Game Music, Reviews

Hiroto Saitoh’s Retrospective Blue (Review)

August 22, 2009 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Hiroto Saitoh’s Retrospective Blue (Review)on Twitter

Saitoh-san has been doing game music since the 1990s, and it’s clear that the man has a lot of potential. I first got to know Saitoh through his contributions to RPGs such as Phantom Kingdom, Folklore, and Berwick Saga. Many other VGM enthusiasts know Saitoh’s work from the POWER DoLLS series. But have you ever heard Saitoh out from under the restraints of composing for a commercial product?

Saitoh’s own LILT Records has been an outlet for him to release his own works, traditionally alongside Comiket festivals. For Comiket 69, held at the tail end of 2005 (like, literally, the last few days of December), Saitoh released Retrospective Blue, a 30-minute EP, six tracks, with some instrumental tracks, some non-lyrical vocal tracks, and some lyrical vocal tracks. I’d at least mildly enjoyed Saitoh’s previous work on a variety of RPGs, so I thought I’d give this album a listen.

Without question, this is good stuff. How good? After the jump, you can find out.


01. Continental Wind
02. Retrospective Blue
03. Raga-Matrix
04. Dissonance
05. Reflection
06. Long Caravan

Every song has a dance beat, and tempos range from moderate to allegro. There is a very consistent feel from track to track in terms of structure, and rhythm (which we can think of as “backbone”). The melody, harmony, and instrumentation (the various “decorations” that hang on the structure) are what change between each song. And there is a fantastic range of those decorations as we move from one track to another. “Continental Wind” is the slowest in terms of tempo. It’s an instrumental piece featuring Asian wind and string instruments over techno/dance/pop percussion. This piece reminds me most of what I’d expect from Saitoh on a game soundtrack.

The title track has a funky drag-triplet bass line, turntable-esque sound effects, and a whole host of jazz instrumentation. Dance-fused funk is the best kind, is it not? If you don’t think so, no worries, because things go from funk to Arabian/ethnic in “Raga-Matrix.” The ethnic influence isn’t heavy, but it’s enough to make it stand out from all the other songs.

“Dissonance” is talk/rap vocal track, and “Reflection” is a melodic vocal track. Of the two, I think “Reflection” is by far the better. Actually, I’d say that “Reflection” is my favorite track on the album. It’s straight-up jazz… well, sort of acid jazz, but definitely jazz. I love the piano, used sparingly to accompany Kiyomi’s vocal performance. And who can forget the jazz flute?!

“Long Caravan” is an instrumental that takes us out just as well as “Continental Wind” ushered us in. All in all, the album is a short (but memorable) journey through some of Saitoh’s best compositions. Comparing it to other works I’ve heard by him, I would probably have to point fans to the Cross Hermit soundtrack. But there’s a lot of production value in this EP-sized album that you won’t find on Cross Hermit, since that OST was decidedly more synthesized. So if you’re lucky enough to come across this Comiket release direct from LILT Records, I’d recommend picking it up if the price is right. It may be 3+ years old, but dedicated album-hunters shouldn’t have to struggle too hard to find this album.

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