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.

Armcannon wants to be the next American Idol?

Hell, I didn't know Americal Idol was doing a spinoff show for bands, called The Next Great American Band. I don't care for American Idol. I'm sure not to care for American Band.

But I love Armcannon. Saw them play at MAGFest 5 this past January and djpretzel in particular was really impressed.

Right now they're trying to shoot up 4 other bands in WUTV FOX-29's local contest to send a band from West New York to Las Vegas for the auditions of American Idol's upcoming band-themed show.

Check out the contest. You've only got until Sunday, July 29th, with the winner announced on Monday. Center of the page towards the bottom. It takes literally 3 seconds to vote.

A vote for Armcannon is a vote for video game music. Help a brother out.


Chat with David Lloyd...

A cooler aspect of being involved at the top of the game arrangement community: I'm privy to creative flourishes such as...
3:31 PM David: dude

gerudo hip hop

I got it in my head

3:38 PM Larry: hahaha; one of the perks of working with you; I get to hear stuff like


gerudo hip hop

I got it in my head"
The crazy thing is that djpretzel can be counted on to make the idea work. However, he can't be counted on to actually finish the track. Too many ideas, too little time. For many arrangers, therein lies the game.


VGM Facebook Groups

I'm going to be gone on a trip for the next couple of days, and so I'm not going to be able to get the post that I wanted to finish done. So what is this special filler edition of VGF about?

Well why don't you just read the post title, you lazy good-for-nothing. Pretty much everyone, their mother, family pets, and great-aunt Tilly who's never used a computer before has a Facebook account; it's like MySpace except apparently less objectionable for some reason.

I found out earlier today that there is a group dedicated to composer Hitoshi Sakimoto, with whom I have been locked in a violent struggle since before this universe was created. In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that there would be Facebook groups like this, but until now I never bothered to search for them.

Unfortunately, Facebook's current group classification system doesn't make it easy to find these groups, which are listed under, among other categories, "Entertainment & Arts - Fine Arts," "Just for Fun - Fan Clubs," "Music - Songwriting," and "Music - Instruments." So, I did a little legwork in searching for some interesting groups. If you know of any others that look good or start your own, please let me know!


Live Performances




Awesome review on OC ReMix's IceCap Zone project, "ReCapitated"

Sometimes, it's the little things that make me smile. Check out this LiveJournal-based review on OCR's most recent project tackling Sonic the Hedgehog 3's IceCap Zone, ReCapitated:
How did I not know about this?

It's a whole OCRemix arrangement project dedicated entirely to Sonic 3's Ice Cap theme. It's easily the most overmixed song in the gaming community, but that doesn't stop anyone from putting their spin on it. This is 18 tracks of the same song, remixed by different artists. Honestly, ever since the Duck Hunt remix project, I didn't think this kind of thing would fly anymore.

I guess why I didn't see it is because, it's not on the site projects forum of the web site. It's merely the artists getting together on their own to put out this album. Is it any good? Not really. It kind of listens like a few guys just dicking around on their keyboards. Some more organized than others, but I refuse to believe it's anywhere near a "best effort". One even mixed Chrono Trigger's Trial theme in the beginning and leads into some kind of weird crossover that should not be. It's not to say that the songs aren't worth checking out, it's just some of them are just plain bleh. Of course, what can you expect from the community's most single mixed song. There's only so much you can do with it.

In any case, check out the above link and have a listen.
Only the review's from June 28th. ... Did I forget to mention this? How did he know about the Duck Hunt project, but somehow not pick up on this? :-D

Too bad he didn't get into any specifics on the tracks. He probably thought mine was the best though, so I can understand him not wanting to tarnish the other songs in comparison. You know how it is.


bustatunez scores Hellgate: London trailer, revealed at E3

I had the pleasure of finally meeting Wilbert "bustatunez" Roget, II at the Video Games Live OCR meetup in Washington, DC. But we actually used to both reside in New Haven, CT, my hometown, and where Wil attended Yale University for his music degree (man, how my life would have been different had I gone there). We tried meeting up during Will's last few months there before he graduated but couldn't work out our schedules, so it was excellent finally getting to shake his hand and shooting the shit with him.

At the VGL DC meetup, Will was only at liberty to say that he has just scored the trailer for an upcoming game and that the trailer was set to debut at E3. Besides being excited for the opportunity, he wouldn't tell us anything more, not even what genre the game even was. So just to let Flagship Studios know, he held VERY tightly to his NDA!

But with E3 now in the past, Flagship Studios (spun off from Blizzard North and responsible for the Diablo franchise) recently took the Hellgate: London trailer public. GameSpot has a great-quality version of the trailer to check out.

Now, I'm not about to praise the trailer merely to pay lip service to Flagship and suck up on behalf of anyone. Anyone familiar enough with the business of games knows that there are (unfortunately) a lot of games with great soundtracks that end up having awful "everything else". But this trailer looked REALLY polished. It may be for a game, but Hellgate: London has what looks like a straight up movie trailer.

There's no guarantee Will will be involved with the actual game soundtrack itself, but hitting paydirt with the release of this trailer is a potentially great sign of things to come for a young, talented composer like bustatunez. Be sure to give the trailer a look and send some congradulations Will's way for one of his first professional gigs, as I hope it's the start of a fruitful career in video game music.


"There's always too many projects"

Hey everyone, this is Fishy (also known as Cain irl). I would imagine only a few people know who I am, and I would wager that most of those people are on some of the ongoing OCR projects. This is because I’m what’s known as a ‘total project whore’. The projects are probably my favourite aspect of the OCR community. It’s an astonishing feat for a large-scale album to be made and hosted totally through voluntary and unpaid contributions. A huge amount of work is put into them, and the end results are usually pretty damn cool, so I thought I would chronicle my thoughts and experiences on the projects here.

When I joined OCR mid-2006, practically the first thing I latched onto was the project thread for the Pokèmon project. This was mostly because the track I ended up completing had “Reserved for awesome guitarist” in massive font written next to it and I was feeling cocky. Once I was in the forums and posting WIPs, I suddenly realised how preferable the environment was. For a new guy, it was pretty easy to be ignored in the WIPs forum, in fact the only person who replied to my craptastic first ReMix was good ol’ Geoffrey Taucer. In the project forums though, suddenly I was getting loads of useful help from some guys I was really looking up to at the time. I enjoyed being a part of a team, and getting involved and helping out so I set out in search of what would become a very long list of projects.

