Catherine Sound Disc
Catherine Sound Disc
February 17, 2011
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Japanese customers that pre-ordered the surprisingly successful title Catherine received a bonus artbook and soundtrack courtesy of Atlus. The soundtrack features Shoji Meguro’s adaptations of favourites by classical greats such as Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin in a range of contemporary styles. Unfortunately, they are mostly degradations of the original with superficial arrangements and poor synthesis.
Shoji Meguro’s adaptations of Holst’s The Planets opens the soundtrack. Opening with the apocalyptic motif of Mars, the Bringer of War, the track soon transitions into a rendition of the bright melodies of Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. Both renditions adhere quite closely to the original, but lose two crucial features: the extensive multifaceted development and the momentous symphonic performance. The low-end synth here is particularly degrading and it is clear that Meguro hasn’t updated his sample libraries in recent years. Even this aside, the arrangement is a brief and shallow reduction of the original masterpieces.
Meguro takes more liberties with most other classics featured on the album. In a dubious homage to Chopin, the artist injects techno beats into the “Revolutionary Etude” and treats the “Funeral March” as a lounge jazz improvisation; neither approach seems to fit the melodies and the stylings are frighteningly stereotypical too. Even more awkward is Bizet’s “Farandole”, which juxtaposes the original folk melodies with cheesy rock riffs, or Mussorgsky’s “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” with its contrived contrasts and heavy-handed orchestration. Handel’s “Hallejujah Chorus” is further butchered by the jarring mixing of the artificial strings and choral samples.
That said, not all the renditions on the album are hideous. The lyrical melodies of Dvorak’s From the New World transfer quite well to Meguro’s techno-classical fusion, while the piano interlude is quite touching in places. In addition, Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances” benefits from a substantial , presenting the original’s slavonic melodies in both intimate chamber passages and momentous orchestral tutti. Yet even within game music, these tracks have received better renditions on soundtracks such as Ninety-Nine Nights and OZ. And, of course, the tracks are much more rich and emotional in their still highly accessible original renditions.
As something of a purist, most contemporary renditions of classical greats generally displease me. There are a few exceptions, such as Jacques Loussier’s jazz performances or Vanessa Mae’s techno fusions, that appeal to me for their rich performances and creative musicality. Among the rest, the renditions of Catherine stand out as particularly bad, due to the combination of trashy arrangements and cheap synthesis. These arrangements water-down already accessible tracks to the point that they lose their original depth and majesty. While a bonus is better than nothing, it’s better to stick to the game’s original music.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.