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Music Monday: Hero of Time March 27, 2017

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hero-of-time-legend-of-zelda-ocarina-of-time-album-coverI am very excited this week to feature an album that just launched last night, Hero of Time, a The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time arrangement album produced by Materia Collective.

When I first discovered the Kickstarter for Hero of Time last fall, I was thrilled at the idea of a fan-produced arrangement album of Ocarina of Time performed by a full orchestra, not to mention arranged with the help of some VGM musicians I recognized and liked. I was then immediately saddened to find that with maybe five days left, they still needed to raise something like $30,000 to reach their goal. I contributed my share because I wanted to show my support, but I never expected it to actually succeed.

Lo and behold, in the last few hours of the campaign, they reached their goal and my excitement mounted again, and I spent the next six months watching the updates on its progress and eagerly awaiting its release. Now, here we are, and while I am still waiting for my download code, I have listened to the full album on Bandcamp.

(it’s also available on iTunes and Spotify)

Hero of Time tells the story of Ocarina of Time in epic orchestral form. There are some original sections added, mainly for transitions or track openings, but for the most part, the original tracks from the game are arranged fairly true to form, but generally on a much grander scale, with varying tempos and the addition or encouragement of sweeping strings, booming brass, and huge orchestral hits. The story was condensed for the sake of the album, and some notable tracks from the game are absent, such as Zora’s Domain and Death Mountain, and Kakariko Village appears only as a minor key cello adagio as part of the homage to the Shadow Temple (though the rendition is haunting and beautiful).

What remains, though, paints a beautiful picture of the game’s story, transforming it into a musical journey that seriously sounds like a modern movie score. The original soundtrack for the game was melodic, delightful, and memorable, but not necessarily very emotional. In this rendition, however, Materia Collective did an amazing job bringing the mood of the tracks to life, highlighting the grandeur of Hyrule field and castle, the awe of uncovering the Master Sword, the horror and failure as Ganondorf uses that opening to take over the kingdom and plunge it into darkness, the mystery of Sheik, and more. And in the end, it’s a near straight rendition of the ending credits as performed by a full orchestra, immensely satisfying to someone who has happily listened to the original track in its 20-year-old synthesized splendour over and over again.

I can’t say enough good about how this album came out. In one listen, it has immediately jumped to my top 5 VGM albums of all time. If you played Ocarina of Time and/or enjoyed the soundtrack at all, buy this album. You will not be disappointed.

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Music Monday: January indie releases February 6, 2017

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This January seemed to be a good month for indie VGM album releases, even with my limited exposure to news on that front. So for this week’s post, I thought I’d highlight a few of the new releases I came across.

Chaos Theatre by The Runaway Four

This Vancouver group touts itself as a medley band, which is more accurate than to say they’re arrangers. After the first track on this first studio recorded album of theirs, there isn’t a lot of original interpretation or expansion of the source tracks, and focuses on straight performances weaving together many songs into five mega-mixes. However, the combination of great instrumentation, solid performance, and smooth transitions between the source material makes for great, engrossing ear candy that both grabs and holds your attention and pays a very satisfying homage to the original tracks.

 

The Travelers (self-titled album)

When you have a collaboration of musicians from VGM cover bands such as Materia Collective, the Triforce Quartet, and Tetrimino, you can expect high quality results. The Travelers’ namesake album delivers on that promise with lush European folk arrangements of songs from various (mainly older) games, in many cases really showing the potential of these classic soundtracks. There are very occasional moments when songs become a little dull or repetitive, but overall, this album is very lovely. It’s also the only album in this list that isn’t free to download, but with professional-grade production quality and I don’t think a single synthesized instrument, the $7 price tag is a bargain.

 

Super Mario RPG: Window to the Stars

This latest album from VGM community and repository extraordinaire OverClocked ReMix will probably be a treat to fans of EDM and drum’n’bass (as well as Super Mario RPG), as those styles make up the bulk of the three-disc album. There’s a bit more distortion and chippy sounds, even from familiar names in the VGM community, than I tend to prefer, but some of it works for me, and there’s still a bit of variety. Joseph “XPRTNovice” Zieja, as always, does not fail to surprise with his contributions, including an arrangement that turns the bizarre, Quentin Tarantino-esque “And My Name’s Bukki (Booster)” into a haunting orchestral expansion worthy of any mindwarp movie trailer.

Music Monday: ‘Tis the season November 28, 2016

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Now that (American) Thanksgiving is done and gone, I thought I would share some holiday-themed music for this week’s post.

 

The OneUps – Super Mario’s Sleigh Ride

This song is a classic, and for years, it was pretty much the Christmas video game arrangement, at least in my collection. It’s a masterfully performed and seemingly effortlessly blended arrangement of songs from Super Mario World together with “Sleigh Ride”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and “Jingle Bells”. Sometimes the tunes trade off having the spotlight, sometimes the Mario music makes a pleasant backdrop to the classic carol, and sometimes both songs are played at the same time on different instruments. The effect is flawless and catchy and delightful.

ROCKtendo – Vanilla Lake

There were a number of great tracks on 2014’s Super VG Christmas Party, but this one was an absolute gem. The source material is from the original Super Mario Kart from 1992. The artist here took the original 30-second bossa nova tune and turned it into a fantastic 3:21 crooner ballad with lyrics about Mario Kart. And also Christmas.

I’ll be chasing that checkered flag
No more gifts to bag
For me
You can keep all your jingle bells
I’ll take turtle shells
Of red and green

Jay Epperhart – Carol of the Final Fantasy Belles

A lovely piano medley arrangement of several themes from various Final Fantasy games and Parasite Eve woven together with the classic “Carol of the Bells”.

Dale North – Christmas in the Village (Silver Bells)

Dale North, also of OneUps fame, has made a few Christmas-themed video game arrangements over the years, though I think this one, mixing a theme from Lufia II with “Silver Bells”, is my favourite.

Goomin Nam – Fisherman’s Horizon (Christmas ver.)

A lot of Christmas VGM is more like this – it doesn’t have any actual Christmas music and is just an arrangement of the original track from Final Fantasy VIII, but the instrumentation and tone have a Christmas-y feel to them, and it’s just a lovely song.

Happy holidays! I hope you enjoyed these songs. Do you know of any other holiday video game music/arrangements? Feel free to tell me in the comments, I always love discovering new music!