For many people, each time OCR announced a project, there is always a lot of excitement and buzz. OCR has for many years been a gathering point for most remix musicians in the videogame scene, and these projects always allow talent to come together to celebrate all these classic soundtracks. We recently interviewed the project leaders for the newest OCR project, Serious Monkey Business, and talked about the participation of well-known names and newcomers, and also about the hurdles involved with these projects. Donkey Kong Country 2 is a complex beast, but with talent such as David Wise, the original composer, on board as well as well-known names like Jake Kaufman, Prince of Darkness, Sixto, Joshua Morse, Zyko and many other talented remixers, there’s no reason to think they can’t succeed in doing a great album.
But projects often fall into the same potholes in that the project leaders and musicians lose track of what they’re actually doing, as we’ve seen many times projects such as Summoning of Spirits being 5 discs and seemingly having no general quality control or direction leaving the project to be a huge mess. Without direction and quality control these projects become a big pile of individual tracks that don’t work together and therefore, as an album as we saw in the Final Fantasy IV project, if you give people too much creative freedom, they’ll go off and make horrendously unfunny hip-hop that is only funny to the four people who came up with the idea. It will be interesting to see if the Serious Monkey Business ends up feeling the same way.
Find out after the jump!
With this project OCR are fortunate, because Donkey Kong Country 2 is so extremely diverse and actually lends itself to the different talents all going in different directions. It seems with the game that every single level, every step and every world has a different feel to it and therefore all the remixers could take their creative freedom as far as they want because the game itself actually does pretty much the same. With games such as Chrono Trigger, Street Fighter and even Final Fantasy, the music is much more linear and leads to their artists butchering the source material in many fans’s eyes and ears. I can happily say that this project does not feel like that at all, and it immediately feels very welcome in terms of style and execution. DKC2 is an extremely respected but not as well known soundtrack has the other mentioned games and therefore the music doesn’t feel overdone and fans haven’t treated it like the end-all be-all of all soundtracks like they have for example Chrono Trigger.
The first thing to notice is the great artwork done by OCR members Maverickk, Andrew Luers, and Emunator, Simplistic, but instantly eye catching and recognizable. It’s probably my favorite artwork done for an OCR project so far. The project itself spans 2 discs, so let’s get onto it. djpretzel starts things off with the “Sturm und Kong”, which is the title theme. To begin with this track is very reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s work, especially on Tim Burton movies, with lots of horns and choir, then kicks off into a blend with electronica. The first few seconds are quite good, but I don’t really find the electronic part very creative. It reminds me of early OCR work, where the basic idea is good, but it turns a bit flat. Far from bad, just not very interesting. Joren de Bruin’s “Simian Soirée” starts out with some real nice jazz piano before going into a big band like arrangement. It has a section with some awesome nylon acoustic going on too, it’s laid back and chill all the way. The only complaint would be the saxophone sample, sounds a little too fake, but nonetheless, this song is top notch. With a the cling of a glockenspiel (I think) Ross Kmet goes into another electronica mixed with strings arrangement. It’s kinda similar to the first one, and doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s OK for the most part, just again, not very interesting.
OA gets the party started for real with “Party Over Here”, interestingly enough based on Cranky Kong’s cabin music. This song has some great energy going from the get go, and like most the other songs before it, blends strings and electronica, but a bit differently this time, which works out well to break it from the mold. The bassline is also awesome. The guitar tone could use a bit more work however, but doesn’t bring the song down much. “Rare Respite” is the first level theme, done by Patrick Burns, and even though this CD has just started, this is some of the best stuff I’ve heard in a long time. Classical piano, Irish whistles and acoustic guitar all make this a beautiful arrangement, and it breaks down to an acoustic section where he is tremolo picking sound almost mandolin like. Absolutely incredible. “Tetanus” by Hemophiliac doesn’t do that much for me however. A slow arrangement of “Lockjaw’s Saga”, the song struggles a bit with cheap string samples, and the marching band drums become a bit annoying. Nutritious’s “Old School” based on the “School House Harmony” tune, has some nice rich textures and a catchy retro feeling to it, I love the synth sound he used. “Monkey Merengue” by bustatunez is quite interesting. Based on his name I expected hip hop of the worst kind, but I was pleasantly surprised when the song started full of melody and soul. Another real laid back track using vibraphone and strings mostly, it also has a touch of disco to it, and an awesome use of a melodica. zykO is next, and should be familiar to many as he is well known to the scene.
