The Bouncer Original Soundtrack (US Edition)
The Bouncer Original Soundtrack (US Edition)
March 26, 2001
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When most hear the names Takahito Eguchi and Noriko Matsueda, Final Fantasy X-2‘s soundtrack is usually what first enters their heads. Unfortunately, though, the Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack is undoubtedly the duo’s worst achievement, as it completely fails to show the composers’ strength at creating sophisticated jazz and electronic music. Quite simply, 90% of such tracks on the Final Fantasy X-2 soundtrack were either hideously annoying or grossly underdeveloped, making them accessible to very few. While the core of The Bouncer‘s soundtrack is based on such styles, the way these styles are dealt with makes them much more appreciable. These pieces have more hooks in them than a fishing rod factory, yet are also musically sound, being well-developed and multifaceted, successfully blending a variety of musical influences together. Further, nearly all such pieces use instruments in a unique way, not simply relying on overdriven guitar melodies or hyperactive drum beats like some of the more dubious electronica available does. Indeed, a fine feature of the soundtrack is the way superb synth combines with equally impressive samples from pre-recorded voices and instruments; this gives the soundtrack even more substance and realism, a feature such themes on the composers’ next soundtrack often lacked.
The soundtrack was intended for the American release of the game. Unfortunately, unlike the Parasite Eve II Original Soundtrack, Tokyopop’s release here doesn’t satisfy in comparison to the Japanese soundtrack. Much like their incomplete versions of the Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X, Tokyopop hardly released the complete effort, shaving ten of The Bouncer Original Soundtrack‘s tracks off the listings. This particular release also suffers from the fact that the electronically-oriented battle character themes, decisive battle themes, and villain themes provide a jarring contrast to the more symphonic emotive, atmospheric, and story themes. For those who are definitely interested in this particular release, read on — it is a cheaper release, after all — but it would be advisable to research The Bouncer Original Soundtrack first nonetheless, as it is a more wholesome and balanced effort.
The soundtrack opens with the erratic “Prelude ~The Bouncer~,” one of the few electronic tracks that fails to be accessible to most. It gives the album pace straight from its outset, but ultimately fails to establish much coherency in the thankfully brief 42 seconds it plays. Straight after, the battle character themes are sprung upon listeners. The first featured is “Sion Barzahd,” which develops effectively into an overdriven guitar-led piece, boasting an energetic and unforgettable main melody. It’s a perfect example of how such tracks are so much more multifaceted than those featured on Final Fantasy X-2, as a whole minute of the development section prior to the track’s loop is dedicated to a jazzy piano solo, which ensures the guitar lines don’t become too powerful. Another masterpiece that employs contrasts between electronic and acoustic instruments is “Volt Krueger”; the surprising appearance of some bagpipes creates an unforgettable contrast with the hardcore guitar riffs and flawlessly integrated synthesizer solos otherwise featured. “Koh Leifoh” is a little less accessible than most, but is a distinct grower and has plenty of interesting features, most notably its hip-hop-influenced voice samples, which fit in surprisingly well and help to make this theme much more distinct than generic electronica. Unfortunately, “Echidna” appears generic compared to the other themes and struggles to build up much pace, despite the composers’ best efforts, though “Mugestu” and “Kaldea Orchid” easily make up for this single failure; the former features some absolutely superb pseudo-improvisation from the tenor sax, while the delectable “Kaldea Orchid” combines industrial effects, jazzy piano lines, and all sorts of other fun features into one.
Tokyopop’s release of the soundtrack takes quite an inappropriate turn after the principle battle character themes and intensifies greatly before speedily moving on to the final boss themes. Though immensely catchy, “PD-4” is ultimately a dramatic track, featuring hard-edged chord progressions and aggressive synth samples. It’s one of the most well-rounded tracks on the disc, showing what Eguchi can create when he works on developing his pieces fully, and it certainly sets pulses racing. “Dominique Cross” follows very well, and, though it introduces itself with dissonant orchestral chords, it soon becomes a rampant electronica track that incredibly intensifies, particularly once vocals are added above the synth lines. “Nazuki: Destruction” also succeeds in being a positive addition, combining amusing samples of laughter with unforgettable synth melodies. It’s well-polished and also reflects synthesizer operator Hidenori Iwasaki’s talents well. Each of the three final boss themes contrast well with one another, adding more diversity to the album. “Dauragon C. Mikado” itself is the weakest of the three, since its bass riff becomes too repetitive and the guitar melodies themselves lack the punch of those from certain character themes. “Dauragon C. Mikado: Madness” is more appealing, relying on vocal chanting and plenty of solid guitar melodies to keep the frantic piece just about coherent. “Dauragon C. Mikado: Awakening” is definitely the best of the three, however, opening with a gorgeous piano and string introduction before seamlessly transitioning into an electronica-jazz fusion track that never quite loses its edge. Collectively, they’re a very satisfying addition, even if not as remarkable as most final battle themes created for other Square releases.
