Final Fantasy VIII -Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec-
Final Fantasy VIII -Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec-
DigiCube (1st Edition); Square Enix (2nd Edition)
November 20, 1999; July 22, 2004
Buy at CDJapan
Shiro Hamaguchi’s first true orchestral album for the Final Fantasy series is the most dramatic and perhaps musically conservative of the series’ available arranged albums. It fleshes out the promise the three bonus orchestral tracks in the Final Fantasy VII Reunion Tracks offered, acknowledges the mistakes the experimental Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale made, and offers studio recording finesse and an alternative form of orchestration against Final Fantasy Symphonic Suite. It is, however, a relatively innocent production and, in many senses, the first and sadly only album of its kind, using some of Nobuo Uematsu’s best original material from Final Fantasy VIII in a range of ways to success and failure.
Hamaguchi is most successful when his principle motivations while arranging are the fans. Capable of reconciling the emotional and melodic needs of Final Fantasy music listeners with a high level of musicality, Hamaguchi principally adds drama and refinement to Uematsu’s original creations when arranging them for full orchestra. The first original arrangement on the album, “Blue Fields,” for example, was considered a major failure on the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack, but Hamaguchi is able to arrange into a stunningly beautiful piece by doing relatively little. By simply replacing the dodgy synth instrument that led the melody in the original with the luscious sounds of strings and oboes, the theme resonates with gorgeous timbres and begins to glide. Through less emphasis on the obnoxious basso ostinato that near-enough slaughtered the original theme, more musical balance is attained and room is also provided to deepen the theme through the introduction of a simple chromatic bass line synonymous with the “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec” theme. He saw the inspiration behind Uematsu’s composition and also the faults in its execution. His understanding of the relationship between Uematsu’s music and the fans is the key to his arrangement’s popularity and why this album succeeded where Grand Finale failed.
Emotion is at the heart of Hamaguchi’s most successful arrangements. His manipulation of timbre in “Fisherman’s Horizon” is especially beautiful. Treating the main melody with a variety of resonous forces, he progressively increases the richness of the timbre as the melody is passed through a flute, an oboe, a set of violins, a French horn, and, finally, some a capella vocals that also introduce the theme. He richly harmonises all but the final force densely and colourfully with a collection of typical orchestral instruments, a variety of percussion, and even an electric piano to reflect the technological component of FH. The result is a melodic and gorgeous arrangement with a fine dramatic arch that never sounds pretentious despite its exuberance. The refinement of “Balamb GARDEN ~ Ami” is also impressive. It is initially a serene rendition of “Balamb GARDEN” that sounds very close to the original yet with an increased amount of fluidity, but eventually undergoes a gorgeous buildup in the centre of the track that allows the first of two effortless transitions into the related “Ami” theme. Not all orchestrations are so noteworthy. “Dance with the Balamb-fish” is near-identical to the original, but made buoyant by some Straussian instrumentation use and a rousing coda. The conversion of “Fragments of Memories” into a string quartet is also worthy of note. While competent technically and sometimes featuring thick harmonisation, it never quite loses the innocent feeling that characterised the tuned percussion original. It’s a touching epilogue.
The album is cluttered with flaws of varying degrees of importance. One of the most obvious is Hamaguchi’s tendencies to be melodramatic. “The Oath,” especially, goes places where it probably doesn’t need to; the original’s simple but effective melody is overextended to 5:10 of beautiful cheese. The dramatic arch does feel convincing initially, but closer inspection reveals so many redundant features, unnecessary buildups, and hackneyed progressions, not to mention some really inappropriate percussion use. Fortunately, most don’t notice this… Also problematic are the battle theme arrangements, which seem somehow forced in orchestral form. “Don’t Be Afraid” is the worst culprit, failing to convincingly create the appropriate 5/4 rhythm without sounding musically unbalanced. “The Man With the Machine Gun” is better and has some especially strong sections, though suffers from incoherency due to the inclusion of a lot of messy and dissonant passages that simply contrast too much with the upbeat melodies. Hamaguchi generally does a good job of staying moderately faithful to Uematsu originals while expanding on them emotionally and musically; however, his attempts at experimentation and creating intense drama fail to some degree. Even the title piece, “Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec,” is ruined by the random appearance of a woman chanting at incredibly high volumes a load of nonsense in the most putrid of ways.
The biggest problem with the album is its emphasis upon “Eyes on Me,” which appears no less than three times in the second half of the soundtrack. Love or loathe the influential yet sappy original theme, three incarnations of it is just too much and especially painful for those that for the original melodic material was weak; it’s the original version that’s the biggest problem, as it ultimately pales to the orchestrated rendition, doesn’t fit in an orchestral album, and is a redundant addition given it’s already a prominent feature in the Original Soundtrack and has a single dedicated to it. It spoils the other two renditions, which are both of considerable worth. The instrumental, “Love Grows,” is arranged in a piano concertino style and the result is problematic yet admirable; while the piano lines lack in fluidity, cohesiveness, and much relation to the orchestra, the format itself is original and Hamaguchi’s dramatic arrangement adds at least emotional depth to perhaps shallow original material. The “Ending Theme,” just like the opener “Liberi Fatali,” is one of Shiro Hamaguchi’s orchestrations transferred straight from the Original Soundtrack, but this isn’t exactly problematic. Both are, almost without doubt, masterpieces and among the most multifaceted and dramatic pieces of Final Fantasy music written. They deserved a place in this album, though the original synthetic version of “Eyes on Me” didn’t. What I’d give to hear an arrangement of “Silence and Motion” in its place…
Final Fantasy VIII Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec was made for the fans and succeeds in most senses. All themes stay close to the originals while refining and expanding them, resulting in some very beautiful moments and several of the lesser-acclaimed additions to the Original Soundtrack being suitably refined. While “Eyes on Me” emphasis, incoherent battle themes, and melodrama are problematic features with familiarity, many fans won’t find these features too jarring at first, especially given all arrangements are enjoyable and inspired in some way. The ultimate choice of whether to buy the album should depend on whether you are happy with musically conservative arrangements; a creative and transformative experience ought not be anticipated, though most tracks pleasantly enhance the originals. It’s not the perfect album, but likely the most pleasing large ensemble Final Fantasy arranged album available for fans.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.