Game Music, Reviews

DJMAX TECHNIKA Exclusive Collection: A Generous Serving of Korea With A Dash of Japan (Review)

January 16, 2009 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook DJMAX TECHNIKA Exclusive Collection: A Generous Serving of Korea With A Dash of Japan (Review)on Twitter

Here we are with another opportunity for me to share my love for composers from Korea. Just a couple months ago we reviewed the free La Tale Original Soundtrack, and if you were a fan of that release, you’ll be happy to know that most of the composers who worked on that game are featured on the DJMAX TECHNIKA Original Soundtrack. But that’s not all you’ll find here, as the soundtrack to this arcade rhythm game is just as diverse as any DDR release we’ve seen in the past.

So what is the DJMAX TECHNIKA Exclusive Collection? It’s actually a box set that can be purchased in Korea as a sort of accompaniment to the arcade game. Included are a Platinum Crew Membership, sticker sheets, a screen cleaner, a thorough booklet with lyrics, staff and composer biographies (in Korean), and of course, a two disc soundtrack.  The first disc features the shorter in-game versions, while the second disc, titled “Platinum Mixing,” hosts extended and alternate versions of some of the tracks.  This is truly an amazing collection.

Read our review after the jump.

Just like you’d expect from a rhythm game, there’s a healthy blend of pop and electronic music, with a couple other styles thrown in. I personally dig the Korean pop stuff ala La Tale and Ragnarok Online, although the more traditional commercial pop that is featured here does the trick as well.

BJJ starts us off with “First Kiss,” a traditional K-pop tune with an insanely catchy melody. The grooving bassline, string stabs, and clean vocals and piano melodies are simply beautiful, and make for a great start to a great soundtrack. Rex is next with “고백, 꽃, 늑대,” which opens as a piano and guitar ballad. The track takes on a Celtic sound reminiscent of Yasunori Mitsuda with violins and woodwinds, which was definitely an unexpected surprise.

Remember when I mentioned the La Tale composers? Makou enters the stage with “Voyage,” a jazzy track with some amazing harmonies and progressions. The chorus section and following woodwind solo are the highlight. “Remember” by Lin-G is a deep, groovin’ jazz fusion track with spacey synths, electric guitars, airy vocals and a powerful chorus section with a trance-meets-Gradius edge. It ends with wailing electric guitars for you rockers out there.

Next up is another La Tale artist, Electronic Boutique, with “Divine Service,” which is awesome. It sports a clean piano and guitar progression with steady percussion. It sounds like a sleek R&B loop with Asian melodies. It moves into a trance segment with some crazy piano work, all of which is great. “Melody” by bermei.inazawa is crazy happy with ascending chords and a playful voice that makes this track sound like an anime theme song. Fast-paced percussion and the use of brass make the piece upbeat and uplifting.

How about some Sonic the Hedgehog? “Dear My Lady” by Oriental ST8 sounds like a track out of Sonic with its 80s synth pop approach and funky bass. It transforms into a techno melody that sounds strangely similar to a recent Red Hot Chili Peppers song that I can’t remember the name of. “Coastal Tempo” by 3rd Coast is a rarity in that it’s sung in English, starting with a male rapper and scratching. The seductive female voice that follows is very effective, saying “Let no one keep you down, baby stand up.” Inspirational!  Next, soundTeMP member ESTi tears it up with “Oblivion” (which has actually been streamable on his homepage for quite some time), featuring a moving string melody before trance elements are added to the mix. It’s more reminiscent of his work electronic work on Granado Espada.  The strings come back in towards the end, creating a powerful end to the piece.

A long stream of traditional electronic tracks come next. They all sound great, but I don’t know if any of them really stand out. SPHAZER’s “Area 7” is cool with its heavy percussion and distorted synthesizers and tweaked filtered electronic sounds. The fat bassline and heavy reverb make for a foreboding electronic experience. “Whiteblue” by ZTS is an upbeat trance track that borders on happy hardcore without being lame (sorry to those of you who enjoy happy hardcore music).  The progression that comes in towards the end is sticky sweet, but as the percussion and synthesized elements build up around it, it becomes a powerful and moving force that leaves you with a warm feeling inside.

So, that dash of Japan. Yeah, it’s Shinji Hosoe! He’s everywhere these days, and yes, he’s featured on the DJMAX TECHNIKA soundtrack as well. His offering, “SON OF SUN” is a fast-paced bombardment of galloping percussion, interesting ethnic vocals and instruments (from India?) and this awesome section where this metallic percussive instrument is paired to each syllable of a chopped up vocal section that creates a really cool effect. I’m impressed with this effort from Hosoe, and it’s awesome that he was on board for this Korean release.

Alright, with 36 songs, they can’t all be great. Tsukasa’s “In My Heart” offers some great music, but the vocals, sung with an intentional lisp, just sound awful. And annoying. “Fury” by Sugardonut is a screamy emo rock track that I found to be pretty generic and uninspired, and “Supersonic” by Planetboom’s cheesy English vocal stylings were a huge turn off. But really, they’re easy enough to skip among the huge pile of great music here.

Remember the “Platinum Mixing” disc I mentioned before the jump? I’ll admit that I can’t even tell the difference between the 1:30 and 3:00+ versions of some of these songs, as the in-game music features almost perfect distillations of the high points of each track. However, it is great to have a longer loop of each song instead of repeating your favorite 1:30 song over and over again. The track selection is good, featuring 17 songs of the 36, including personal favorites like “First Kiss,” “SON OF SUN,” and two versions of “Melody,” while avoiding the annoying tracks for the most part. Interestingly, Makou’s “Voyage” is included, but it’s an instrumental version that is actually worse than the original! Similarly, “Coastal Tempo” is strangely without some of its most powerful moments in this full version. It’s still a nice bonus, and speaking of bonuses, there’s a hidden track at the end of the disc featuring a deep trance sound with a thick bassine that reminds me of “Dangerous” by Busta Rhymes.

Alright, I’m sorry I’ve gone on so long about this one. There’s really a lot of material here, and for the most part, it’s excellent. The packaging is also top-notch, with the entire collection coming housed in a sleek cardboard casing with a silver cardboard case that is roughly the size of two DVD cases stacked on top of each other. Great quality stuff. If you can import this one, I highly recommend it, although the price tag will likely be pretty hefty.

Are there any Korean artists that you’re particularly fond of that we haven’t talked about on OSV? Do you think releasing a soundtrack for an arcade game is a good idea?

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