Recently, I started downloading many of the existing projects to check them all out. From the 60% Protricity "Relics of the Chozo," to the latest "Project Chaos," they are some really great moments out there. If you haven’t downloaded some of them yet, I really do recommend it. Theres always a few songs in every style, so there really is something for everyone.

It’s easy to see what has come, but its harder to see what is coming. I’ve seen some people only just realising some projects exist even though they’ve been running for months. The mods have been kind enough to put them all in one place though, so now it’s a bit easier, but heres the list (of the officially recognised ones anyway) with whos running what:

Boss Themes: Crescendo to Chaos – Pi_R_[]ed
Doom 2: Delta-Q-Delta – The Orichalcon
Dragon Warrior series: Children of Erdrick – Rexy
Kirby Super Star: Milkyway Wishes – Nicholas
Mega Man 4: No title yet? – Dafydd
Pokèmon: No title yet – The Damned
Radical Dreamers: Thieves of Fate – The Prophet of Mephisto
Seiken Densetsu 3: Songs of Light and Darkness – Usa
Super Dodge Ball: Around the World – Murmerli Walan
Super Mario 64: Portrait of a Plumber – POCKETMAN (and yours truly)
Tales Series: Summoning of Spirits – KyleJCrb
Tim Follin: Dirge for the Follin – Liontamer
Xenogears: Humans and Gears – Avaris
Zelda: Link’s Awakening: No title yet? – Aetherius

And they say they are too many projects going on. Sorry if I missed anyone but uh… I don’t think you can blame me. You may have noticed I left out one project in particular, but I want to talk about that now.

The humongous, and highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII project, "Voices of the Lifestream". This game is the cream of the fanboy crop and the thorn in the elitist gamers side, but no one can deny its popularity or its significance, which is why it’s being run by zircon. If this project was going to be made, it had to be totally awesome to live up to its source, so who better then a judge to run it? I left this project until last because it is more or less definitely the next one to come out, and soon too. zircon will be announcing the date at Otakon, but I can tell you its not far off at all.

It’s also, interestingly enough, going to be my OCR debut. I’ve had a ReMix in the ‘to be posted’ cue for months now, but its not going to be released until the Pokèmon project is released, much after the FF7 one. Funnily enough, its my highest quality ReMix so far, so when my other project tracks come out you’ll see a regression to my initial abilities, which is odd.

Lastly, I just wanted to mention two recently planned projects. The first one is Ladies of Legend of Zelda, which is DarkeSword’s quest to reveal the true pimp that is Link. The other (which was announced literally hours ago from me writing this) is a Final Fantasy VIII project proposed by kungfuchicken. I hope these both take off, as they should make great albums, but for now, I’m gonna gtfo.


Composer Spotlight #3: Koichi Namiki

Alternate title: "Sales Pitch #2: Koichi Namiki"

Works featured in this post:

  • Bakusou Dekotora Densetsu 2 (PlayStation)

  • GuitarFreaks (PlayStation)

  • Rail Chase (Arcade)

  • Super Hang-On (Arcade)

  • Thunder Blade (Arcade)

full list of works


Koichi "Mickey" Namiki (who has also had the nickname "Pretty K.N") is an oddly system-specific composer. He's also old guard as far as video game composers go, starting in 1987 with the game Super Hang-On, which he composed with Katsuhiro "Funky K.H" Hayashi and Shigero "Recruit O" Ohwada. For eight years, he composed solely arcade games, mostly ones published by Sega.

"Winning Run"
Super Hang-On (Arcade)

"Type II (BGM2)"
Thunder Blade (Arcade)

The soundtracks to many of Namiki's older games have the same style: they're not the strongest in the melody department, but they have enough hooks to get through the song and just groove along. Rail Chase stands as the most notable exception with its almost adventure movie-style score.

"Stages 1 & 4"
Rail Chase (Arcade)

Starting with 3D Shooting Maker in 1996 and reaching until his most recent game credit, Akudaikan 2 in 2003, he composed solely for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 systems, with the exception of 2002's Magides Fight for the Xbox. Even though he composed more games during this second time period, fewer of those games were released in the U.S. or even had soundtrack releases.

Namiki was a member of the S.S.T. Band, Sega's official band composed partially of Sega composers who played rock arrangements of different songs from Sega games. He was one of two guitarists in the band (the other was Jouji Iijima, who composed the soundtracks to Galaxy Force II and Zero 4 Champ RR), and played for the full five years that the band was active. In some of his later compositions, Namiki wields his mighty axe.

"Dream One"
Bakusou Dekotora Densetsu 2 (PlayStation)
vocals by Shoji Koganezawa

GuitarFreaks (PlayStation)

I did mention in the first line of this post that this should be called "Sales Pitch #2," so let's get to that. Over the past couple of years, Sega's Wave Master sound development studio has released soundtracks to classic Sega video games, such as the Monster World and Outrun series. They have also started the "SOUND!SHOCK SERIES" of albums, the first of which was released this month, SUPER HANG-ON 20th Anniversary Collection. In addition to the soundtracks of Hang-On and Super Hang-On (of which Namiki composed three tracks, including "Winning Run" above), the album also includes five new arrangements, one by Hiroshi "Hiro" Miyauchi and four by Namiki, all of which rock.

The second album in the series, Galaxy Force II & Thunder Blade Original Soundtrack, is set to be released on the 26th of this month. I mentioned Galaxy Force II and Jouji Iijima, its composer, earlier; its style of music is actually quite similar to Thunder Blade's. This album will have another four arrangements by Miyauchi and Namiki. Both albums are available from VGM World, along with the ten disc Game Sound Legend Series Box 2 ~Platinum Box~, which contains the soundtrack to Bonanza Bros. and many, many more games.

Play-Asia.com has the GUITAR FREAKS 2nd MIX ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK, which consists mostly of tracks from GuitarFreaks 2nd Mix, but also has three tracks from the original GuitarFreaks, all written by Namiki, as well as extended versions of each. Also available is SEGACON: The Best of SEGA Game Music - Vol. 1, which also contains the soundtrack to Super Hang-On, as well as those of other older Sega games.

Finally, CDJapan might have a copy of Bakusou Dekotora Densetsu 2 ~Otoko Jinsei Yume Ichiro~ Original Soundtrack. ("Usually ships within 3-7 days" means that CDJapan doesn't know if the distributor has any in stock, but if they do, it'll take about 3-7 business days to ship.) The tracks are all vocal like the sample above, and there are four vocalists other than Shoji Koganezawa.


"I Hate Arrangements That Have Vocals..."

