixel team, Amaya does it all, including the actual game music. For Guxt, that includes a standalone player program that features all 8 tracks from the soundtrack. It's classic-style VG muzak, just the way you like it: small size, tons of hooks, and very appropriate for the game setting. The Boss theme in particular is excellent.

Makes me wonder who in the community's gonna have the first well-made rearrangement from the game under their belt...


Netlabel pimps (Reunion & II)

I loves me some netlabels. As a big proponent of free music (not ideologically, don't worry), some of the most creative music you'll find doesn't cost you more than the time it takes to download.

Obviously, I spend a lot of time involved in the video game music rearrangement community, but netlabels feature great collectives of talent doing original music as well.

Like any hobbyist initiative, productivity can sometimes be intermittent. My favorite netlabel Hellven, run by Xavier "mv" Dang, has stopped and started on several occasions. This makes it difficult to find a really steady source of content to satisfy your fix.

On the chiptune side, Audun "AkumuHau" Sorlie, keeper of the most comprehensive NSF collection out there (and the only other guy I know who's listed his hobbies as "VG, Wrestling, Comics" in that order), has been pimping the latest chiptune netlabel, II (i.e. Pause). Norrin Radd and Shawn Phase are there. I'll be checking out their other material in the near future, but check out this cover art hotness for Radd's album, Melodia di Infinità.

That art's good enough to hang on your wall.

One of the other latest netlabels with strong ties toward the game music arrangement community that I've been made aware of has been Jonas "Platonist" Loman's effort, Reunion, which announced last month that its site had gone out of beta stage into a final release. They have a lot of good artists I'm aware of from OC ReMix including FFmusic Dj, GaMeBoX, Saiko, SGX, Siamey, The Joker, and even guest releases by Binster and OverCoat. They've hit a pretty good stride, just announcing their 45th single release (courtesy of GaMeBoX), so give 'em a look and bask in the free.


Powerglove no longer needs your help to name a track

As announced today by bassist Nick Avila, Powerglove's previously untitled Final Fantasy VII arrangement has been named thanks to Steven Gregory Passick of Muskego, Wisconsin and Cubby Nuxx of Lubbock, Texas.

"Omnishred" will take it's rightful place on the group's upcoming CD release Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man, alongside tributes to Mega Man II, Mortal Kombat, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy IV, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Tetris, Duck Hunt, Killer Instinct, Guilty Gear and Castlevania.

Not that you have to, but if you want to wait to pick up the album with the chance to get it signed by the band in person, you could always lay low until MAGFest 6...


Activision Reports Sluggish Sales For Sousaphone Hero

God bless ya, The Onion. Washington, DC is the paper's ninth print edition market, and I love picking it up every week. The cutting edge of reporting.

And this? The cutting edge of video game music. The game's not a hot seller, I'm afraid.


Powerglove needs your help to name a track

Powerglove announced via MySpace bulletin today that they need title suggestions for their cover of Final Fantasy VII's "Still More Fighting".

Help a brother out (with the best suggestion of course), and you receive the band's upcoming CD, Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man, free!

Get crackin'.

(By the way, the tangentially related image, "Powerglove", is by the versatile artist Kari Fry. Check out her portfolio.)


bLiNd and Leifo playlisted by Ferry Corsten

I've known Jordan "bLiNd" Aguirre and Randy "Leifo" Oxley for many years.. Leifo first hit OverClocked ReMix in 2002 with a Mario Paint ReMix entitled "BLind is Dah BomB", a tribute to the style of bLiNd. bLiNd's music was an inspiration to Leifo, and, once the two became friends and musical collaborators, Leifo vowed to move from New Jersey to Las Vegas with the intent on making his name alongside bLiNd as an electronic musician.

Given Leifo's own astronomical growth as an artist in the past 5 years and bLiNd's staunch dedication to his craft, it's not a surprise to me that these two have finally been able to gain some traction in the electronic music scene, under their collaborative name "Vega Projekt".

Aaron "Global-Trance" Wu announced today at OC ReMix that renowned DJ Ferry Corsten has included Vega Projekt's single "The First Day" on the playlist of his radio show "Corsten's Countdown", syndicated on Digitally Imported (di.fm) and XM Satellite Radio. If you register at the Ferry Cortsen forums, you'll be able to vote at the Cortsen's Countdown page for "The First Day" to make the monthly top 10 countdown. It's a quick signup and will help Vega Projekt earn more recognition with an accomplished DJ and producer.

Wu also let it be known that the track may also be may also be incorporated into an upcoming DJ set of his and is also under strong consideration for pickup by Corsten's record label, Flashover Recordings. Hopefully, this is a watershed event for Vega Projekt towards expanding their audience and gaining notice within industry circles. They've certainly given it their all thus far.


Half-Life: Black Mesa developers on Cockbite Radio

Uh...Cockbite Radio.

But yes, the developers of the upcoming Half-Life 2 mod Black Mesa were on episode 5 of Cockbite Radio (there's that name again) this past Wednesday to discuss all things Black Mesa and how they're remaking the first Half-Life from the ground up. OC ReMixer Kevin "Lorenzo" Sisk, one of the voice actors of the game, intros the podcast. (Check for him also at the 11-minute and 53-minute marks as well.)

Kevin adds: "That screenshot [below], other than the surface tension dam, is a prime example of how the team is trying to bring the original game up to date with today's graphic standards, while preserving the game's spirit." Definitely give it that look.

Also of note for this podcast, 30 seconds in has a hilarious rant from Casey about 12-year-old boys on XBOX Live. Creepy, immature boys on the internet? Never.