Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ryu ga Gotoku: Kenzan OST

Being picky can be dangerous for oneself.  When I like something, I tend to block out its anything similar.  That thinking is wrong.  Since I am attached to a particular thing, eventually and naturally, I'm going to get bored of it.  I have made a home for something, but there is a need to go out and experience something new.  

The reason for my monologue should be found relative in this paragraph.  Now, having played Sega/Nintendo's F-Zero GX and being exposed to its exhilarating soundtrack, I was glad to be introduced to a new musician.  Even though just about every track can be set on replay, it was time to explore something new.  Like what I had done with Soul Calibur's main composer, Nakatsuru, I will do the same here.  

Hidenori Shoji is the reason for my purchase here.  Only listening to his racing themes, did not prepare me for what was available here.  It was hard for me to skim through.  I was about put this up for sale, but I'm glad to stick it out.  Meanwhile, the supporting composers are Hiroyoshi Kato, Hideki Sakamoto, Keisuke Ito, and Yuri Fukuda.  

Ryua Ga Gotoku: Kenzan 
Released: March 5, 2008
Published by: Wave MasterCatalog: HCV-0381
CD Tracks
01 Roar of Ryu the Elder
02 Mourning
03 Shame
04 Danger
05 Mirroring Oneself
06 Mark That Drifts
07 Water & Melon
08 Non Blade Sword
10 Blood Maker
11 The Leading Role
12 Brand-new Japanesque
13 dive to the mess
14 Dance Music from Ancient Japan
15 100 Execution
16 Immorality
17 Dull Color Fangs
18 For Will
19 Sneakin' Drive
20 baile con la mariposa
21 Swordplay
22 The Melody Played by a Patriot
23 Gion's Bowling
24 Playing in the Tatami Room
25 Thistle Shop
26 Dreaming Shop
27 Masochism
28 TSU-N-DE-Receive You
29 Platonic Love?
30 Demand The M-Shape
31 Ultimate Worldly Desires-feat.Tears Of Father- 

I'll start with the opening track and the smallest contributors.  Shoji's opener is very atmospheric.  Similar to his menu themes for GX.  It is chilling entry,  that soon sets on fire with the following tracks.  Jumping to the last track, composed by Yuri Fukuda and arranged by Hiroyoshi Kato.  Not what I would expect coming from a game set in feudal Japan.  It's a very upbeat, funky, dance, trance, techno,  Kidz Bop kind of tune.  I'm liking just by listening to it for this review.  However, it is more appropriate for a dance competition.  

Tracks 27-31, by Kato-san, are basically similar to each other.   Masochism, though same music as Tears of Father, is infused with the ambience of Shoji's opener.   The last tracks don't stray to from typical club music.   I don't find them particularly important, or belonging.  

Keisuke Ito does well in taking us back in time with ethnic Asian string arrangement in Thistle Shop.  Very laid back and soothing for the first minute, though he falters a little bit after.  Kato also plays with the fiddle in track 24, but Keisuke had more flavor.  Instead of striking the strings, Ito sweeps in with violins in Dreaming Shop.  The titles alone help make it easy to take in the music.  This track does not connect so much, and barely gets the feeling of dreaming across.  Maybe its for the best that he did not get any more tracks in.  

The real and best music lies within the rest of the tracks.  Mourning and Shame are handled by both Sakamoto and Kato.  The sound affects in Mourning can be creepy, and some ethnic sounds thrown in there.  Enough to twist reality, as if watching Serial Experiment Lain.  A minute into the piece is accompanied by a taunting beat and thicker bass.  Shame uses the previous creepy sounds, only with percussion, and the percussion can be frightening as well.  

Hideki Sakamoto goes alone in Danger.  This piece starts with shocking and electrifying percussion, alongside tense strings.  The strike of the thunderous gong and drums is what really attracts me.  Sakamoto's best, I must say.  In the Leading Role, we get some tribal beat and vocals.  Reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot themes.  The flute and woodwork are played out nicely with the tribal chants.  Water & Melon begins with unique funky guitar and gets some acceptable arrangements with electronic guitar.  Just about a minute in, Sakamoto starts rocking out the piece good.  For what little he has offered, he's doing as good as Shoji.