For readers of the various message boards in the amateur VGM arrangement communities, a hot button topic for some is "arrangements that have vocals".

Every once in a while at OC ReMix (you don't hear this come up much in smaller, more tight-knit communities), a fan starts a discussion specifically seeking out arrangements with vocals in them. Vocals are an expected component of almost any mainstream music one may listen to, so on that level I at least understand the expectation. While I don't understand the infatuation, I realize that for the general populace out there vocals are needed to "complete" the musical experience.

However, the opposite argument that vocals ruin music is one the most out there complaints heard in the community. And yet around these parts we hear it all the time. Go to Ormgas.com even, and within its chatbox you'll see the occasional "I wish there wasn't any singing" complaint. And then you get the always-insulting "Can I get an instrumental version?", when asked specifically because they didn't like the vocals. Granted, when it comes to video game music (especially older material), vocals are generally nowhere to be found. It's not a stretch to infer that this could condition some listeners to not want their music intruded upon by a voice.

Is it wrong for us to fall in the middle and not pick either ridiculous side? As much as there are some guys who neeeeeed vocals, I've also never heard nearly as many people on that side outright dismissing instrumental music. If I had to pick one side, it certainly wouldn't be with the vocal haters. Taking a close-minded approach to music on any level is unwelcome around VG Frequency. Make sure you outlaw it in your neighborhood TODAY.


We's goin' to Otakon

Now I'm no anime geek, but I do love spreading the gospel and playing video games with the peeps. So I look forward to Otakon in Baltimore, Maryland once again this weekend. Courtesy of our crew of djpretzel, zircon, pixietricks and myself, OC ReMix will be officially representing there on Friday, July 20th for our second annual panel. OCR's latest press release gives the dirt.

Last year featured two hilarious guys cosplaying Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle. Who knows who'll be there this year. The Phoenix Wright girls from Video Games Live plan to make an appearence.

Dale North (providing coverage for Destructoid), Injury, José the Bronx Rican, MIDIman, and Xaleph plan on being there, and SGX will be arriving later in the day on Friday.

I'm also looking forward to two of the con's musical guests in particular. Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics, Breath of Fire V) with be at the con, also performing alongside part of the Eminence symphony orchestra.

If you see anyone with OC ReMix t-shirts on, let them know how sexy they look. Hope to see you there.


zircon review's Beatdrop's new album "In the Dark"

Andrew "zircon" Aversa's big on reviewing music. Either at Broadjam or the OverClocked ReMix judges panel, Andy's been all about giving out criticism and hoping for some in return.

Recently, zircon has positioned his MySpace blog as a central location for music reviews, aiming to spread the good word. While zircon focuses on electronic music in general, it's always relevant when he takes a look at original music from artists within the game music arrangement community.

Dain "Beatdrop" Olsen recently hit professional paydirt, co-winning a Broadjam-sponsored contest on May 8 to have a track added to the official soundtrack of Konami's Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA 2.

If you do as zircon recommends and check out Beatdrop's free album, In the Dark, you yourself can obtain a copy of the winning track "Until Forever", and pretend to stomp on some arrows as you await DDR's latest installement.

Keep an eye glued on zircon's MySpace for addtional music reviews in the near future.

The intrinsic value of Sequenced Music vs. Live Music

"Why is it that people have to mock the concept of real instruments by imitating them with technology?"

"Evidently, [JigginJonT,] you abandoned your previous ambitions about making music with instruments and replaced them with the lower, easier ambitions of sequencing music."

...going so far as to say that he did not consider sequenced music as part of his personal definition of music.

That being said, it was quite a while until the $64,000 question came up from Andy Jayne:
"The majority video game music has been sequenced, do you consider it not to be music? If so then what are you doing at a place which is based on the appreciation of video game music?"
Considering that OverClocked ReMix is predominantly a community of amateur musicians, it is understandable that the major majority of the arrangements hosted there would be sequenced rather than performed with traditional physical instruments. Continue's cutoff point for what was acceptable vs. unacceptable use of sequencing all hinged on live performances:
"Still, you could make do with a synthesizer of some sort and still avoid the sequencing - as long as it's a human playing it and not a computer, it'll have that human quality, though it won't be the actual instruments playing. One of bladiator's mixes, "Super Mario Grand Valse" [sic], was played by a synthesizer, and it retained that human quality; it did not have that precise sequenced quality that is often so easily detectable in those types of mixes. By far, the most abominable thing I find about sequenced music is that it lacks that "human quality" - as soon as you insert sequenced material in a song, you have that mechanized, precise, machine-like taste, even if the instrumentation you used doensn't [sic] sound "techno" or mechanical."
None of the debates or arguments such ignorant statements were due to conjure up resulted in any understanding on the part of Continue until one man showed up and laid the debate to waste. Mike "Kanthos" Chase encapsulated a definition of music that worked under no pretentious assumptions, reaching more to the heart of music-making:
"If sequenced music lacks human qualities, that's because the arrangers suck. There is nothing inherent about sequencing that *forces* music to be made in a more mechanical way. Besides, some people like me who have musical ideas that they can't translate to sound using an instrument alone (I have tendonitis [sic] and was forced to really reduce the amount of time I spent playing the piano, so my playing skills now are not what they used to be, nor will I ever hit that level again); should those good musical ideas be lost because of some idealistic, pretentious crap?

Also remember that a lot of people use things like MIDI keyboards to play their parts in, only resorting to sequencing tools like a piano roll when editing is needed. And before you say that editing is just trickery used by sequencers, you're ignorant if you don't realize the amount of editing that happens on nearly every album released in every genre, including classical and jazz.

Either way, I'll be damned if some pretentious loser comes along and says that because I don't have the skills to make top-quality recordings live and don't have a band to play with or a drum kit or piano in my apartment to record on, that I'm not making real music because I use a MIDI keyboard and a bit of editing to get good results.

Music isn't notes on a page, data on a computer, audio waves, tone colors, and anything else that someone like you would typically associate with music. Music is a language of self-expression that transcends and encompasses all of these. Maybe someday you'll realize that.

So tell me, what do you do? You play a handful of acoustic instruments and jam in a garage with your brothers. Have you accomplished anything creative? Do you fairly regularly create music that makes people with more musicality (note: this doesn't just include technical skill or even experience as a player) be impressed, not because of your tone quality or things like that, but because of what you've done? Have you taken any genre and pushed its limits? Have you re-imagined any music in such a way that would get the original composer, should he happen to hear your music, take notice? Have you tried coming up with a new sound that no one else has done before? If not, then why are you insulting those here who have?