His song, “Token Up”, based on the token stages in the game, is quite a strange song. The take on it is really experimental and interesting, but it’s plagued with issues sadly. Volume issues throughout the song, as well as other mixing issues, and some really bad samples, most notably the hi-hat sample towards the later half. The actual playing of guitar is great however, and zykO is by no means a bad artist, so I either suspect I got a WIP, or it was a bad day for him. He’s followed up the amazing Joshua Morse, with his amazing song “It’s a Jungle Out There!” Outstanding all around, it’s hard to even describe. High energy, tropical with awesome samples and percussion, it’s as you expect from Morse. zykO returns rather quickly with “The Apes of Wrath” and again, I’m not sure what the deal is here. The drums are way too low, and the guitar tone turned to suckage. It starts out very hard hitting, and breaks down to a dark mood with choir and violin, before stepping back to progressive territory. The guitar playing at the end is very very sluggish. Baffling.
djpretzel’s second effort, “Welcome to the Funky House” is a much better outing than his first tune. A real nice lounge vibe, it’s perfect for the Funky Kong song, and enjoyable start to finish. Fishy’s “Beneath the Canopy” is another one of my favorites. An 80′s like rock ballad, the first half is like Duran Duran, before going more into a second part more like “November Rain”. The guitar tone is kinda iffy, but I can dig it, since the execution overall is fantastic. Last track on the first CD, we got Nicole Adams, M. J. Ault and starla closing with a vocal track. Dangerous territory again, and sadly, doesn’t satisfy much. The male vocalist is bearable for the most part, but the female, forget about it as she sounds like someone who performs at the high school graduation party while people sting the punch. Not my cup of tea.
Onto CD 2. It starts out great with Zoola’s “Roller Disco”. Irresistible dance beat from start to finish, with great execution and at the end, he cleverly used the Diddy Kong hiphop when you beat the stage. Another favorite of mine. Prince of Darkness, the lanky, lean but mean metal artist known from Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’
Loaded and the sex tape that leaked with your mom. His track, “This Chase is Haunted” is not one of his shining moments. It’s not bad, but if you heard other material from Dickinson, you’d know how much better he can be, and the lack of bass wank is shocking too. “Paleolithic Park” is another tune by bustatunez, which like his first is a solid track. The song features a lot of orchestra backed by what sounds like tapping on a darbuka. I suspect this man has seen Ronnie Barak in action. Also returning is Patrick Burns with “Rhumba Rumble”, based on “Steel Drum Rhumba”. I love the feeling of this song, all happy and summer like, with a great synth tone, much like the music in Super Mario Sunshine. The next song features something few would expect, Mandarin lyrics! I certainly did not see that coming. The singer, who my girlfriend referred to as “Amy”, does an OK job with her vocals on this. The melody is really catchy and nice, but her singing lacks technique and struggles on some of the higher notes. Still, I enjoy her style with it’s flaws and really like the flow of this song, and the sound of the lyrics.
Diggi Dis comes in with “Club Klubba”. Sadly at this point, this song offers little new to stand out from the other dance tracks. It has some nice retro sounds going with the synth, but overall, it’s a bit forgettable in the crowd. “Swamp Gases” from Swedish remixer Another Soundscape is an awesome take on “Bayou Boogie”
Great vibe, and excellent mood and atmosphere on this electro track. A 3rd song by zykO, and luckily in this case, 3rd time’s the charm for him. His vocals are excellent, and the simplistic lyrics and weird melody will stick in your brain. While my opinions of his other tracks are rather negative, I applaud him for experimenting so diversely between the tracks. Sadly, the next track I can’t applaud, or listen to. Geoffrey Taucer, Jose Bronx Rican and Hale Bopp did a hip hop rock fusion of “Mining Melancholy” which they titled “Trapped in the Minds”. Sterile rapping with an extremely unengaging flow and worse than that the terrible chorus singer combined with some bad production makes this easily, the worst track on the project. Taucer actually predicted that people would likely not care for the song in our interview, but it’s not just the awful vocals, surprisingly from such a great musician as Taucer, the overall performance is quite bad too, especially the guitar and drums. It might have an audience within the OCR community, but I can’t swallow this track.
tepid lifts my spirits up with his track however, Crystal Swamp. An extremely chill electronica track with more rich textures and great breakbeat support halfway. Guitar is a bit iffy, maybe I’m just too picky on guitar tones. Picky or not, the next song should amaze anyone with a set of ears. It’s Jake Kaufman time, and I’m not sure I even need to say more. The song is incredible, based on the “Flight of the Zinger” song. It’s like Robert Miles, blended with doujin circle ALiCE’S EMOTiON. The source track is masterfully recreated, and the arrangement goes beyond expectations, as it’s different from Kaufman’s usual style. “Dead Raggening” by Mazedude has the difficult task of following that song, but fares pretty well as Mazedude himself ain’t a novice in his field. It’s very slow and moody, just what you need after the insane pace of the last song. It’s doesn’t really build towards any high point melodically though, so it goes by rather unnoticed, but it’s solid in terms of production and sound. Nutritious gets his second track on here, titled “High Seas”. While his first track was quite enjoyable, I find this one a little bit boring, mostly because it uses the same movie feel other tracks before it has gone for, and it offers little new compared to them. It sounds good, but the melody and arrangement just doesn’t hold up this late in the project. Skrypnik went into a new direction however, and succeeds making a memorable track that stands out. It’s a really mysterious and rather daring track with lots of breakbeat. While we already heard instances of that before on this project, here it’s in the forefront, and really kicks the song up a few notches.
“Pickin’ Out the Fleas” by Sixto, based on the game show theme from the game, is awesome enough to make Alex Trebek poop his mustache out 3 times. Great rhythm guitars, well tuned and performed lead guitar, harmonies and clever arrangement, this song is an excellent heavy metal rendition. There’s a few instances of some sloppy playing, but you’ll hardly notice. Joshua Morse is back again with the most famous song from the soundtrack, and probably most anticipated on this project, Bramble Reprise, based on the now legendary “Stickerbush Symphony”. They couldn’t have done a better choice probably, as Morse completely wins me over a few seconds in. The only way to describe this track is beautiful. Guitar, strings, production, everything is magnificently executed. The section with strings and the guitar solo together gives me chills. “Krook’s March” is next, performed by Sole Signal under the name “Castle Crescendo”. Again a bit of a Danny Elfman feeling, but more beefed up with some personal touches to make it interesting. There’s some interesting percussion, and the synth work from 1:50 and on is awesome, as is the solo at 2:20. Now following this, death metal by Nekofrog and Oinkness. Now being from Norway, the land of growl and black metal, all I can say is, good job, it’s actually surprisingly decent and funny, not to mention the music is awesome.
Closing out the album is David Wise himself along with his Rare buddies Grant Kirkhope and Robin Beanland. Has there ever been a better way to end a project than having the original composer coming back one more time on the soundtrack? Wise does an awesome job with the synth, while Beanland works the trumpet and Kirkhope rocks the guitar. The song is outstanding as you’d expect. There’s some saxophone in there too, but I’m not sure if Beanland played that one too or if it’s fake.
This is without a doubt, at least in my opinion, the best project OCRemix has put out to date. At a perfect length, an overall consistent quality, and a soundtrack not only so deserving of a project, but also so fitting, makes this an incredibly enjoyable release. Despite some songs falling flat, it should be mentioned that everyone gave all they had, and experimented with ideas. Whether they work in my opinion shouldn’t take away from the fact that every artist on this release can be very proud to be part of something of such high quality. Cho and Waters did an excellent job steering this project in the right direction. I deeply recommend it.Tags: Arrangements, Donkey Kong Country 2, OCRemix, Projects, Remixes, Reviews, Serious Monkey Business, SNES, virt