Final Fantasy VII Remake Acoustic Arrangements
Final Fantasy VII Remake Acoustic Arrangements
Square Enix Music
November 25, 2020
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy VII Remake Acoustic Arrangements is an official arrangement album released by Square Enix Music, featuring performances of small ensembles and dedicated to the Final Fantasy VII Remake soundtrack, covering both original tracks by Nobuo Uematsu as well as a handful of new tracks composed for the remake by new composers. It is a follow-up to Square Enix Acoustic Arrangements, featuring much of the same team and styles of arrangements. This means that the album is full of interesting arrangements that expand much on the original material, coupled with high-level performances. Although there have been countless takes on the music of Final Fantasy VII over the years, the level of artistry on display here makes this album another worthwhile dive.
The album begins with Kevin Penkin’s arrangement of “Prelude Medley”, a nearly eight-minute showcase of where the album will go. The arrangement begins with solo piano and later a violin, at times hewing close enough to the original “Prelude” so that at others times the material can be developed more freely. The pair draw out a surprising amount of emotion from the familiar tune, adding rich new colours in the harmony and performing sensitively. More obviously than with the previous album, it feels like there is strong influence from 20th century chamber music in the sonorities and harmonies, particularly on the development segments, which carries through to much of the rest of the album. Soon other instruments jump in to support, and the track shifts to “Opening ~ Bombing Mission”, which is good but less interesting of an arrangement, as it sticks closer to the original tone and mood. The performances are what shine here, as the small ensemble means that the tension of the instruments, particularly the rawness of the strings, comes across much more clearly than it would in a large orchestra, and it is impressive that the small group is able to still match the bombastic energy of the original.
The album then moves on to the “Sector 7 Undercity Medley”, which includes tracks like “Tifa’s Theme” and “Final Fantasy VII Main Theme”, amongst others. Although described as a medley, there is a lot of interplay between the themes, with fragments of each scattered around, so that the otherwise familiar tracks are constantly surprising. The whole track is lovely and largely peaceful, this time a combination of guitar, flute, clarinet, and viola to differentiate it from the opening piece. Arranger Yuya Mori does a great job of making it sound like these themes originally all fit together, and it’s hard not to smile while listening. “Jessie’s Theme” arranged by Atsuki Yoshida is similarly beautiful. Composed by Masashi Hamauzu, this is one of the few new Remake tracks, but it is just as memorably lyrical as Uematsu’s original character themes. The performance is expressive, and Yoshida’s thick strings-heavy arrangement gives it a very different feel from the original guitar track, while also affording it a few moments of unease and tension to fill out Jesse’s character during the development sections. In a similar vein later is “Aerith’s Theme – Home Again” arranged by Kenta Higashiohji. It is a bit more straightforward than the others, but the theme remains as beautiful and moving as ever (if not more so here thanks to the performances and intimate sound).
On the more atmospheric side of things, we have tracks like “The Turks’ Theme” arranged by Ai Kuwabara, which mixes in some bits of other themes like “The Turks: Reno” from the Remake soundtrack. The arrangement is full of personality, going from playfully mysterious to impulsively chaotic to calm and controlled, capturing more sides of the characters than the originals did, while still keeping the grunginess of the originals through the roughness of the strings. Then there is the “Expressway Medley” arranged by Higashiohji which showcases the excellent tracks penned by Mitsuto Suzuki for the Remake. The medley begins with a tranquil rendition of “Midnight Rendezvous” that is straightforward but still beautiful. This leads into a fun arrangement of “Collapsed Expressway” with lots of playful staccato and instrumental parts darting around that again make use of 20th century idioms. It’s an imaginative interpretation of one of the standouts from the Remake soundtrack, and manages to be standout here too. Then there is Taro Makido’s piano trio arrangement of “Ghastly Medley”, bringing together Hamauzu’s “Haunted” with Yasunori Nishiki’s “Ghoul” from the Remake soundtrack. Makido uses a variety of rolling textures and brings out Hamauzu’s expanded chords more prominently in the “Haunted” portion, and then allows the trio to unleash for the “Ghoul” portion. I think the medley could have been shortened just a bit, but it’s still enjoyable and atmospheric.
The remaining tracks to be discussed are the traditional battle tracks. Nishiki provides the arrangement for “Let the Battles Begin – Fight On Medley”, an energetic rendition of both tracks with lots of interplay between the two themes to keep things interesting. There is a great balance here between agitation and also flashes of elegance, perhaps drawing inspiration from the excellent Piano Collections arrangement of “Let the Battles Begin”. Atsuki Yoshida later returns to arrange “J-E-N-O-V-A – Quickening”. Although it lacks the power and impact of the Remake soundtrack version, the 20th century chamber music stylings are are a great fit for the track, and the violin cadenza is wonderful. The final track is “One-Winged Angel – Rebirth” arranged by Mori. The team do what they can with additional harmonic colours and slowly bowed sections that are a good change of pace from the typical aggression of the track, but I was hoping for more of a transformation given how often this one has been arranged.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Acoustic Arrangements is an excellent development of the style established in Square Enix Acoustic Arrangements, and is also simply a wonderful arrangement for Final Fantasy VII in its own right. Although none of the tracks departs in a huge manner from the tone of the original, the musicianship on display in both the complexity of the arrangements and in the difficulty of the performances is more than enough to make these tracks feel fresh. The new arrangers on the team slot in nicely with the returning hands, and I appreciate the greater influence drawn from chamber music in the harmonic contours and contrapuntal motions at work. Hopefully the larger team means that we can soon see more albums in this series in the future.
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Posted on September 29, 2023 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on September 29, 2023.