Game Music, Reviews

Too Much Noitu! Mubla Evol Ution (Review)

June 7, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Too Much Noitu! Mubla Evol Ution (Review)on Twitter

The composer for the Noitu Love indie platformer/shooter games, Joakim Sandberg (also the creators of the games he writes music for), decided to release a ridiculous collection of music as part of the GMB3 “bonus” tier ($10 minimum). This “album,” Entitled Mubla Evol Ution (that’s “Noitu Love Album” backwards), is actually a compilation of five separate works, all by Sandberg.

I’m fairly certain what Sandberg has done is without precedent, in that he didn’t care to treat these five separate releases as entirely separate. None of them have individual album art (what you see above is all you get), and each folder begins the track numbering as 01. It’s as though we have a “five disc” album, even though it’s digital-only.

Take note: this new precedent is something I’m not really enjoying. Organizational issues aside, you’re probably wondering more about whether or not I enjoy the music. Else, you’d likely not be reading OSV. So, to learn more, join me after the jump!

It’s a mixed bag of goodies. And sometimes, the goodies aren’t all that good. When they are good, however, I realize it’s worth sorting through the grab bag for that one special treat. But hey, let’s attack this methodically.

The first album-in-an-album is the 8-track OST for puzzle game Chalk, and I was pleasantly surprised by these tracks. These tracks, like most of the tracks on Mubla, are recorded versions of high-fidelity synthesizers run through MIDI sequencers. Among the 8 tracks on chalk, my favorites are right in the middle. “Oriental” has this great driving drum track leading the way, and “Waltz” is a 3/4 (duh) track oozing with melancholy and cello. On most days, cello and melancholy are the same thing for me. Even though one’s an instrument and the other is a feeling.

Some tracks on Chalk did downright annoy me, however. “Sky” is chief among them, for having the same beat as Oriental but for having a hum-drum sort of melodic pattern over it. It just felt … totally uninspired.

Luxe Chalk was Sandberg’s attempt at making an HD version of Chalk. The project was ultimately scrapped, but not before Sandberg wrote 5 new tracks and rearranged one more for the game. Hence, the “Luxe Chalk” folder within Mubla. Among these six tracks, most of them are too short to be anything more than musical ideas. However, track 2, “Moons,” is one I found myself really appreciating. There was some really good syncopation and layered rhythms happening behind all the tonal stuff (which, again, was kind of vanilla in my mind).

The first Noitu Love features 25 music tracks. I think there’s a reason Sandberg hadn’t released this album separately before. While Noitu Love 2 – Devolution was made available on Sandberg’s main website (konjak.org) for free, the first wasn’t. And frankly, it’s because it’s not terribly good.

Really, the album does show many of the marks of a new, fledgling composer. The synths don’t sound great (very tinny and hollow), and there’s not much to say for the melodies here. However, Sandberg did achieve a glimpse of musical greatness here that he has since gone on to build upon in later work. I am talking about his ability to make great fast-paced, rhythmically complex tracks. On the first Noitu Love, track 7 “Flying Start” and track 15 “Endless Battle” best demonstrate Sandberg’s propensity for great rhythm.

Next up is the main event in Mubla Evol Ution, the soundtrack for Noitu Love 2. The aforementioned free separate soundtrack release used to be encoded at a mere 128kbps, but here on the GMB3 release, they’ve been sufficiently increased to 320k (and of course, a .flac lossless version is also available via the bundle). the album opens with a reworked version of the first game’s introduction. The first thing my ears catch are the significantly improved synths, but I’m still turned off by the inferior quality of the composition. It’s just this pattern of drones that don’t really go anywhere or evoke any emotion.

Then! Track 2, simply entitled “Theme,” hits like a ton of bricks. This is a super-bouncy 16th-note-staccato-patterned party of a track, based in a minor key. The melody is still wandering, lacking much of any focus or elegance, but everything else about the track is straight up awesome.

And wouldn’t you know it? The driving rhythms and frantic tonal patterns continue track after track straight through to track 21, the End Credits track. I’m not kidding. I studied them to make sure. Sandberg has a tried-and-true style worked out for Noitu Love 2. I remember it from when I first played the game (which, for the record, is quite excellent!). Some tracks are more impressive in scope (and melody) than others, but most of them show significant improvement on Sandberg’s part. Heck, even the end credits track, which has a relatively slow tempo, continues to play the “let’s fill in every beat, no rests for us!” game. It sounds great.

There are a few tracks after the end credits, and among them, we find my favorite track in all of Mubla Evol Ution. “Rilo’s End [Unused]” has a Mega Man-esque square wave / chip lead and the iconic syncopation and background-instrumental-bounce patterns I’ve already talked about. The chippy melody really sells it. It’s also a really good melody, which helps matters a great deal!

Finally, the fifth folder in Mubla Evol Ution, is a “preview” soundtrack for The Iconoclasts, a game that is still in development. The 10 tracks in this folder, in my opinion, are as unfinished as the game. They show promise, and again, they show the maturity of Joakim Sandberg as composer, but there’s more work to be done. I am digging a couple tracks here, though, especially track 7 “Ocean Ripples.”

I can say as a matter of resolute opinion that Mubla Evol Ution is, despite the excessive quantity of music, the weakest selection for GMB3. Does this mean the album is terrible? No, on the contrary, it means the vast majority of albums on the bundle are of such a superior quality that it makes it hard for all-in-one developer Joakim Sandberg to shine against these other great musicians. If Sandberg wishes to remain a one-man studio powerhouse, I wish him strength and happiness as he continues! His games are super-duper fun to play, so maybe he needs to spend a little more time focusing on how to produce the absolute best music he can tease out of his brain (and/or computer). It’s not easy; as a once-aspiring-but-quickly-resigned composer, I know how hard it can be to make music that really stands out and “works” for the listener in or out of context.

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