Kato gets solo and serious in Swordplay.  Like Sakamoto's Leading role, but without the tribal chants.  The beat is heavy with the drums, but then stops at about a minute for the emotional side.  For about 20 seconds, it feels like being in a war film,  and soon the percussion picks back up, keeping the melancholic melody.   Marking the Drifts is similar, but only consists of percussion and flute.  I guess I have my blogging efforts to thank for the chance to listen to others voices.
Above is a link to an interview with all the composers involved on this soundtrack compilation.  How they decided not to have the sound restrained to the games setting.  Personally, I would have liked Shoji to have challenged himself and the sound team to be restricted.  Even so, it is good to read while listening to the soundtrack.  

Mirroring Oneself sets itself well in the time era of the game.  Ethnic Japanese strings, flute and drums slowly calm the mind, for what is about to come from Shoji.  He starts building slow with Non Blade Sword.  Moving rhythm and beat, with a touch of jingle bells.  Takumi picks up further, with the heavier percussion of the previous and haunting keys, synthesized sound.  Hints of the tribal Indian chants occur, adding the overall atmosphere of this collection of music.  

Then the majority of Shoji's work consists of pump and drive metal.  Brand-new Japanesque is a funky jazz version of Blood maker, filled with spanish flare and guitar rhythm.  Dull Colored Fang follows in the shame fashion as the previously mentioned.  Electronic bleeps and bloops are just the rage in these tracks.  Baile con la Mariiposa differentiates by use of spanish guitar.  Flamenco is influenced well in this track.   Dance Music from Ancient Japan takes from Hiroyoshi's dance mania tracks, but stays true to the games theme with tribal chants and a more appropriate beat.  With all of the above mentioned, it does not stray to far from the racing genre.  

Diving further into Hidenori's electronic heavy music, we get 100 Execution, a gritty piece that does well for a couple listens.  Immortality has a very interesting beat, opening up with some hindu chants and soon paired with electronic vocals throughout the track.  Freakishly opening with odd guitars fading in, dive to the mess offers some more dark and fast paced music.  Sneakin drive opens with the fiddle, but soon is overloaded with ripping guitars and bass.  Even with guitars, this piece's overall decibels are among the lowest on the cd.  That is not a bad thing at all, as it gives room for the brain to breath.  For the last thirty seconds, the track slows down considerably.  Gion's bowling, is a rather simple track, giving the player the ability to focus on the game at hand.  Not worth getting attached to though.

For Will and the Melody Played by a Patriot are among Hidenori Shoji's best.  His emotions come out high and are well spoken in these two pieces.  The drums work alongside well with the brass and violins, in For Will.  Patriot, however, is the real gem, as percussion rolls in heavily, followed by sweeping strings, and fade in loud brass.  Then back to a solo percussion, followed by more powerful arrangement of the strings and brass.  It is evenly balanced with a beat and a melody.  

This album's presentation is weak.  Cover is accurately designed, but it is very basic.  Does not scream, "Come and listen to me!!!"  The insert is only a pamphlet, as it consists just track names and the front/back covers.  Though the back(scanned below) is very attractive, and who can resist anything dragon related.  No interviews, commentary, staff input, etc to read off of.  It's just strictly music.  If I played the game, maybe that wouldn't matter to me.  

Thankfully, my purchase didn't turn out to be a waste at all.  Only a couple of tracks are not memorable, and at most, a third of the collection is passable for the ears.  Strong and enjoyable efforts from the supporting musicians, that I look forward opening my ears to again.  Sakamoto and Kato's style's helped make me appreciate Shoji's even more.  The entire sound team had created a CD filled with hip moving rhythm.  Sakamoto's classical style was most fitting for the games setting, unlike Kato's trance beats.  They did a nice job together, but it was Shoji's tracks alone that had the most juice.  He had everything the other composers had, but with a soul.  

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