Game Music, Reviews

Natsu: A marth TERIT RECORDS Classic (Review)

February 6, 2010 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Natsu: A marth TERIT RECORDS Classic (Review)on Twitter

Remember marth TERIT RECORDS? If you read our recent interview with former Capcom sound designer Hideaki Utsumi, it may sound familiar, as he briefly discussed the record label and a few of its releases. Don kicked off coverage of the label, starting with his review of Shinseiki Kivandelyan, and here we are with another compilation album titled Natsu (Or “Summer” in English), which takes us all the way back to 1997.

Like with other releases from the label, don’t expect “game music.” This is a compilation album featuring mainly electronic tracks with Japanese vocals from a variety of artists. While I didn’t know any of these names before listening, I’m definitely interested in learning more about some of their past work based on this release, and I hope you will too!

Find out more about Natsu in our review after the jump.

First of all, despite the fact that there are only 9 tracks on Natsu, the album clocks in at close to an hour. This is helped by the fact that the final track is about 23 minutes long, but for the most part, these are beefy, full-length pieces of music with lots of soul. The bass is heavy, the pads are thick, and the mood is warm.

Let’s start with Camel Poosu, who starts the album off with “One Night, Dreamy Night (Album Mix)” and “Myself.” “One Night, Dreamy Night” opens with gritty static sounds and a funky electronic jazz vibe courtesy of Utsumi himself. Rich piano cords, a funky bassline, and soothing female vocals by Juri Yamada get us off to a smooth start, although I could have gone for something more catchy and upbeat to draw me in to the album. “Myself” is probably the better of the two, with music from Shusaku Uchiyama, taking a trip-hop approach with dreamy synths and chilling ambient sounds providing a cool backing for the filtered percussion and vocals that much the music much better than the previous track.

Camel Poosu then gets a break until the last track, giving SYUN a moment in the spotlight. SYUN is actually Shun Nishigaki, one of the composers who worked on Super Street Fighter and 19XX. “Festival” features a more prominent Asian influence with a plucked string instrument and a more J-pop-esque vocalist. It’s a very groovy track to chill out to, and there are even a few guitar solos thrown into the mix. Manicure Dan, a group of composers, is next with the quirky “Trying Hard, but Not Working” which features wacky synth work, an annoying samba whistle patch that I think is from a Casio keyboard (you’ve probably heard this sound in “Chocobo’s Theme”), and painful vocals. The vocalist goes for that super cute and out of tune singing style, but it’s not even high-pitched… making her sound lazy as well as annoying. She unfortunately returns for “Recycle Game,” although the funky synth pop backing for this one provides at least one saving grace.

Devil May Cry and Bayonetta composer Masami Ueda contributes one track, titled “No.D,” which is an awesome synth rock piece would be right at home in a Falcom title. It sounds like cave music with its heavy layer of reverb on the belltone melody and rock percussion, but the highlight for listeners will be the live electric guitars which chug and wail away like nobody’s business. This is probably the best track on the album, but it’s unfortunately the shortest. Shusaku Uchiyama and our friend from Unique Note, Yoshino Aoki team up to form a duo called Air who returns us to the smooth vocal stylings of the rest of the album starting with “Real” which features some lovely violin work between the jazzy electric piano chords and unimposing vocals. “Calender Girl,” on the other hand, has a lot of potential with its energetic percussion, but it relies too heavily on the vocals which simply fall flat and don’t do much to impress.

Camel Poosu returns for the final track, “One Night, Dreamy Night (Orange Mix),” which, as I’ve mentioned, is 23 minutes long. It opens with the sound of waves crashing on the beach to accompany a rather chaotic arrangement of the opening track. A pounding bass and drum line provide a bass for piano, strings, and vocals that are all doing different things and are mixed in such a way that the vocals get buried. Simply put, it’s not very good, so it’s a shame they decided to close the album out with this one. As far as the length is concerned, after the music ends about around the 5-minute mark, the sound of waves continues before a telephone rings and a series of conversations take place in Japanese. As it turns out, these conversations are interviews with the various contributors, and the fact that it’s done via telephone is an interesting concept (were cellphones really being used back then?), although it’s all in Japanese.

In the end, Natsu is an interesting piece of history. This was released on a small label that to this day is not very well known during an era when the original PlayStation reigned supreme, and when the music from the demoscene was just breaking into high-quality sound with increasing Internet speeds. Some of the tracks here are a bit questionable in terms of ideas and sound quality in general, but I think that speaks more of the time it was released. There are a number of noteworthy compositions here, with “No.D” being particularly awesome, so if you’re interested in hearing an experiment from 1997, you can check it out at the marth TERIT RECORDS website.

Are you familiar with any of the other releases from marth TERIT RECORDS? Are there any of these artists that you’d like to hear more of in the future?

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