Chip Music, Game Music, Reviews

Meow Meow & Bow Wow (Review)

October 2, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Meow Meow & Bow Wow (Review)on Twitter

The Legend of Zelda series plays host to a lot of great game music. A number of different composers have contributed to the franchise including Koji Kondo, Akito Nakatsuka, and Toru Minegishi, just to name a few. The first handheld Zelda title Link’s Awakening featured a few themes from Kondo, but primarily had its music written by Minako Hamano and Kozue Ishikawa. The two composers wrote some fun and memorable tunes that have stuck with many Zelda fans, so it shouldn’t be surprising that their work has inspired a remix album of the Link’s Awakening soundtrack.

The Meow Meow & Bow Wow remix album is a collaboration between DJ Cutman and Spamtron. The album’s title comes from the two chain chomp characters in the Link’s Awakening game. These two artists have worked together before on albums like Bagu and The Riverman. They each have a style that complements the other and their efforts have led to some great remixes. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has some great material to be covered. How do these two remix artists approach this classic videogame soundtrack? Read on to find out.

The opening track, “Mabe Village,” demonstrates how close to the source material they’ve chosen to stay in this remix. If you haven’t heard the original sound version of the music in a while, you’d be forgiven for mistaking these remix tracks as samples of the original audio. These are however completely redone chiptune arrangements of the same tracks. “Mabe Village” keeps the same mellow and relaxed tone of the original piece. A handful of light rhythm elements are added in, but the calm pace of the original music stays largely intact.

“Sword Search,” the album’s second track, gets a bit more adventurous in its remix approach. There’s a continued use of steady percussive beats, but there’s a little more variation in these elements which adds more interest to the original source material. There’s also a fair amount of improvisation and variation on the music. For instance, at 0’36” a set of arpeggios interrupts the piece before returning to the main theme.

Of course you can’t have a Legend of Zelda remix album without the overworld theme and this album delivers. “Awakening (Overworld)” covers the main theme from the game. Much like the “Mabe Village” track, there aren’t too many liberties taken with the melodic material. Other than a few modulating audio effects and the upgraded chiptune sounds, this arrangement doesn’t stray far from the original piece. Sometimes you just don’t have to mess with what’s not broken. The added changes are small editions to an already great tune, but the effect is powerful, providing a great upbeat variation of the classic overworld theme.

Track 4, “The Woods,” takes probably one of the biggest detours from the source material. The remix proceeds much like the other tracks at first, laying catchy beats under the memorable tunes from the game. But at 1’48” a theme from one of the other Zelda games makes an entrance. This is the “Lost Woods” track from A Link to the Past. This theme is the music that plays in the light world when you enter the Lost Woods area. Another “Lost Woods” theme comes in around 2’54,” this time a remix of the “Lost Woods” theme from Ocarina of Time. Both are appropriate inclusions, considering the Link’s Awakening piece being covered is another mysterious forest. It’s a nice set of surprises, and a great little audio Easter egg for Zelda music fans, in an already good remix and brings some variety to the album.

Although track 5 is titled “Dungeons,” I was a little disappointed to find that only one of the game’s dungeon themes was covered. The remix is based on the “Level 1 – Tail Cave” dungeon music from the game. I was hoping to hear some sort of medley of the numerous dungeon themes, but we end up with a cover of only a single track from the original sound version. Despite this missed opportunity, the remix is still well done. The track has a good amount of reverb present in the mix, giving the music a cavernous dungeon audio aesthetic.

The following track,“Mountain Range (Tal Tal Heights),” is probably my favorite remix on this album. It takes off at an exhilarating pace and never loses its momentum. It’s also one of the longer remix tracks, clocking in at almost five minutes. The repetition of the material never gets stale, with new variations implemented on each pass through the tune. The melody is passed off to different chiptune instrument tones every time and the rhythmic accompaniment always shifts around to hold the listener’s attention. An upbeat and energetic track from beginning to end.

You of course couldn’t have a remix album of Link’s Awakening without covering “Ballad of the Wind Fish.” This final track of the album maintains a relatively calm mood, giving it some nice contrast to the previous track. The percussion stays fairly consistent so as not to distract the listener from the main theme. The original melody does undergo some slight ornamentation, but primarily stays true to its original incarnation. Overall, a great way to end this Link’s Awakening tribute album.

Meow Meow & Bow Wow is a wonderful remix album. By sticking with the chiptune style, the covers stay close to the sound of the Game Boy source material, while still leaving room for variation and reinterpretation. The small audio touches, including the meowing and barking noises of Meow Meow and Bow Wow, all help contribute to a great listening experience. The tracks covered are a good selection of highlights from the original soundtrack, and each piece is given the attention it deserves. While I may have liked to see more dungeon tunes included in the “Dungeons” track, what is present is all well executed. If you’re a fan of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and its soundtrack, this is an album that you need to check out. The Meow Meow & Bow Wow album can be purchased on Bandcamp, Sumthing, and iTunes.

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