August 12, 2011
Buy at Official Site
Blue Orb is the second solo album by onoken, best known for his work on I/O. Blue Orb features a variety of vocalists, including Emi Evans, and a plethora of styles. How does the overall product turn out?
The album opens with two songs sung by Emi Evans. The first, the title theme, “Blue Orb,” is very reminiscent of her work with her trip-hop duo, freesscape. It’s a very ethereal, atmospheric track, especially in the beginning, where it focuses on drawing the listener in with its various electronic soundscapes. Eventually, beautiful acoustic guitar is thrown into the mix, giving a bit of a rustic tone to the overall piece that compliments the deep, thoughtful electronic beats also incorporated during this time. As for the vocal work, fans of Emi Evans will be pleased once more to hear her voice grace an album, as her voice adds a seductiveness to the soothing piano that compliments the electronic piece quite wonderfully. Seemingly simple, yet emotionally deep, this theme manages to stand out among all the pieces on the album and is definitely my favorite.
The second theme, “Am I,” opens up with a bit of acoustic guitar and some ethereal electronic work before moving into a fast paced trance theme. I really think that Emi Evans’ vocal work really compliments this style of music. It manages to pierce through the music quite nicely, even during the times when the intensity of the music is greater. When it comes to the music, I really like what onoken does with this theme as well, as he manages to add some subtle orchestral elements into the mix, some beautiful piano work, and a variety of various electronic textures that really keep the theme sounding fresh throughout its duration.
“Strychnine,” a theme sung by b, is definitely another energetic theme. Opening up with some soft electronica, as the theme progresses, it gets a bit more intense. The combination of piano, ethereal synthesizer harmonies, and rhythmic electronic beats is a wonderful combination and works quite well in captivating the listener; however, the track takes an unexpected turn into rock territory and it’s during this time, where the track truly shines. B’s voice is extremely fitting for this style, more so than during the electronic styles and the edgy rock riffs combine fantastically with the electronic tones established earlier in the piece.
Saira is the next vocalist on the list and her tracks are some of my favorites. “Coquine” is just the epitome of sexiness on the album. I really love the sultry vocals and how they combine with the extremely experimental, slightly jazzy influenced, industrial electronic soundscape. There is so much going on in the actual music, that at first listen, it may seem muddled, but everything ends up being quite balanced in the end. Between the upbeat, softer electronic tones, to the supporting vocals, offering a bit of cutesy sound, to the distorted synthesizer, there’s a lot to take in, but in the end, it manages to impress on many levels, both texturally and musically.
Saira’s second theme, “Albaforia,” in contrast, is a polar opposite in terms of soundscape. Once again, Saira’s vocals have a very seductive, sultry aspect to them, and it really works with the ballad approach that onoken decides to take with this theme. There is stunning strings work in the harmony that adds a beautiful delicateness to the piece and really accentuates the power of Saira’s vocals. As the theme progresses, there is some industrial electronic accompaniment that is worked into the mix, providing a bit more textural contrast, and as with some of the other themes, during this climax, everything comes together to serve you that perfect musical morsel. From start to finish, “Albaforia” is just intoxicating.
The last vocal theme on the album features Aki Misawa. Titled “Fragment Acoustic,” it is an acoustic arrangement of “fragment,” a theme featured on the I/O Original Soundtrack, a game for which onoken composed. The theme is a beautiful acoustic guitar, piano, and strings piece that manages to give off a solemn, poignant atmosphere. I think the vocal work compliments the instrumentation quite nicely and has a nice range. It’s a fantastic interpretation of the original.
In addition to the vocal themes, there are also three instrumental originals (not to mention the instrumental versions of all the vocals) featured on the album. The first, “Phantom Scope,” is probably my favorite. It has a very hypnotizing soundscape and is a beautiful blend of electronic and acoustic components. The acoustic guitar and piano work wonderfully with the heavy electronic beats and the various manipulated industrial synthesizer additions. The melody is also quite exhilarating and I love how the intensity builds as the theme progresses. “Mr. Night” is a soft electronica piece that has a bit of an industrial influence. I really like the subtle nuances in the piece and the overall cozy atmosphere, despite the completely inorganic approach to the piece. It’s quite an enjoyable piece, but probably the weakest theme on the album.
The album’s final piece, before moving onto instrumental versions of the vocal themes, is “Once in a Blue Moon.” This piano piece is an extremely romantic piece and offers a take on the “Blue Orb” theme that opens up the album. It’s extremely heartfelt and touching and really manages to close the album quite wonderfully.
To be honest, before this work, I wasn’t too familiar with onoken. After hearing this, however, I would love for onoken to have a prominent place in the future of video game music. He has the ability to do a range of styles, from romantic piano pieces to charged electronic pieces. His manipulation of various electronic elements to create atmosphere and texture is to be commended and his choice of vocalists is top-notch. Each vocalist fits the style she is singing quite well and definitely does not detract from the overall listening experience. If you have a chance to pick this up, it is well worth it.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 23, 2016.