Poking around Bandcamp new releases again (an exercise that could easily be a weekly feature) I stumbled upon the fantastic self-titled debut album from V-Jams. The six-member group out of Idaho aimed to rearrange some familiar video game tunes in styles that are completely different than the source material. As my initial listen to the album left me speechless I’d say it was an immense success.
Though the album’s tags wander across go-go, jazz fusion, neo-soul, R&B, bossa nova, hip hop and more it mostly feels like a unified style thanks to the amazing and consistent guitar and percussion performances. If I had to pick just one of those tags it’d be jazz fusion as the whole album has a smooth, cool, soulful feel despite the various influences.
Nothing encapsulates the group’s desire to get far, far away from the source material like this track. An arrangement of “I Sawed the Demons” from DOOM, the original track amped up the game’s insane movement speed and gory hellions with sawing guitars and spastic drum fills. V-Jams’ version is anything but hellacious but it’s still pretty intense. The drum work is incredible and though things are slowed down to fill nearly nine minutes the percussion is constantly juking, jabbing and driving as an ethereal guitar plucks out the familiar tune.
Around two minutes in a wailing funk guitar features and around the four-minute mark a heavily effected, almost synth sounding guitar joins for a bit. Things pick up again from here with more outstanding drum work, another funk guitar run and a soaring climax.
Remember when people would take pop songs and slow them down by 1000% to create mesmerizing soundscapes? Take the Killer Instinct theme and slow it down by only 300% and let V-Jams noodle on it and you get the slightest hint of how incredible this fifteen minute improvisational jazz track can be. The wailing electric guitar of the original is replaced here by a smooth, wandering saxophone that doesn’t even get to the most recognizable melody until two minutes in. It passes back and forth between a smoldering soul guitar and the two frequently duet. In the final minutes a grungy blues guitar and bass jump in and the sax keeps up on accompaniment.
There are other tracks that the group mentions were their favorites but I keep coming back to this epic and masterful piece. Man, this track doesn’t rock, it simmers. You soak in it and absorb it and now it’s part of you.
By far, the most unique track of the album. It’s essentially a smoky, bluesy arrangement of “Aquatic Ruin Zone” from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with electric guitar riffs and solos that remind me more than a little of “Hotel California”. But during each breakdown the members rap and vamp (musically and conversationally) about the differences between Sonic and Mario, Dragon Ball, how music is like making a game, reality simulations and more. I don’t know if it was intentional but they also rap about the Aquatic Ruin Zone in the same way Knuckles rapped about his stages in Sonic Adventure 2 which is fantastic.
The rest of the album features similarly awesome arrangements from Link’s Awakening (“Ballad of a Winded Fish”), Ocarina of Time/Majora’s Mask (“Stormy Day in Clock Town”), Pokemon Silver & Gold (“National Pork”) and Metal Slug (“Living on the Deck”). All of the songs besides “National Pork” and the bonus track are available for free on the group’s Bandcamp page.
We’ve covered a lot of classic game tunes on Arrangement of the Week. Today we’re going to switch it up and take a look at a remix of an indie game soundtrack. If you’ve payed attention to the independent games world, you’ll have undoubtably heard of the space strategy game FTL (Faster Than Light). The game’s electronic centric score was composed by Ben Prunty, who has since then worked on a handful of other sci-fi games like Star Crawlers and Gravity Ghost.
This week’s selection is a rock arrangement of “Space Cruise,” the main title theme for FTL. The artist for this arrangement is Little V, aka James Mills. In addition to creating rock arrangements, he also reviews guitar and music gear. Be sure to check that out on his YouTube page if you have the chance.
When I first saw that this was a rock remix, I was honestly expecting to hear a very heavy rock mix. However this arrangement is surprisingly light in terms of its tone. The piece opens up with mellow electronic pads, along with some clean electric guitar chords and arpeggios. Light drum beats and an electric bass also come in, building up the mix but still maintaining the ambient rock tone. At the 0’55” mark the first instance of a distorted guitar comes into play, adding a more metal sound to the arrangement.
Even at its bigger and heavier rock moments, the ambient synth textures still play a role. They blend quite well with the electric guitars and help connect the rock sections with the quieter moments. There’s a nice little break at around 2’17”, where the electronic pads and the guitar play out some more chilled out tones, before returning to the main theme. Overall it’s a great arrangement, creating a unique combination of ambient synth textures with the more aggressive sounds of heavy metal.
Have you heard any cool arrangements, covers, or remixes of FTL’s music? Tell us about them in the comment section below. You can check out Little V’s “Faster Than Rock” on Soundcloud, OC ReMix, and on YouTube.