Every new genre of music has had its critics. There will always be some narrow-minded buffoons who will hear something going in a direction they didn't imagine and try to discredit it, because they have mechanical skills and maybe even some semblance of musicality, but they do not have creative ideas. Right now, you are one of the ignorant."

And in fact, there was really only one appropriate way for Continue to respond. Mea culpa:
"First let me say that you've just convinced me to accept sequenced music as music - I guess I was being a little ignorant of others' preferred performing methods. I kinda got too obsessed with fending off all of your arguments and didn't pay attention to what I was actually implying. To everyone out there, I'm truly sorry if I said some things that got you upset. When I read Kanthos' post I realized that I really was ignoring one aspect of music: the fact that it's a "language" that everyone can express in their own way; whether it's with instruments, computers, synthesizers, etc. I shouldn't expect everyone else to create music by my own standards (which are now changed) that I inherited from my childhood - again, I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I'll gladly say that both sequenced and instrumentalized music forms have their ups and downs, and neither is in any way "superior" to the other, especially when some people have disabilities or medical conditions that prevent them from using one way over the other. I see now that everyone has the right and the choice to express themselves musically in any way that they wish."
It's belief systems like Continue's, touting the worthlessness of sequenced music, that negatively affect the reputation of video game music and the video game music arranging community. Half-jokingly, perhaps we can enlist Mike Chase to be the community's spokesperson, opening eyes and ears, converting one listener at a time. Good start, Mike.


Composer Spotlight #2: Saitama Saisyu Heiki (S.S.H.)

"Come on, CHz. What do you think you're doing, dude? Everyone knows who S.S.H. is. He's that badass doujin remixer dude from Japan who slings the best guitar synths in the business and totally rocks out VGM covers. You can't just talk about stuff that's not original game material."

That's why we're going to be talking about stuff that's original game material!

Works featured in this post:

  • Lost Child (PC)

  • Sixty Nine 2 (PC)

full list of works


I'll just come clean and say that S.S.H.'s original game compositions sound, well, just like all his other songs: thrashing guitars, smooth synth melodies, etc. The difference is that, instead of having nostalgia for his tracks to rest their laurels on, they stand fully on original material.

And, of course, they still completely rock. This is S.S.H. we're talking about, after all.

"Fly High"
Sixty Nine 2 (PC)

Of course, in regard to both his remixes and original pieces, not all of S.S.H.'s tracks are synthrockin', high-flying (see what I did there) power extravaganzas. For example, "Crying" on LOST CHILD ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK FROM S.S.H SIDE-A and "Into the Noize Ocean" on Sixty Nine2 ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK FROM Saitama Saisyu Heiki are both slowly building tracks, "Crying" taking the rock ballad approach and "Into the Noize Ocean" featuring synth melodies, that only break out with guitaric ferocity after more than three minutes in. LOST CHILD ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK FROM S.S.H SIDE-B has the most variety, from the industrial-like "Amitto" to "Relieve," a piano version of the vocal opening theme composed by Soshi Hosoi.

Lost Child (PC)

Currently, both SIDE-B and Sixty Nine2 are available for purchase at VGM World. If you've heard all of S.S.H.'s tunes on his web site Live House S.S.H and desperately need more, or just want some music to rock out to, both of these albums would be well worth your time and money.

VGM World has also stocked SIDE-A in the past, but they are currently out of stock (although the "Buy Now" button, which usually disappears when an album is sold out, is still there, so maybe they really have some...?). LOSTCHILD ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK ALTERNATIVE SIDE-X was a bonus single packaged with the limited edition version of SIDE-B, and LOST CHILD ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK FROM S.S.H THE FINAL SIDE-Z was only packaged with the 2006 re-release of Lost Child, you will likely have to check eBay or elsewhere.


Album Flashback: Quinn Fox - "Fitz Warine II" (2005)

I don't own many albums, period. I tend to only buy stuff where a major majority of the album is enjoyable, i.e. I don't purchase blind. So there don't end up being many albums, or even EPs, where I can sit down and listen to the whole thing.

I'll admit, I was lukewarm on Fitz Warine II...at first. It wasn't a mediocre EP by any means. Indeed, something about the tracks made me keep listening long after I had downloaded them. Fully appreciating the album took me about a month, but it was well worth it. Before we get into the album, onto some background...

In my time at OC ReMix, Quinn Fox has been one of those modest guys who doesn't like being overly praised. I once asked him (through GrayLightning) repeatedly over the course of half a year to submit a great Sega Rally mix he did, "Snow Tires", and he said that if I ever asked again, there was no way he'd submit it. /shrugs

But he also recoils after being criticized. Much of the reason for criticism stems from his usage of out-of-the-box preset drumloops, a practice that Protricity's constant decrying in the formative years of the judges panel ultimately made taboo around OC ReMix. (Though I'd definitely argue that for the community, it was a development for the better. Parts of the necessary "evils" of being on the judges panel. :-D)

Quinn Fox's predominantly original album Fitz Warine II turned out to be 29 minutes and 32 seconds of really excellent material, full of driving beats, 'verby soundscapes, and great hooks. Sure, many, of the drum patterns are essentially or verbatim preset loops. But one thing that Quinn does right that hardly anyone else does (so far, only Red Tailed Fox has been comparably decent at it), is actually integrating those presets properly within the context of a complete piece of music.

If I didn't know any better, I could just as easily believe that Quinn wrote all of the drums. While it's not rocket science, to me such successful integration of presets is indeed a matter of skill and experience.

Once you check the album out, you'll see that there's a lot of care taken by Quinn to fashion smooth, ethereal textures to accompany the evolving grooves at the foundation of each track. For anyone familiar enough with Fox's OC ReMixes and other works, Quinn has a telltale style on account of his other sounds as well. The album is a nice cross-section of spacey pieces alongside some big beat-style material.

"Lonely Air Machine", "No Proper Time of Day" and "When and How I Feel" in particular remind me of how the video game industry is missing out on someone who knows how to create very engaging tracks, modern in their approach, but hearkening of the old school in terms of catchiness and memorability. Somewhere out there, a simple but modern-looking space shooter game is crying for a Quinn Fox soundtrack. Meanwhile, his Ristar "H2O" arrangement will keep the VGM-hungry among you satiated for at least 3 minutes and 32 seconds.

