Exist Archive -The Other Side of the Sky- Original Soundtrack
Exist Archive -The Other Side of the Sky- Original Soundtrack
April 22, 2016
Buy at CDJapan
Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky is a new RPG developed by tri-Ace and published by Spike Chunsoft. Continuing his long-standing collaboration with tri-Ace following the Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile series, Motoi Sakuraba unsurprisingly scored the game. Following the release of a soundtrack sampler with the game, Spike-Chunsoft released a full two-disc soundtrack on April 22. As someone who normally sticks with the same franchises, how does Sakuraba deal with handling a new franchise? Is this something new from Sakuraba or yet another of his symphonic rock scores?
For Exist Archive, Sakuraba attempts to create a space opera sound using dramatic leitmotifs and striking timbres. This is particularly reflected in his main theme for Exist Archive. It’s a deceptively simple one that focuses on just three descending notes. However, due to both its inherent phrasing and its striking arrangements, it manages to both capture listeners’ attentions and create a fateful undertone throughout the soundtrack. While the theme receives multiple arrangements throughout the soundtrack, the standout is “Elysion”, a composition that somehow manages to be simultaneously be grandiose, intimate, yet ethereal. The small ensemble writing is beautiful here, with standout cello and piano parts, while the ambient and choral segments bring much depth to the composition as it journeys through its dramatic arch. For me at least, this is one of Sakuraba’s greatest compositions of recent years. The leitmotif is reprised extensively throughout the score to emotional effect, whether the ethereal sci-fi sounds of “Proto-Lexer” and “Time at the Base”, heartfelt piano murmurings of “friendship” and “separation”, or deep cello textures of “The Provisions of Death”.
Unfortunately, Sakuraba’s grand intentions are often let down by the last-gen production values of Exist Archive. Serving as the openers of each of the discs, “Digress of Destiny” and “Exist Archive” are reminiscent of Sakuraba’s approach on Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria with their blend of epic operatic parts and mystical ambient interludes. But their production values fail to match even those of a decade-old game, given Sakuraba wasn’t given the budget to record this piece with a chamber orchestra. While both compositions have their moments, the arrangements shift somewhat erratically between overly thin sections and those that are too heavy-handed, while the potentially beautiful choral parts of the latter don’t ever realise their full potential. “The Other Side of the Sky” also suffers from an unbalanced arrangement and unconvincing synthesis, meaning it doesn’t fully captivate listeners as it should have done, while “Invasion of the False God” is an example of Sakuraba at his most blaring.
Among the setting themes, “Central Tower”, “Floating Continent”, “Ancient Monument”, and “Last Tower” are reminiscent in approach to Sakuraba’s adventurous compositions on the PlayStation era… At five minutes a piece, these tracks are quite enjoyable with their great rhythmic drive, boundless melodies, and contemporary fusions, and “Central Tower” proves a particular standout. However, their implementation is as reminiscent of the PlayStation era as their stylings, with the sampling and mixing here light years away from even Star Ocean: Til the End of Time. “Ancient Monument” particularly sticks out for its atrocious mixing of electronic beats and exotic vocals grabbed straight from sampled libraries. Once again, these tracks come incredibly close to showcasing Sakuraba at his best but fall slightly short due to apparent budget or time.
The action themes on the soundtrack bring some substance to the experience and are less compromised by the production quality than most setting / event themes. These compositions tend to be typical of his other tri-Ace battle themes, whether “Fallen Angel” with its edgy bass elements, “Demon’s Greed” with its violin and band blends, or “XENO-Factor” with its motivating but jagged rhythms. They are nothing surprising from the composer, but still prove excellently composed and implemented tracks here, with each spanning some six minutes. More stylistically interesting are “Daybreakers Gospel” and “The Immortality of the Soul”. In these tracks, Sakuraba convincingly hybridises his prog rock sound with the darker operatic elements of the rest of the soundtrack. Both captivate on a stand-alone basis and are also likely to work spectacularly in the game. “Ruler of Valiant”, on the other hand, is an avant-garde piece blending jagged prog rock stylings with dissonant orchestration.
Rounding off the relatively short soundtrack are several other noteworthy compositions. “Star of Administrator” takes a more ethereal approach with choral and synth writing again reminiscent of Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. Thoughe a little underdeveloped, they prove quite striking nonetheless. “Anti Life Form” is a much darker track dominated by moody string lines. While its orchestration is again disappointingly linear, it will still draw in many listeners with its ever-shifting chord suspensions. Far less impressive are those tracks whether Sakuraba reverts to bombastic scoring approaches, whether the blaring brass of “Confrontations of the Force”, prepared piano of “Dark Side”, or the theme reprise “Invasion of the False God”. The soundtrack thankfully resolves on a mature note, with the orchestrated “In the Earth” resolving much of the drama in a gripping way, “In the Earth” soothes listeners with its piano melody, and “epilogue” gives one last taste of that boundless space adventure that nearly was.
Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky is an enjoyable but disappointing soundtrack. Stylistically, it is very interesting with its powerful leitmotifs, spacey orchestrations, and contemporary fusions. However, it’s let down because of most compositions being sloppily arranged and produced compared to Sakuraba’s usually cutting-edge tri-Ace sound. There are a few major highlights here such as “Elysion”, “In the Earth”, “Central Tower”, and “The Immortality of the Dawn” that prove fresh and exciting with their operatic sci-fi sound. However, they’re amidst plenty of compositions that have potential, but just aren’t polished enough.
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Posted on June 30, 2016 by Chris Greening. Last modified on July 2, 2016.