Back at E3 in June Konami rolled out a new trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain featuring one of my favorite New Order songs, “Elegia”. The dark and brooding instrumental 80’s synth/rock track is like nothing else I’ve heard from the group and it fits the themes of Metal Gear Solid V perfectly. I suppose you could also read way into the Konami news and find some irony that the last trailer directed by Hideo Kojima is set to a song that is literally titled ‘elegy’.
Now imagine for a minute that Big Boss were to find a Game Boy in his latest adventure and, in true Metal Gear fashion, it contained an eerily prescient 8-bit stealth action game. Then surely the music in that game would be none other than this chiptune version of “Elegia” from Taylor and Sinner Fox Studios. It’s every bit as haunting as New Order’s original with minimal instrumentation, a nice crackly low end and an indeterminate array of chiptune sounds. No, this literally wouldn’t be coming out of a Game Boy or any other console I could identify.
The track isn’t a final version either and comes from the mini-album “Quantum”, a collection of “scraps” from Taylor’s unfinished project. You can grab “New Order – Elegia(Koneko’s Chip. Ver)” along with the title track “Quantum” for as little as you want (including free) over on Bandcamp. With The Phantom Pain so close I couldn’t help but share this track and imagine how it might fit into the crazy meta-meta-verse of Metal Gear Solid.
A little bit of musical news coming out of this year’s Gamescom event is the release of the very first musical track to be featured in Anuman Interactive’s newest chapter in their action-adventures games, Syberia 3. The music for the game, composed by Inon Zur (Dragon Age II, Fallout 3), was first showcased at the Video Games Live event within the Gamescom exhibit with the release of the track, the “Main Theme” of the game that features a powerful and slightly ethnic quality to its melody.
On top of the release of the track, Anuman is also featuring a chance to win signed media from the game, including sheet music sign by Inon Zur himself. Entry only involves liking the SyberiaFacebook page.
To learn more about the upcoming game and keep up with future media previews, check out their website.
A new announcement out of Game Music Connect 2015 is the addition of LittleBigPlanet composer Paul Thomson to the growing list of special guests and speakers attending the event.
In games Paul has worked extensively with Media Molecule and Sony Computer Entertainment as lead composer on the hit PS4 game Little Big Planet 3, also lead on Little Big Planet 2, Little Big Planet Vita, Little Big Planet Karting, and as sole composer on several DLCs for the platform including Pirates of the Caribbean and Marvel. He has also composed and produced a number of albums worth of material for Hans Zimmer’s Directors Cuts collaboration with Extreme Music and Sony ATV and has also written albums for Boosey and Hawkes Production Music, as well as several other movie and media composition credits.
“Hero Theme” – LittleBigPlanet 3
Paul joins a list of other composers and media music producers, including keynote by Chuck Doud, Sony Entertainment’s Director of Music. you can find a list of currently-announced speakers and guests here. You can also read through Pat’s review of LittleBigPlanet 3 featuring Paul’s music here.
Game Music Connect will be held in the Purcell Room in London, England on September 15th. Tickets are still available and there’s a healthy amount of content to check out for those interested in game music and composition. You can check it out at Game Music Connect 2015.
On September 13, 2015, Nippon Columbia will be releasing an album titled The 30th Anniversary Super Mario Bros. Music. The album will contain two CDs spanning the history of Mario games right up to the newest game Super Mario Maker in total featuring music from 18 Super Mario games:
Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Bros. 2 (The Lost Levels) Super Mario Bros. 3 Super Mario Land Super Mario World Super Mario Bros. 2 (The USA Version) Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins Super Mario 64 Super Mario Sunshine New Super Mario Bros. Super Mario Galaxy New Super Mario Bros. Wii Super Mario Galaxy 2 Super Mario 3D Land New Super Mario Bros. 2 New Super Mario Bros. U Super Mario 3D World Super Mario Maker
Games represented onThe 30th Anniversary Super Mario Bros. Music Album
You can read the limited details about the album at the Video Game Music Database. As I’m sure you know many of the classic Super Mario soundtracks are long out of print and very expensive. The album will retail for 3000yen, which will let Super Mario fans of all ages access some of the best music in video game history for a reasonable price. Let’s just hope next year The Legend of Zelda gets the same treatment!
Keep checking back with OSV for further details on this album. Do you own any Super Mario soundtracks on CD or vinyl?
Groupees is back with another new bundle, this one featuring nothing but original game soundtracks. The Attack of the OSTs!! bundle is available now through August 18th and features an eclectic mix of music and composers new, old, famous and unfamiliar. How eclectic? How about the soundtrack to an existential walking simulator, a handful of mobile games, an old PlayStation PC port of DOOM, and a chunk of Turrican? Take a look at everything up for grabs inside!
