Game Music, Reviews

The “S” is for Sexy: Hiroto Saitoh’s S-MODE (Review)

July 9, 2010 | | 6 Comments Share thison Facebook The “S” is for Sexy: Hiroto Saitoh’s S-MODE (Review)on Twitter

We’re huge fans of Hiroto Saitoh’s work.  While his LILT Records has released a few game soundtracks over the years (including POWER DoLLS, Cross Hermit and Usotsuki to Inugamitsuki), having his own record label has mainly given him free reign to experiment and try his hand at original music covering a variety of musical genres.

We got bossa nova with Dia Novo, electronic music with Retrospective Blue, and vocaloid with Vocalize.  This time, S-MODE is a distinctly jazzy affair.  Released at M3 this past May, it’s the latest in a series of original music releases from Saitoh, and more than some of his past releases, if you’re a fan of “gamey” music, this one’s certainly worth your attention.

Find out why in our review of S-MODE after the jump.

As usual, we get a pretty short track list with this release.  But that’s okay.  The tracks are typically 4-5 minutes long, giving you plenty to listen to.  To give a nod to Patrick, here’s the track list:

01 Night Breeze
02 Hard Beat(remix)
03 Blue Moon Rise
04 Toys on his Hands
05 Jazzpanese
06 Vermilion View

The opening track, “Night Breeze,” opens right away with rich piano chords, fast-paced hi-hats, and a funky bass line.  The almighty jazz flute makes an appearance before a razor-sharp synth leads take point, voicing a melody that almost sounds like something out of F-Zero.  This one’s bursting which energy, which puts the album off to a great start.

Next, “Hard Beat(Remix)” takes more of an electronic approach.  I’m not sure what this is a remix of, but it has an industrial vibe with fat synths, although it manages to fit in with the rest of the album with buried brass and funky electric guitar straight out of the disco era.  There’s even some strange chanting thrown in for good measure, solidifying this one’s standing as the black sheep of the album.

It’s then back to sanity with “Blue Moon Rise,” which is more in line with “Night Breeze” in terms of style.  It mixes electronic and jazz elements, creating a smooth hybrid with lots of reverb that will have you bopping your head along with the snare hits.  I also have to commend Saitoh’s attention to detail with the panning on this track, which you’ll appreciate if you listen with headphones.

“Toys on his Hands” is an appropriate title for this playful track.  Cute retro sound effects and 8-bit melodic bits (which also get a super-fun solo towards the middle of the track) are scattered over an incredibly upbeat jazz backing.  The heavy layer of reverb placed on all of the elements creates a dreamy atmosphere.    “Jazzpanese” is equally playful with its stop-and-go rhythm and almost dizzying panning effects.  As the title would suggest, there are a lot of “Japanese” elements contained within, including the use of a shakuhachi and shamisen.  It gets even weirder when an army of screaming Japanese girls is added to the mix, although their pitch matches perfectly with the musical backing.  This one’s really a lot of fun.

Finally, the lengthy “Vermillion View” once again gets the funk on with its octave-jumping bass and powerful brass stabs.  I can’t believe how much this track sounds like classic SEGA music, as it would be right at home among the greatness found on the SEGA Motorcycle Music History album.  It’s intentionally retro with its cheesy orchestral hits and synth guitar, but don’t let that turn you off to it: it’s 100% awesome.

This may very well be my favorite LILT Records release to date.  At least in terms of Saitoh’s original works.  I’m a huge fan of retro game music and of jazz, and this release combines both, and does it well.  I also dig the classy jacket design by Nima.  The disc itself is printed with a nice metallic red color and the faint image of a woman.

Anyway, if you can get your hands on this album, you should do so.  It was sold at M3-25 for 1,000 Yen, and will likely be difficult to get your hands on until the next doujin event, but you need to try!

What do you think of Hiroto Saitoh’s solo works?  Should more composers be putting together little projects like this?

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