The rest of the soundtrack hosts quite a variety of different types of tracks. Oddly enough, the true introduction track, “Prologue,” features two thirds in to the soundtrack. It starts off as an eerie composition focusing on Mitsuda-esque vocal chants, but soon becomes a much more ambient track, which features a combination of sampled sound effects, electronic sounds, and piano decoration. The timbres throughout this section are very effective and it is enjoyable seeing the track gradually grow more melodic from here. After a dashing piano melody is featured, there is another orchestral buildup, which effectively ends one main section of the track. The last part of the track is piano-based once again, but is jazz-based and quaintly imitates a phonograph record with its lo-fi sound quality. Just as one feels ready to relax, however, the track suddenly erupts into fury in the last 10 seconds, resulting in a very shocking end. Other story themes soon follow, including the unpredictable “Disquietude,” one of several atmospheric tracks. The track is centred around an atonal piano line, which is made to sound deathly when eerie sound effects, haunting vocal chants, and sporadic orchestral crashes are all skilfully integrated around it. “The Escape” and “The Pursuit” are a little less impressive, as both focus on hackneyed crisis motifs and standard orchestral dissonance too much, though “The Pursuit” does feature a few exotic vocal chants here and there for interest’s sake. “LUKIS Covert Op.” is also added towards the end of the disc; it’s a decent sneaking theme, reminiscent of “Infiltration! LeBlanc’s Hideout” from Final Fantasy X-2, though it is too repetitive to do much good and hardly intensifies the soundtrack towards its conclusion.
There are only two emotive themes featured on the Original Video Game Soundtrack, which is quite a disappointment, despite their outstanding quality. “Distant Rain: The Cross Children,” The Bouncer‘s nearest counterpart to Final Fantasy X-2‘s “Yuna’s Ballad,” is one of the most emotive tracks, brewing with sadness due to its melancholic piano and string use. The love ballad “Forevermore” (aka “Owaranaimono ‘Forevermore: The Theme from ‘The Bouncer’ (Japanese Version)'”) is undoubtedly the soundtrack’s most loved work. The first two minutes are an orchestration of the “Distant Rain…” theme and the “Forevermore” melody. Eguchi’s flawless manipulation of the string ensemble and careful integration of some warm piano melodies makes this orchestration multifaceted and immensely enjoyable. The transition to the main theme itself, a little before the 2:00 mark, might well be considered brash by some, but it should become easy to relax and enjoy the music if one is prepared to appreciate a piece of J-Pop. Reiko Noda leads the theme well, singing with great sensitivity and subtlety, and the instrument use, though a little hackneyed, generally proves to be quite endearing as well. It intensifies well and is full of emotion, making it a pleasant experience for most and not too trite either. The big question, though: Why the heck was the Japanese version used when a superior English version was also released? Oddly enough, the soundtrack doesn’t quite end there, concluding with a remix of “Kou Leifoh.” Save for its introduction, very little separates it from the original, and, though a pleasant reprise of the original theme, it was an unnecessary addition that makes “Forevermore” seem anticlimactic.
While this album will surely satisfy open-minded individuals unfamiliar with The Bouncer or its Japanese Original Soundtrack, this doesn’t change the fact it’s an incomplete and rather shoddily handled version of the score. Unlike the Original Soundtrack, this one suffers due to the contrasts between the electronic and acoustic styles employed in the soundtrack. While the battle character themes are undoubtedly vigorous, the soundtrack quickly loses pace and everything following “Dauragon C. Mikado: Awakening,” save for “Forevermore” perhaps, sounds somehow misfitting. Placing a “Prologue” track towards the end of the disc was a ridiculous idea, even if the track itself is wonderful, and the subsequent tension-creating and emotive tracks create nowhere near the impact they did on Disc One of the Original Soundtrack. While the track selection was reasonable, the soundtrack feels hardly as diverse or refined as the Original Soundtrack, which had ten tracks extra, including gems like “Affection,” “Sneak,” “Mikado’s Plot,” and “Sion: Jet Black.” The reprise of “Kou Leifoh” is certainly nowhere near enough to make up for this unfortunate loss and it is certainly disappointing that Tokyopop decided to provide yet another second-class release. Overall, while a strong album in its own right, all those who are prepared to spend a little extra cash would be better off buying the Japanese release, as it is much more satisfying and well-balanced.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.