Prismatica is a puzzle game that has gotten some positive attention in the gaming world and was just released on Steam this past July. It was nominated for the Best Upcoming Game at the 11th Annual International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) in San Francisco this year, and has been praised for its different take on puzzle games and its bright and cheerful style. The game features music written by award-winning indie folk musician Svavar Knutur, which in my mind is part of what helps it stand out from the crowd of puzzle games.
Based on our discussion about organizing video game music, it looks like a lot of us still keep folders and files meticulously arranged on our PCs. While that may seem like the obvious answer to this community question there are more services, software and sites to play music on than ever before. Some people want to take it all with them, some want to ditch the dedicated music player and stream solely from their phone. Some spend all day at a computer and stream from the web. So, how do you listen to your video game music? I’ll start.
Through the 90’s I used Winamp on PC almost exclusively. It provided a ton of customization and grew to support all kinds of file formats, visualizers and extensions. If I was driving I had an array of burnt CDs for every mood. In 2008 I got a Zune 120 because I wanted all my music with me at all times (and because I don’t love Apple). Commuting 30 minutes every day to and from a retail job, it became my daily driver for music and podcasts. The companion PC software is still one of the most beautiful music managers I’ve ever used but it was never as full-featured as I wanted. Soon I purchased MediaMonkey to rip, tag and organize my music and I have just recently started using MusicBee because — gosh — it’s pretty. I also use PowerAmp on my phone but I only keep a small contingent of new albums and 5-star favorites on there most of the time.
As the last decade has brought dozens of streaming sites and radio apps to every platform, I began dabbling here and there. Bandcamp has been a wonderful revelation for me, although I probably listen to full albums for too long before finally buying them. I’ve just recently begun using YouTube when I want to check out an unfamiliar game’s soundtrack and I even started using Spotify on the PlayStation 4, although that’s usually for non-video game music.
So that’s me, what about you? Fill us in on how you listen to game music and what you use to play it in the comments. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people do things completely differently than I.
Today’s Arrangement of the Week features music from one of my favorite handheld titles, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The music from the game, composed by Yoshiaki Koizumi and Kensuke Tanabe, has had a fair share of remixes and arrangements. Today we will be focussing on an orchestral arrangement of “Tal Tal Heights,” easily one of the game’s most well known themes.
The artist for this arrangement is Raymusicification, aka Imco de Gier, who has been cranking out orchestral arrangements of game tunes for the past few years on YouTube and Soundcloud. A good chunk of them cover music from the Rayman, Super Mario, and Legend of Zelda series. But today, I’ll be taking a look at the arrangement simply titled “Tal Tal Heights – Orchestral Remix.”
As with many of the orchestral arrangements that are covered in this series, this one is produced with the use of sample libraries, rather than live instruments. A full set of orchestral instruments are used in this piece. A healthy dose of strings, brass, percussion, and woodwinds are featured throughout the mix, helping evoke a sense of adventure and grandeur in the tune. I actually like that the strings take on an accompaniment role in this piece, letting the woodwinds and harp handle a majority the melodic material.
What made this arrangement stick out to me was that it’s a very light arrangement. It’s not bogged down with a heavy string and brass presence that plagues so many modern orchestral pieces. This is helped by the brass and percussion being very low key, merely helping punctuate the rhythm. The fact that instruments like the harp and xylophone often become the melodic focus on the track helps keep the piece light hearted and upbeat. Overall a pleasant and fun arrangement to listen to.
Have any favorite arrangements, remixes, or covers of music from The Legend of Zelda series? Let us know in the comments below. You can check out Raymusicification’s “Tal Tal Heights – Orchestral Remix” on Soundcloud and on YouTube.
The latest in a slew of content being released by Random: aka. Mega Ran leading up to the released of his new album RNDM features a music video with geek rock band D&D Sluggers, as well as 3D animation recreations by artist Benjamin Sutherland of classic game environments such as Mega Man 2, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World.
The new album and several package bundles drops on September 15th and will include 16 tracks, as well as a bonus track of the credits to the (eventual) game Mighty no.9 featuring a collaboration with Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane.
It didn’t take long for the organizers behind the upcoming game and music festival, RE:Play, to lay out some more details. What was just a vague tease last week on Brave Wave’s twitter is now a much more expansive and exciting setlist. The festivities — including art, gaming themed drinks, cosplay, free-play arcades, signings and more with prizes from Gearbox and The King of Games — will be accompanied by music performances from: