I still get a chuckle out of the fact that Yuzo Koshiro is the man behind the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune soundtracks. Not only do they feature almost exclusively trance music, but this is some pretty authentic stuff that you might hear on a dance floor out late in a club.
As the fourth installment of the series, I think most existing fans should already know what to expect, but there are a few surprises this time around in the form of guest performances. It’s also the first time the soundtrack has spanned more than a single disc.
Does Koshiro get fresh with Wangan 4, or is this just more of the same? Hit the jump for our review.
Well, to answer that question, it’s a bit of both. There’s tons of great music here, and it’s all wonderfully produced. However, if you don’t like trance and electronica, you probably won’t like this album, so don’t go looking for it just because Yuzo Koshiro is involved. If you do love trance, however, I already noted that this is the real deal. Koshiro could probably totally get a record deal writing this stuff and make it big in the club scene.
I did find myself having difficulty describing the tracks though. I kept saying things like “pumping electronic track” and “dreamy trance tune,” which describes the majority of what’s here. I’m not saying it’s uninteresting, as I can’t stress enough the quality here, but the pieces tend to be more textural, making it difficult to explain exactly what stands out about them.
It begins with the familiar entry tune, “Entry Maxi4,” which is bubblier than past incarnations, setting the tone for what I think is a more accessible Wangan Midnight soundtrack. There’s an alternate remix of this track found at the end of the album that has a lot more punch to it as well. “Pleasures of Sound” stands out with its deep groove and pitch-bending synth lines as well as the spacey “Nostalgia” with its Metroid Prime-esque synth lead. There’s emotional with piano in “Never Throw Away,” epic with choir and organ in “The Final Count Down,” and even rock with chugging electric guitar and grungy male vocals in “Highway Discipline.” One of my favorites, “Who’s Your Rival?,” has some interesting rhythmic variations going on with lots happening on the upbeats, while “Peace and Comfort” comes as a super poppy and upbeat ending theme.
The true highlights of the album, however, are the tracks featuring guest performances, namely vocals. Aubrey Ashburn, who most know from her work on Devil May Cry and Dragon Age, really surprises here with her hip and sexy vocals. “Drifting Into You” is funky and cool with Ashburn’s rhyming lyrics, and her dreamy “yeaaaaah” accents really make the piece. Later, in “Re-Birth,” her voice is digitized with a more pop-styled sound that also impresses. Emi Evans also makes an appearance in “Taillight,” a romantic-tinged track with lyrics about following a taillight. It’s really kind of silly and over the top, but the soundscape created with desperate strings and Emi Evans’s angelic voice contrasts quite nicely.
The last guest performance track is my favorite on the entire album. “Glory Days” offers anmazing blend of electronica, disco, and jazz. It opens with an ascending string section that has a nostalgic feel about it with the heavy reverb, sounding like it’s coming from the distant past. It has a great melody, a cool overall vibe, and a killer solo on saxophone by Norihiko Hibino. After hearing this, I really think Hibino is doing the world a disservice by not playing in a band with his kind of talent. This one has been stuck in my head for days, and I think you’ll feel the same way.
And that’s all I have to say about this one. It was the guest performances that had me most excited for this release, and they really came through. I hope we see more international collaborations like this from Koshiro and group in the future. The rest of Koshiro’s work on the album is also solid.
The packaging is rather simple with a brief booklet containing lyrics for each track (co-written by Norihiko Hibino and their respective vocalists) as well as some liner notes from Koshiro in Japanese. There’s a neat outline of a car engraved on the discs themselves, but overall, there’s nothing too fance here. Still, I think it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of electronic music and want to hear Koshiro’s latest.
Let us know what you think about Yuzo Koshiro’s work on the Wangan Midnight series. Do these kinds of guest performances draw your attention to an album, or do you focus solely on who composed the music for a given game?Tags: Aubrey Ashburn, Electronic, Emi Evans, Lantis, Norihiko Hibino, Reviews, Trance, Wangan Midnight, Yuzo Koshiro