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Game Music

NieR and Dear to Our Hearts: Piano Collections NieR (Review)

NieR and Dear to Our Hearts: Piano Collections NieR (Review)

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After hearing Keigo Hoashi’s piano arrangements from the 15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks album, I think everyone had the desire for a NieR piano collections CD tucked away in the back of their minds. When we were told there was a secret NieR project in the works to be released after NieR Tribute Album -echo-, I know several people, myself included, suspected that it may be a piano arrange album. And here it is!

Eleven tracks, five arrangers, and four performers later, has it been worth the wait?

Hit the jump for more.

The give a quick rundown on the arrangers and performers, everyone involved arranged and performed their own pieces with the exception of one track arranged by Masato Kouda and performed by Kumi Tanioka. Otherwise, the previously-mentioned Hoashi is responsible for six pieces, Kumi Tanioka for two plus the one that Kouda arranged for a total of three, and one each for MoNANCA’s Ryuichi Takada and Yuri Misumi.

Let’s start with Hoashi. Interestingly, he arranged and performed the piano tracks on the 15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks album as well, and both tracks appear here as well, although with brand new arrangements and performances. Both of these, “Song of the Ancients” and “Emil” appear as pretty straightforward arrangements that are much more bold and vibrant than their 15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks counterparts. The tracks on that album were a bit distant, and here they are incredibly clear.

His other arrangements include “Kainé,” a slow and somewhat reflective version of the theme that builds up for over a minute before decisive chords and a fortissimo performance of the chorus section grab your attention. The opening theme, “Snow of Summer,” is a great pick, as the melancholy nature of the piece is captured perfectly on solo piano. There’s a perfect balance among the rooted bass notes and the fluttering ones that voice the melody, filling the spaces in between. Next, “Repose” is one of those themes that I forget about among all the great material from NieR as it’s reminiscent of other more substantial themes, but it provides a soothing break about midway through the album. Hoashi’s final contribution, “Shadowlord,” comes as powerful but measured and is incredibly elegant. It’s desperate yet beautiful and is the quintessential version of the theme in my opinion.

Kumi Tanioka arranges and performs two pieces and performs one piece arranged by Masato Kouda. She starts with the majestic “Hills of Radiant Wind,” one of my favorite pieces from the game. While it takes some time to get started, it isn’t long before it comes to mirror the original with the same whimsical fluttering notes that move the piece forward and made the original so special. “Grandma,” arranged by Kouda, is exactly what you’d expect in that it’s still heart wrenching, but Kouda through his arrangement and Tanioka through her performance inject jazzy little flourishes, some impressive running of scales, and an intense banging out of chords that make the arrangement special. Finally, Tanioka gets the award for most obscure piece arranged with “Gods Bound by Rules,” which I didn’t even remember from the original score. The original was intense, featuring explosive orchestral percussion and string chops, and that intensity is captured in this arrangement with hammering chords that give way to a very saturated performance with non-stop notes that are heavy on the low end, adding an element of danger.

MoNACA’s Ryuichi Takada is up next with a seemingly lazy and laidback “The Wretched Automatons .” There’s a dreamy quality about the arrangement as it meanders about, and I’m not sure what effects were used, but there are some warbling and echo effects here, adding an otherworldly quality of the arrangement as well as what sound to be percussive sounds. This may be cheating on a piano collections album, but maybe Takada simply kicked the piano frame which was recorded as percussion on the recording? Not sure, but it’s a great arrangement either way.

Takada’s arrangement along with Yuri Misumi’s closer, “Ashes of Dream” are definitely the most interpretative of the bunch, with Misumi’s coming as a classy jazz piano arrangement. It turns into downright swingin’ jazz by the end. The key thing you’ll note with this one however is the effect applied to this one that makes it sound like a vintage recording. It’s definitely a fun arrangement and a great way to close out the album.

And there you have it. I have to say that nothing on this album came as particularly surprising, but even the arrangements that stayed true to the originals were still enjoyable. I was worried that the lack of Emi Evans’s angelic voice would lead me to not enjoy this album as much, but if anything, you’ll be singing along in your head, and the melodies are so magnificent that they’re great in any form. I will probably find myself drawn the last two arrangements most as I really appreciated the interpretation.

The booklet is printed on thick card stock paper with a nice cover design and a nice grainy effect applied over all the images to give it, again, a somewhat vintage appearance. There are track credits and commentary from the composers. This with the 45 minutes of music is definitely worth the 2,800 Yen asking price. It’s available from CD Japan.

Chime in and let us know what you think of NieR on piano. Are you a fan of arrangements that stick to their original source material or those that interpret and expand upon the theme?

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