Game Music, Reviews

A Twisted Soundscape From JapanFiles: Song of Saya Original Soundtrack (Review)

March 27, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Twisted Soundscape From JapanFiles: Song of Saya Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Digital provider of Japanese music, JapanFiles has a limited selection of game music. Among their offerings are some soundtracks from developer Nitroplus. Nitroplus makes mature (often eroge) graphic adventures with elements of thrill and horror.

Song of Saya was their big release in 2003, and to date it remains the most popular soundtrack among the game music selections at JapanFiles. Having been exposed to other Nitroplus titles, but *not* to Song of Saya, I decided it was time for me to receive a solid education.

Before going on to read the soundtrack review, it’s good to get a feel for what this game is. The short plot summary is that a young man gets in a car accident; his parents die, but he lives. However, the trauma results in him taking on a special kind of agnosia that basically sends his senses into a state of hellish disarray. Good food tastes bad; people look like blobs of flesh and sinew; the walls in his own room pulsate and freak him out.

Then he meets a girl, Saya, who actually turns out to be an extra-terrestrial life form. In real life, she is (presumably) an ugly, fleshy mound of grossness, much like what our protagonist sees in his friends now. But to the protagonist, Saya looks like a very attractive young lady. Her goal? Reproduction, of course.

The diverse sound team (including KID vocals composer Toshimichi Isoe) did a surprisingly good job capturing the mood of this horror-suspense-thriller of a game. Learn more about the game by clicking here, and check out our review of the soundtrack after the jump!

The Song of Saya Original Soundtrack, which comes as 15 mp3s from JapanFiles, totals to about 50 minutes of music. Now technically, there is an out-of-print CD version printed by HOBiRECORDS in 2004 (catalog number HBMS-008), but you’re much better off trying to procure the digital version of this album; it’s cheaper and far easier to find.

There are two lyrical vocal ballads at the end of the album from Kanaka Ito, as well as some non-lyrical “la la” vocals on “Song of Saya I” and “Song of Saya II,” which are some of the most haunting and beautiful tracks on the album.

It’s difficult to pin down a coherent theme or style for the album. “Scary” might be a good word, but sometimes it’s too beautiful to fit the stereotypical horror score. Surely, we’re steeped in gritty horror music from the start. The opening track, “Schizophrenia,” is a distortion-guitar-heavy piece that likely finds its way in the game to recount the story of the tragic car accident and the beginnings of the protagonist’s mental illness. Lots of echo, lots of reverb, lots of dark noise.

But the fog and desolation lifts immediately with the second track, “Sabbath.” This is a soft, simple piece performed with a unique electric piano sound. After this, we get a double-whammy of soft ambient tunes: “Seek” and “Spooky Scape” lack the crunchy guitar from the opening track, but retain the feelings of fear, mystery, and a dark desire to know more. Then the two aforementioned title tracks (Song of Saya I and II) appear, like an early climax. These are beautiful, beautiful tracks. These two songs alone are fantastic, and if you’re unsure of whether or not you want to buy this soundtrack, you can pick up tracks individually. And I would recommend checking out these two songs. Deceptively simple, extremely catchy, the kind of music you’d be happy to leave on repeat.

And that’s just the first six tracks! We’re not even at the halfway point, and this soundtrack has already proved its quality. Now, what about variety?

Track 7, “Sin,” uses more “la la” vocals, but there’s a new instrument in the mix: a beautiful solo violin, hitting the high notes and grabbing your attention. But perhaps it’s been too soft. We can kick up some industrial death metal with tracks like “Scream” and hardcore techno in “Savage.” Certainly, these two tracks must fit great in the context of this terrifying game. On their own, they’re great to listen to if your heart and mind are open to being shocked. Not necessarily ready, mind you, because you will be taken by surprise! The measures are interspersed with moments of near-silent noise and chatter, and then *BAM!* So you can’t be ready. But if you’re into it, you’ll like it.

Another of my favorite pieces, one that almost sounds like a Hiroki Kikuta piece thanks to its synthesized bell parts, is the final instrumental track “Silent Sorrow.” A mix of real violin recordings and synthesized harmonic patterns sounds beautiful.

Now, I know some people just don’t like vocal tracks in their game music at all. None whatsoever. If you’re not one of these people, you are likely to enjoy Kanako Ito’s performances at the end of the game. The first, simply titled “Saya no Uta” (Song of Saya), uses a lot of the same instrumentation as Silent Sorrow. It’s a slow, pensive, ethereal kind of piece, but it feels in no way like a cheesy J-pop ballad. It’s just well-produced music.

“Garasu no Kutsu” (The Glass Shoe) is Ito’s other vocal. It runs at a slightly faster tempo, and with the trap set drums, it feels more like a “standard” mid-tempo ballad; something you’d expect from a graphic adventure game. However, the melodic and harmonic voice parts Ito laid down for the track are fantastic. This song is definitely worth a listen.

All told, the soundtrack for Song of Saya is a strong production among game soundtracks, rivaling a number of “high-end” popular games from Japan. The blending of tense music and relaxing music from one moment to the next is disconcerting at times, but it can also draw out new feelings and experiences. It may be hard to get deep into without having played the game, but just having cursory details about the game’s plot will really help a listener enjoy this music. I know it added a deeper layer of meaning and impact to my own person, knowing what the music was for.

Once again, you can get this soundtrack digitally via JapanFiles. I am cautiously optimistic that the typical game/anime music fan will enjoy this soundtrack. If you have an opinion to offer up, please do so in the comments section!

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