Some of the louder tracks were mixed a little too hot for my tastes, and some of the textures could have been fuller for the quieter pieces, but everything turns out a winner overall, especially on the writing side. For the clock-conscious music listener, it's not a huge time investment, so you should be willing to download this free album and see how it suits you. At a mere $0, the price is right. Have at it, and be sure to let Quinn know if you enjoy the album.


"Shinji Hosoe chronology" video at YouTube

Shinji Hosoe is one of VGM's most prolific and longest-working composers. From Dragon Spirit, an arcade game released in 1987, to Folklore, a PS3 game released on June 21 this year in Japan and set to be released some time in November in North America, Hosoe has worked on the soundtracks to more than fifty games. His highest profile works are those in the Ridge Racer series, those in the Street Fighter EX series, and the in-game music to Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse (the much more well-known cutscene music was done by Yuki Kajiura, who fully scored Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra).

A friend gave me a link to a YouTube video by TYKUN called "Shinji Hosoe chronology," which samples eighteen of Hosoe's video game and original works, along with title screen or box art pictures for each work. It's a fascinating look at one of the industry's distinguished veterans:

TYKUN also has a chronology video for one of Hosoe's colleagues at Namco, Nobuyoshi "sanodg" Sano. Be sure to check it out too.

Personal feelings about Akitaka Tohyama

This isn't composer spotlight. That's CHz's thing, and he is good at it. This is something else. I just had to write something. You see, I've listened to Akitaka Tohyama for hours in a row now. That man is a freaking genius. Someone give him a medal or something! He has a sense of style and a way of using sounds that I've never experienced before. The only man on this earth that's even close to Akitaka Tohyama's uniqueness is, in my opinion, Trent Reznor, and that's saying a lot. So let me tell you why Akitaka Tohyama's work constantly blows my head up.

The works I've heard by Mr. Toyama are his tracks in Tekken 4, Tekken 5, Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari (all must-have soundtracks by the way; Tekken 4 is maybe not that must-have). They share a really unique feel to them. Extensive use of effects with some serious automation, interesting and phat synths, and amazing beatwork. Now pick up your copy of Tekken 5 (you've got one, right?) and play some arcade. Then die. Yes, I know it pains you and lowers your ranking but do it anyway. Now you're at the continue screen. Here is what I'm talking about. Turn the volume to max, plug in some headphones and you'll hear something unbelievable. Akitaka Tohyama get's freaky. The extensive use of bitcrush and the fast repetitive drum-rolls (made popular by IDM music) is amazingly well programmed and It's really a something the world of game music hasn't heard much of before. The bleepy synth sounds, at first sound completely random but you soon realize he knows exactly what he's doing. In a way Tohyama captures the essence of old-school game music witht the lo-fi and upgrades it to fit the role that game music has today. This is high-quality, interesting and highly listenable music.

If you're not impressed yet and think the glitchy lo-fi stuff is just THAT bad, don't turn off Tekken 5 just yet. You want some pumping techno? You like zircon's use of phat synths or you plain just want to move your butt and still not ruin your reputation as the geek who only listens to game music? Go into training mode and select the level to play on. Select the final stage (the last of the two stages you meet Jinpachi on). Keep your headphones on. If I was out clubbing or dancing (which I sometimes do, especially at the club-tent at Arvikafestivalen, a music festival in Sweden) this would most certainly get me to move my feet. Again, it's Tohyama's unique skill to find the right sounds that makes this track so good. He also get's some of the classic VGM elements in there. The strings alone could be used in any RPG and the chord progression isn't that bad either. Still able to keep a groove that gets my adrenaline pumping faster than any other beat 'em up soundtrack has ever done, this is quality game music.

Sadly, this composer is very hard to find some decent information about. He's one of the Namco house composers (I guess?), so he's worked on some Namco games, but I only know of the four soundtracks I named up there and Soul Calibur. If ANYONE has a list or something of any of his works, please contact me on anothersoundscape@gmail.com. Any information about more of his works are welcome. Now get going and play some Tekken 5, because it has one hell of a soundtrack, even if it's not all Akitaka Tohyama. I might as well be back some other time with more rundowns of Tekken 5 tunes and composers. I'm just that nice.


Video Games Live in Washington, DC (6/29-6/30) Report

Having attended both nights of concerts (June 29th & 30th) from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, I finally wanted to get my thoughts down. My girlfriend, The Lady, has her own take on the concerts, available at Century Fille. She has a great outsider perspective on things, and always speaks her mind.

As the OC ReMix group stopped by after rehearsal was over on Friday, one thing I really liked about Tommy Tallarico was that he wears what he wants whenever he wants. His outfits are crazy (love his Spider-Man shirt; wish they had it in black), but I relish the freedom he has to do as he pleases.

Tommy and his brother Mike Tallarico (VGL's merchandise manager) dipped their hands everywhere trying to coordinate things leading up the show. As noted by my colleague Jimmy "Big Giant Circles" Hinson, Mike in particular was very attentive and integral to getting djpretzel and the OCR representatives set up for prize giveaways on both days, as well as stocking OCR t-shirts for sale alongside VGL merchandise.

Every time we needed help, Mike was more than willing to assist, and we were thankful for his help the whole way. "Merchandise Manager" doesn't begin to describe the amount of things Mike assists with or is responsible for. In lieu of djpretzel's unavailability for Saturday's show, Mike provided Jimmy & I (and our respective ladies) with the backstage hook up, which we greatly appreciated. Luckily, one of Jimmy & I's last memories of VGL was taking a picture with Mike and saying our goodbyes as he and the rest of the tour got ready to leave DC and head to Detroit for the July 6th leg of the tour.

I was very impressed with The Lady, as she worked effortlessly to get djpretzel involved in media coverage of the Friday night show, working the room and obtaining interviews with the National Symphony Orchestra's in-house media team as well as National Public Radio and Wired Magazine. She also spoke afterwards at length with Cindy Wall (Jack Wall's wife) regarding both Video Games Live and OverClocked ReMix and also provided each of the celebrities at the Friday meet-and-greet with Andrew "zircon" Aversa's latest CD "Antigravity". She's very well suited to be OC ReMix's press liaison, and I liked watching her in action.

The shows themselves were a great experience. It was rewarding hearing OC ReMixes playing in the Concert Hall as people entered in to take their seats. DjSammyG of our meetup group managed to snag top honors in Friday night's costume contest as a red L-block from Tetris. (Check him out in the Washingtonian's blog, hoping to be outdone by Mega Man.) Sammy won, thanks to the crowd's nostalgia of Tetris over all other games. The OCR delegation made sure to whoop it up.

