While Square Enix claims to have known they had a hit on their hands with the NieR soundtrack, I’m still skeptical (even we were surprised!), but I’m happy they’re finally releasing more music from the world of NieR. This album was announced earlier this year, much to the delight of fans, and there’s yet another NieR album in the works that hasn’t been announced yet.
While I joked about this album being a NieR SQ album of sorts, this may actually be an accurate description, although I think you’ll find that the content is much more focused. With twelve tracks featuring twelve different artists, do we actually get a fitting tribute to this amazing soundtrack with –echo-?
Find out in our review after the jump!
First off, I mentioned that the content here is more focused. Whereas the SQ series is rather eclectic in terms of genres and styles, the NieR Tribute Album –Echo- leans towards the electronic side of the equation with a few exceptions. Don’t take that to mean that you’ll be hearing boring remixes with added drum tracks though, this is pretty cutting edge stuff that I think fans will really appreciate it. It’s also important to note that despite there being twelve different artists featured, the album is pretty cohesive with its darker and more synthesized approach.
The album opens with the contemplative “Repose,” by Sexy-Synthesizer, working in 8-bit arpeggios and some rich electronic bass to provide a backing for Emi Evans’s choral singing. What’s most interesting here is that this was never a track I was drawn to on the original soundtrack, yet it sounds immediately familiar, coming as reflective and fresh, bringing you right back into the world of NieR.
Speaking of Evans, she’s rightfully given a lot of credit for the sound of NieR. What’s great with this album, however, is that it draws attention to aspects of her performances that were not as discernible on the original soundtrack, while other pieces stray away from her contributions entirely to highlight other vocal performances that you may not have noticed before. “The Incomplete Stone” is one such example, taking the bass-heavy male choir section and turning it into a catchy electro-pop tune complete with a pumping octave-jumping bass line and crazy robotized vocals, making it one of my favorite tracks on the album.
“Temple of Drifting Sands” by millstones really picks up with a kickin’ drum ‘n’ bass remix sporting some lightning-fast piano lines and a killer breakdown about midway through that really hits the spot. While Ametsub’s remix of “Emil / Sacrifice” takes its time getting started, it features a cool trip-hop sound, adding tons of reverb and synth accents in the background to lend the piece an otherworldly quality. Finally, Go-qualia’s “Suite of NieR” strings together several pieces from the score with the addition of glitchy percussion and lots of dissonant sounds that make previously beautiful pieces rather unsettling. It’s actually quite a trip!
We get a heavy dose of Emi Evans in “Song of the Ancients / Devola ~ Song of the Ancients / Popola” by sasakure.UK, which sports an energetic electronic backing instead of the originally instrumental and rather relaxing cornerstone of the soundtrack. It’s impressive just how much this one will have you tapping your foot and wanting to move with the music while you sing along with Evans’s alien lyrics. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “The Lost Forest” by NO‐NO₂ stands out for its lack of vocals, but it does feature some lovely woodwind work.
One of my most anticipated tracks, “Grandma” by Schroeder-Headz, opts out of the electronic stylings heard elsewhere on the album and instead utilizes multiple pianos to create a chaotic swirl of piano notes to back up Evans’s melancholy vocals. I can’t say it’s really in line with the rest of what’s here, and the fact that the original composition was rather piano-heavy, I can’t say it does much for me. This sentiment is repeated a few more times, including with the dreamy yet fairly straightforward take on “Kaine” by matryoshka and the super-slowed-down “The Wretched Automatons ~ Hills of Radiant Wind” by KanouKarou which don’t particularly stand out. Even more, the strange accordion-driven polka version of “Shadowlord” feels terribly out of place here.
The final track comes courtesy of world’s end girlfriend, clocking it at just over eight and a half minutes. It opens with a minimalistic arrangement of “Snow in Summer,” starting with whimsical harp segments and the memorable choral work before crunchy electronic percussion joins the mix and somehow manages to play nicely with the other more organic elements. The second half of the piece, “The Dark Colossus Destroys All” quickly turns into a nightmare as the entire arrangement speeds up, intense string stabs are added, and the piece deteriorates into distorted noises and what sounds to be horrible screaming. Yes, it’s weird, and yes, you’ll probably be skipping back to the first track on the album pretty quickly.
Overall, I’m impressed with this collection of music. Even the tracks I criticize here never had me skipping to the next track (with the exception of “Shadowlord”), but when dealing with source material that is so close to perfect, a few of the arrangements struggle to stand out and differentiate themselves. NieR is truly one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, and while I was a bit disappointed with the 15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks album, and this really makes things right for me. I love how the album takes a darker and more electronic approach, and draws attention to some lesser-known tracks and vocal performances.
In terms of packaging, it’s pretty standard with some artwork along with track credits. I think you’ll appreciate the cover a whole lot more when you see how it was made, however, on the album’s official website (layers of cut-outs were arranged in a 3D space). The face on the front cover is also printed in white on the jewel case itself, floating in front of the album cover, so be careful not to crack your jewel case with this one!
What do you think of the approach to this arrange album, and does it leave you wanting to hear more about this unannounced NieR album project that’s in the works?Tags: Arrangements, Emi Evans, MoNACA, NieR, NieR Tribute Album -echo-, Remixes, Reviews, Square Enix