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40+ “Songs For The Cure” in 2010 (Review)

March 5, 2010 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook 40+ “Songs For The Cure” in 2010 (Review)on Twitter

Josh Whelchel, indie game music composer and good friend to many OSV staff members, last year collaborated on a special project to raise charity funds for the American Cancer Society.

The Indie Music Cancer Drive, headed by Josh Whelchel and others, is releasing a two disc set this year, “Songs For The Cure ’10.” A number of indie game music composers, arrangers, as well as other indie artists contributed to the project.

Though you can always just give money to charity, the draw here is that you can get either a physical or digital copy of this set of music with a small donation. Here at OSV, we’re doing our part to promote the album by telling you exactly what interesting music, game-related or not, you’ll find on this collection. Learn more after the jump.

I’m going to start by hitting up each and every game music arrangement across the collection. After that, we’ll talk about some of the more interesting original compositions.

“Chivalry Begins,” an arrangement of the main theme to the classic Game Boy Action RPG Seiken Densetsu (Final Fantasy Adventure) by Kenji Ito, features the group “big giant circles” (Jimmy Hinson, et al). Note that Hinson himself was a member of the Mass Effect 2 sound team. The singing sounds a little cheesy at the start, but the chorus is strong. The first three notes of the melody are stretched, syncopated across the opening measure, and this simple rearrangement of the melody makes all the difference. It works great as a pop ballad. But the best thing about this arrangement is the unending piano loop, particularly during the chorus when it’s put against soaring violins. There’s a guitar solo in the middle, and again, when first hearing it, the word “cheesy” comes to mind. But if you can look past the tongue-in-cheek lyrics and the ’80s sound of the mixing, what’s left is an incredible arrangement, one I think Kenji Ito ought to hear, as I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

Next up, Josh Whelchel’s own nerdy hip-hop side project “Poolside” brings us some Uematsu love with his song autotune-laced song “Shine Tonight.” it’s based on the song “Fragment of Memories” from Final Fantasy VIII. This is one of my favorite songs on the whole collection. This is what synthy nerdcore tunes are all about. Whenever they say “Tonii-yaight!” I let out a laugh.

Bradley Burr brings a six minute long techno/ambient arrangement of a song from Jack Wall’s score to Mass Effect 2. Burr’s song is entitled “Intrepid,” and as far as quality fan arrangements go, this one is definitely up there. And to have such a quick turn-around time after the release of Mass Effect 2 (January 2010) is truly impressive. You don’t need to be a fan of the game to enjoy this track, but it certainly won’t hurt if you’re familiar with the source tune.

That’s the end of the VGM-specific stuff on disc one. Moving on to disc two, there’s one exciting VGM arrangement here as well.

A guy who calls himself “Battlecake” did an arrangement of the opening theme to Chrono Cross. “Time’s Scar,” a Yasunori Mitsuda classic, is now re-done as a rock track with electric guitar taking center stage alongside synthesized flute and violin. So many people have arranged this track over the years, and time and time again, people get the rhythm of the melodic line wrong when the song first picks up tempo. Battlecake doesn’t make that mistake, and for that reason alone I am obliged to bow to him. But beyond that, the guitar solo parts are awesome, so cheers for that as well, eh?

There are also some bonus tracks that I received with the digital version; I am unsure whether or not they will appear on the physical version. One of those tracks is a remix of Whelchel’s “Shine Tonight.”

I should also mention some game “inspired” music on disc two. There’s a collaboration track between Michael Huang and Meteo Xavier, that runs for nearly ten minutes, entitled “Sagetellah- The One Who Waits For the Life to Come.” Clearly, the song’s title has roots in everyone’s favorite bearded wizard from Final Fantasy IV. But musically, this piano solo piece is an original composition. It’s a very melodic, lyrical, Romantic-era style composition. I should like to obtain the sheet music and play it myself; it’s a very nice piece.

The other inspired track is entitled “Zero One 2101.” Anyone who’s surfed the ‘net in the last ten years should recognize the reference: Zero Wing‘s awful European dub which led to the “All Your Base” craze. “In AD 2101, war was beginning.” You know the drill. You can probably recite the entire thing by heart. Jay Tholen’s hip-hop song lyrically paints a picture of death and destruction in a futuristic space setting, with vague references made to Zero Wing. It’s a good track, with some 8-bit synths thrown into the background for good measure.

Outside of VGM, there are plenty of composers and fan arrangers on this album who have submitted original compositions. Alec Holowka, composer of the fantastic indie game Aquaria, submitted a beautiful piece entitled “Anumbra,” featured early in the album. Even our own Josh “Zen Albatross” Kopstein appears on the album with a fantastic chiptune track entitled “moonface.” Slow, steady rhythm, memorable melodies, patterns that mimic some of my favorite GB and NES games… just an awesome track. A fair portion of the 43 tracks (including the bonus tracks) is comprised of chiptunes. So that’s one more reason to look into the album.

And I’d be an awful human being if I were so negligent as to forget about Grant “Stemage” Henry, founder of the “Metroid Metal” project, adding his own original composition to the charity album. His piece, “The Challenger,” opens disc two, and it rocks just as hard as any of his Metroid arrangements.

Then there are the “indie artist, no relation to game music” tracks (many of which are vocal performances). For me, these are hit-or-miss. The opening track, “Open Hearted” by Jessi Bair, is the sort of college-level acoustic folk pop that just doesn’t appeal to me. It’s well-produced, I’m sure there will be people who enjoy this track, and they’re probably the same sort of people who will be confounded at the sound of chiptunes.

But not all the indie artist tracks are of the folk/pop variety. There’s some strange, eccentric music to be found. There are tone poems, recited poems, ambient recording/sampling, all sorts of crazy stuff. There are even some 20th century operatic tracks.

All in all, there’s something for everyone across these two discs. By purchasing this album, you’re donating to a good cause, and exposing yourself to budding musicians. It’s a win-win. Be sure to check it out at the Indie Music Cancer Drive official site. The album is available now!

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