The music itself was excellent. My lady thought the more traditional-sounding orchestral arrangements (e.g. God of War, Medal of Honor, World of Warcraft) felt too similar, and that you only got a substantial change of pace from the arrangements based on non-orchestral soundtracks (Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog). I'm a fan regardless of genre, and I felt like the pieces arranged from orchestral originals were significantly different. For more modern game scores, the soundtracks are more create moods rather than hooks, thus seeming less defined by any one particular aspect. It gets into the debate of the values of older vs. newer game music, but that's neither here nor there.

During the Metal Gear Solid portion, one could tell that Tommy was the guy under the box on stage due to his telltale shoes. What I didn't learn until I hung out backstage the following day was that Mike was actually the soldier who ended up being alerted to "Snake's" presence, with real armor (but a plastic gun). Definitely a cool tidbit just illustrating how into the nitty-gritty these guys are in terms of putting on the show.

djpretzel got a little of the VGL shine reflected on him not just via the interviews and autographs he gave, but also being able to head up on stage and give away the swag from Friday's Space Invaders intermission (courtesy of DreamAuthentics and the very affable Rick Baretto [President & CEO]), including a DVD full of OC ReMixes. Having gone on stage Saturday night, I can confirm the excitement one feels. It's just good to be involved in something that helps legitimize the quality and professionalism of video game music, which is a mutual goal of OCR and VGL.

Martin Leung, the Video Game Pianist, also tore it up with a 10-song medley from the Final Fantasy series. There was a cool video crossfade effect that was done on Friday but not Saturday (one camera on keys, one on Martin), so I was glad to be in the audience when it was possible. The guy reminds me of Shnabubula's material, not in terms of writing, but in terms of sheer speed. The speed Martin maintains on the keys was impressive, straight up.

Martin seemingly almost had to have his set trimmed down in order to maintain the show's rigid schedule (a Kennedy Center issue, not VGL's), but it was cool seeing Tommy check in with Martin every few minutes just keeping him aware of what would end up happening. Luckily, Martin's planned Final Fantasy set went off without a hitch, though we didn't get to see him perform blindfolded.

Laurie Robinson of Advent Rising was on board for soprano for AR's portion of the show, with some amazing vocals. Being a regular part of the tour, Laurie really seemed in her element backstage on Saturday in terms of simply enjoying the show and chatting with the other performers, frequently joining we backstage onlookers at the right wing of the stage to check out her colleagues in actions. The power in her voice was only made better being a mere 10 feet or so away just offstage.

At any point, I would have loved to have gotten anonymous comments from members of the National Symphony Orchestra on their feelings regarding the concert. The Lady mentioned that one member loved the God of War set in particular, while another member seemed pretty dismissive of the whole affair. I'd think it would be a great thing to play two back-to-back sold out shows with very enthusiastic crowds, but crowds aren't everything.

The meet-and-greet Friday night was fun, and I enjoyed getting acquainted with the pros there, who were all very friendly. Along with other pros, I also met Laurie's husband, fellow composer Emmanuel Fratianni, Brothers in Arms' Stephen Harwood, Jr., as well as Civilization IV's Christopher Tin. The post-show was pretty long though, and I could tell by Jack Wall's demeanor that he was hoping to get elsewhere. As the conductor, he's got as busy a time as anybody as compared to some of the pros who were merely part of the crowd and after-events. Jack was nice enough to snap some quick pics with Jimmy and I on Saturday before getting the hell out of dodge, hopefully for some relaxation.

After mentioning Mazedude's recent God of War ReMix "Minatour Nightmares" (arranging material by Cris Velasco), Gerard Marino gave me his business card and mentioned that if anyone wants to arrange pieces from God of War, he'd hook them up with sheet music, MIDIs, SFX samples, anything they needed to help get the job done. Indeed, Big Giant Circles was yet another person who was astounded by God of War's set in particular, so he confided that he may take Gerard up on the offer.

It was a real pleasure meeting up with the OverClocked ReMix group for our Washington, DC meetup. After traveling to other meetups in the Mid-Atlantic area, it was nice to have one right in my backyard that didn't involve any meaningful travel on my part. Meetups are always fun, and I met a lot of new faces, especially arrangers I'd never met in person yet. I finally got to meet face-to-face with former judges panel colleague Shariq "DarkeSword" Ansari, as well as successfully have Vinnie "Palpable" Prabhu, Wilbert "bustatunez" Roget II, and Brandon "Harmony" Bush all snap up loose tickets on very short notice. I missed having pixietricks and zircon there, especially zircon (who had unexpectedly suffered from appendicitis on Friday and had to convalesce). If I had to "trade them away", I was glad to at least substitute in a lot of really talented musicians who I'd never officially met before.

We all had a great time attending the festivities. One of the most encouraging things I'd heard from Tommy backstage was that ticket demand for the back-to-back shows was so strong, both in presales and walkups on the day of the event, that DC could have run a 3rd show. Very promising news in terms of future shows for a concert series that, in its infancy, almost ceased to be soon after it started. Looking healthy and gaining momentum, whenever Video Games Lives swings by again (Tommy hopes for next year), I'll certainly be there.

Bjørn Lynne in 5.1

I got my first exposure to Bjørn Lynne's material from Song of the Week, a piece of in-game music from Spin Jam for the PlayStation. He's got some really creative, dynamic material, as evidenced by other tracks of his I've heard, including "Jooli's Song" (which I encountered from Song of the Week as well).

Lynne makes the rounds via his MySpace page, pimping the latest developments on his site to those on his friends list. If you're up for a 14-minute experiment of sorts, give his latest message a look!
I hope you don't mind me taking this opportunity to let you know that produced a brand new music track in 5.1 SURROUND which is now available to download from my web site, for free, in WMA (Windows Media Audio v10) and in AC3 (Dolby Digital) surround music format. The track is a 14-minute ambient rock space journey that sounds pretty cool in surround audio, and I hope you'll enjoy it!

Download the track Voyager in 5.1 surround from my free surround music page.

PS, you can also hear it in regular stereo format (no surround speaker system required for that) on my blog

All the best,
Bjorn Lynne


Why I hope my marriage is like Super Mario Bros. 3: A long improvised-essay

OC ReMixer and former OC ReMix judge Antonio Pizza just posted an essay at the OverClocked ReMix forums likening his upcoming marriage to Miss Robin to Super Mario Bros. 3. But for better or for worse? Or for both?

For posterity's sake, we reproduce the entire essay in full:

Why I hope my marriage is like Super Mario Bros. 3:

an improvo-essay by Antonio Pizza

On Monday, February 12, 1990, Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in the United States. I don't know when I got my copy, but I do remember the anticipation leading up to it. I remember seeing the trailers for The Wizard; I remember hearing from a classmate that it was at "The Fun Factory", the local mall's arcade in a Playchoice-10 machine; I remember the brilliantly effective hype commercial with thousands of kids all across North America grouped in different colored shirts chanting "Mario! Mario!" until the camera pulled back into outer space revealing that the kids had formed Mario's smiling face upon the face of the earth. I was hyped, I was eager, I was amped. The classmate (Jeff Kraak, if you're out there somewhere, what's up?) told me magnificent things about the game such as not reverting directly to small Mario if you were injured as Fire Mario, a frog suit(?!), and (get this) the ability to fly! Oh! I had to have it! Everyone knew and loved Mario 1, and Mario 2 was, though not identically, equally loved and adored. How I asked for it, I don't recall. How I convinced my mother to buy it, I don't remember. When we went, I couldn't tell you. What I do remember was travelling to The Crossroads Mall in Portage, Michigan with her and purchasing Super Mario Bros. 3 from K.B. Toy Store for $55.

What I remember next disturbed me at the time and disturbed me in later retrospect, but now I recognize it as an important life lesson. We walked out of the mall and I had Super Mario Bros. 3 in my hands. Finally! I could get this weird "frog suit" and "teddy bear suit" (Tanooki Mario) that I'd heard about. I could try and get the whistle just like Jimmy Woods did in The Wizard, I could do better than Moira Grissom who stupidly fell and died in World 1's first miniboss castle, and I whoop the snot out of the evil and arrogant Lucas and his crony Toby Maguire. I could see if "Wart" was coming back!

I could finally do what I'd been waiting so long for. But the strangest feeling washed over me on our way back to the car.

I didn't want it anymore.

The excitement, the fever, the hype, the rush... all of it had vanished. I wanted to take the game and just throw it away. Not because it disgusted me, but I just didn't want it anymore. It was taking up precious space in my hands. Though nine-year-old me couldn't articulate it at the time, twenty-six-year-old me can say that it wasn't the game I desired most. It was wanting the game that I desired most. And as soon as I had it, my need had been fulfilled and I felt extremely disappointed at what I now had. Keep in mind, this is before I ever got home. This is still on the way to, and in, the car. Of course I hid this from my mother who had just shelled out $55 on something she had not the slightest interest in. I feigned excitement and contentment as well as a nine-year-old could in 1990. The inevitable logical question arises: "Why on earth would you desire for your marriage to emulate that?" Follow me and I'm going to bless you...

I'm not much of a gamer. The Legend of Zelda came out in 1987, Super Mario Bros. came out in 1985. I didn't beat either of them until 1996. I don't know how long it was until I beat Mario 3 but I'm sure it was well into the 90s as well. But that didn't stop me from playing it over and over again. Initially disappointed, I took the game (since I had it now and dare not even attempt to conjure up the notion of maybe suggesting that it should possibly be returned to the store), played it, eventually embraced it, and grew to love it. My next door neighbor and I would have all night Mario 3 sessions in the summer to see how far we could get without warping before we finally fell asleep (he always fell asleep by Water Land, I usually got tired around Level 7 or 8 ). I mastered the timing to hit the star at the end of every level. I could line up the Starman in Toad's scrolling extra lives game every time without trying. I memorized patterns in the N-card memory game. I discovered other whistles, I'd hunt the mysterious coin ships and blue Toad houses, I'd hoard P-Wings and Lakitu clouds until Dark World. Above a bachelor's, but not quite a doctor, I had mastered SMB 3 except for one part... I couldn't beat the freakin' thing. Getting through Dark World was hard enough, but throw in Bowser's castle plus the fact that I had no initial idea on how to beat him and it wouldn't be rare for me simply to get to Dark World and turn the game off. I wasn't unfulfilled, but I wasn't at a level of skill where I could face what was facing me. This wasn't, nor is, a matter of disappointment for me as Super Mario Bros. 3 ranks as one of my top 5, if not number one, favorite video game of all time. This isn't necessarily for matters of excellent construction or graphics or challenge, but because when I think of joy I've experienced when playing a video game, Mario 3 is at the forefront of my memory. I associate Super Mario Bros. 3 with pleasant memories and experiences. And though I have no difficulty breezing through the game today and stomping Bowser in the mud (or letting him stomp himself rather), it still brings me great pleasure despite it being 17 years old.

What I mean to say is that on the sixth anniversary of the party by the pool thrown by Flowerguy, I will become a married man and I have great expectations, hopes, and dreams. Admittedly, there are a few anxieties that I would not call cold feet, but merely recognition of the tasks and responsibilities that lie before me. I do not take what I am about to embark upon lightly. I am very excited but I hope that my excitement isn't quick to wear off in the eventual normalcy of everyday life. Keep in mind, I never imagined that upon walking out of the store in 1990 that I would no longer want what I'd been fiending for for weeks on end. But the redemption in that (besides a true calling from the Lord for me to marry this woman and my own personal desire and love to do so) is that my own life has revealed a wonderful precedence. What began as intense desire became, through time, hard work, passion, and zeal, a timeless and lasting experience. I get a kick every time I play Mario 3. It's as much fun now as it was in 1990, '98, and '06. I couldn't beat it at first, but by not giving up on it and sticking it through I eventually mastered it and began discovering fun new elements all the time (like getting all the coins in World... 2-2 I believe, makes a blue Toad's house appear). Yeah I'd throw the controller in disgust at times, and of course I'd angrily hit the power button on the NES and declare "I DON'T WANNA PLAY THIS NO MORE!" but rash statements can't quench a love of the game that easily. Of course I had to try again. I'd had too much fun to give up on it forever.

People say marriage is no picnic, but I youthfully disagree. Having been in the relationship with my fiancée for an adequate number of years, I know that it takes actual work to build on what you started with and to keep the two of you growing together. And if you and your honey want to go on a picnic, it takes work. Food must be bought and prepared. Decisions must be made on what to bring. An agreement must be made on when the time to have the picnic is available and where the two of you are going to go. How much is being brought? What is being brought? Is anyone else coming? Someone has to carry the stuff and if your locale is far off someone has to drive, be it you, your honey, the bus driver, the cab driver, or your grandma. The site must be set up and cleared of debris. But once all of that has taken place, you and your mate can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor. I'm not going into Dr. Phil mode, but I submit unto you folks in relationships; when was the last time you and (s)he went on a picnic?

Just as I'd heard and seen so much about Mario 3's fun (and difficulty via
The Wizard) without ever having played it, I have high hopes that my inital eagerness and excitement about my upcoming and only marriage will mature into a lasting love and appreciation upon which I can fondly reminisce in 17 or, God willing, even 71 years from now. My father once wrote a poem about how we do not desire the sunshine, but desire the desire for sunshine. Immaturely, I fell into that trap as a 3rd grader in mid-1990 (and again when DKC 2 for the SNES came out) but now I realize that the desire for the desire can occasionally confirm that what you were chasing after was your true treasure after all. You didn't enjoy the desire of Mario 3, you actually wanted Mario 3 the whole time. You just didn't know it. You were merely sidetracked, but time can correct and redirect the course of that river. Have I stretched and exegied too much out of my illustration? Possibly. Does any of this make a lick of sense to someone out there? Possibly. Could it impact someone for the positive? Hey, anything could happen. That was not my inspiration for this improvised essay, but instead one of those quick 1½ - 2 second thoughts in which is compacted and compressed an entire day's worth of meditation and verbal dialogue. Nonetheless, I fancied it an interesting simile worth sharing and figured that if it could be appreciated anywhere, it would be on a videogame webforum.

If you read all of this, I thank you. If you're a Christian, we'd appreciate your prayers for our marriage. If you're not a Christian, I still would still love to cheerfully accept your well wishes. We need all the support we can get. And if you're like one of those types who has been on the forums since I first joined but still have yet to grow or mature any in the past 6 years, your immaturity, bitterness, snide attitude, and anger at the world is cause for great sadness. There is a world outside of your computer. The sunlight doesn't hurt. Embrace it occasionally. I beg you, turn away from Dustin Diamondism. I don't say this to whore out congrats for myself, but I believe in the prayers of the saints and would love their prayers for my marriage. However I recognize that everyone does not believe what I do and I don't want to deny a well meaning person the opportunity to say "ur gettin' /\/\4rr13|)??!!!11~ omg kewl." So I leave you on a positive note. Buy yourself an ice cream sandwich, fire up your NES if it still works, and play through all of Super Mario Bros. 3 (with the one you love if you can convince them) without warping, and beat the game.

Till next time, peace out, God bless, and may the force be with you.


P.S. But if you really want to show us you're happy for us, we want a Wii. :)

Xoc back at it with Kirby's Adventure & Gremlins 2 tribute albums

Jason "Xoc" Cox has has plenty of arrangements, side projects and concept albums come out since the ultra-popular Super Mario World tribute "SMW", but the spiritual successor to "SMW" finally arrived a few weeks ago with the Kirby's Adventure tribute album "What's Pink and Sucks?"

Go for it now. You're bound to find something that you like within the album. It's over 30 minutes of Jason at his best, making creative use of a cavalcade of instruments and coming up with some great results. I don't have any nostalgic ties to the Gremlins 2 NES game (that's never stopped me), but Jason's arranged that as well, so you should know "G2EP" is worth the download.

Introducing yet another blogger at VGF

Whozzat? Sum n00b?

I know. You don't know me, therefore I'm not as interesting as the mighty Larry Oji. But it's okay. I'm still going to write stuff here from time to time. Let me give you a brief introduction to the man that is Another Soundscape.

My name is Mattias Häggström Gerdt. It's a strange name because I'm from Sweden. You know the ever-neutral country up north? Where Gecko Yamori is from? Yeah, that's the one. I am one of those new ReMixers that haven't really made it on the big scene yet. I am also one of the small percentage of new ReMixers who's still here, still trying, after rejections.

I do have some merits though. I have two finished songs for the FF7 project (schh, it's a secret) and I'm also a part of some other projects, including Larry's own Dirge for the Follin. I make all of my music in Reason 3.0 as it is now (you back there, yeah you FL user, stop booing) and I enjoy tweaking sounds beyond recognition and acoustic drums and percussion mixed with synths. When I'm blogging here I'm going to tell you about many things, including: OCR as a beginner, OCR as a European, ReMixing, video game music I enjoy, video game music in general and other more or less relevant stuff. Now, that's enough introduction for me. Let's get it on!

So it's 4.30 PM and I recently got home from work. All sweaty and tired, I get down to my computer and start iTunes. Since I'm such an impulsive fellow I usually have iTunes set to 'shuffle'. I clicked the VGM playlist and there it was. "Voiceless Poem" from Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, composed by Ken Nakagawa, Daisuke Achiwa and Akira Tsuchiya (probably just one of them but I don't know who to credit).

Atelier Iris is one of those series of RPGs that hasn't really made it here in Europe, I don't know about the USA but in Japan this series, produced by Gust, is a long-runner. The first game in the series (that I know of) is Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, released in 1997 for Sega Saturn. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana on the other hand is for the PS2 and was released in mid-2004. Thinking it was a Disgaea rip-off (hey, 2D graphics in PS2 games isn't THAT common), I bought the game about a year ago and boy was I surprised. It's a classic 2D RPG with all elements you may and may not expect. Charming characters, incredibly smooth 2D graphics and the kind of plot that makes you think "ooh, the 90s". On top of this we have the soundtrack. Man, the soundtrack.

When the song "Voiceless Poem" was first heard in the game I thought to myself "this is one cozy track. It's got the melody and mood so right it's incredible. It's piano, it's synth pads and plucked stuff. Yum." And then out of nowhere comes an analogue, sharp, bouncy kickdrum. It could've been sampled right out of any psytrance song out there. Together with some 909-style hi-hats, the once so mellow tune goes downbeat-breakbeat, and I love it. The soundtrack is filled with those kinds of surprises. We have the regular Motoi Sakuraba-influenced songs, some sad themes and loads of the classic that's-the-funny-person-in-the-game-themes.

Although in Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, all the tunes share an experimental and interesting approach to this. With loads of ethno instruments and bells joining hands with analogue-type synths, beats and strange FX, the composers created a soundtrack that is really interesting to listen to, especially as a composer or remixer. You don't even have to play the game to enjoy these tunes. Sometimes the soundtrack suffers from some low-quality instruments, not in the bad-MIDI-way, but in the this-is-like-SNES-and-PSX-but-cooler-way. So do yourself a favour, pick up the soundtrack. Or even better, get the game at a game outlet near you. It's pure pleasure.