Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo -Bra★Bra-
Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo -Bra★Bra-
March 4, 2015
Buy at CDJapan
BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO is an official concert band arrangement album of Nobuo Uematsu’s music from various Final Fantasy entries. The album comes alongside a national tour in Japan with the Siena Wind Orchestra, who also performs for the album. The track list features a number of medleys and some key themes from the series, with a good range of styles of tracks. For the most part, the concert band style gives a nice unifying sound to the arrangements, and while some of them aren’t particularly innovative or new, the entire album has enjoyable renditions of Uematsu’s music, with some gems among the new arrangements.
The album begins with the first of two battle medleys. “FF Battle 2 Medley” is a collection of “Battle 2” themes from Final Fantasy IV, V, and IX, also including “The Fierce Battle” from VI. It’s a lengthy medley, giving each track full time in the spotlight while also choosing to keep each fairly separate. The transition between each track is mostly just a slowing down of the current theme and the loud entry of the next. They’re not particularly imaginative transitions or surprising arrangements, but they’re faithful and do their job in the overall adequate medley. A simple bit of “Victory Theme” caps off the track. A bit more interesting is the much shorter “FFVII Battle Medley”. Although these tracks have found plenty of arrangements elsewhere already, it’s interesting to hear that it does sound a bit different from its full orchestra counterparts. Most of the tracks, and in particular “J-E-N-O-V-A” have a fairly light sound, rather than being oppressive and overbearing. It means the track doesn’t have as much punch as other iterations, but it does fit a bit better on the album.
Three other medleys are also present on the album. The “Airship Medley” is easily one of the better tracks on the album, fully embracing the brass and jazz in a fun arrangement that is quite pleasing and varied throughout. The tracks feel fresh in this brighter interpretation, helped by the fact that most of these tracks haven’t been arranged before. Even though the original compositions weren’t too memorable, they’re more compelling here thanks to how plain fun the medley is. The “Dungeon Medley” is a longer medley nearing 10-minutes, but it does little more than present its four themes on after another with no intriguing transitions. The arrangements are typical, though “Phantom Forest” does sound quite good here with a notable swell. On the other hand, “Find Your Way” just doesn’t feel right without its cascades. The closing track of the album is simply titled “FF Medley”, a strange name since it only features two tracks each from Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III. Thankfully, they are arrangements of tracks that aren’t often given attention, and ”Sailing Ship” is a particularly nice addition. It’s great to see these tracks get the final say on the album, and overall it’s a pleasant and satisfying closer.
Aside from these medleys, there are tracks arranged on their own. “FF Moogles’ Theme” and “FF Main Theme” are a bit disappointing, bringing nothing new to their arrangements. “The Red Wings ~ Kingdom of Baron” is better, sounding much more at home in the concert band setting than its A New World chamber orchestra counterpart. “The Red Wings” gets some new dramatic push in its later half, and “Kingdom of Baron” gets a bit of elaboration as well. Final Fantasy VIII‘s “Never Look Back ~ Dead End” (from the chase of the spider-mech X-ATM092) is a great improvement over the originals, easily transferring over the underlying synth line to the brass while increasing the weight of the percussion and the brass for a more grand, cinematic feel. It’s one of the few tracks on the album that really goes for an epic sound, rather than the generally lighter approach on the album. The capping off with “Dead End” allows to the piece have more momentum and dynamic as it works toward that climax.
The most notable of the arrangements on the album are that of “Zanarkand” and “Aria”. A reduced ensemble seems an odd choice for “Zanarkand”, much less one that does not feature a piano. But the arrangement works quite well, retaining a sombre atmosphere though not one that is quite as depressing as the original. The first half of the track is somewhat straightforward, but then the second half launches into a quicker jazz rendition. It’s a risky choice that deviates a lot from the original, but that is precisely what makes this arrangement work. Even with the change in pace, there’s plenty of soul in the playing that keeps it tied to that original feel. Likewise, “Aria” also starts with a smaller ensemble, straightforward arrangement, but then in its second half opens up in a more upbeat arrangement reminiscent of field themes from the series. The theme becomes one with a hopeful outward look, and caries the exciting feelings of beginning a journey. In these tracks the album really shines and justifies the concept, though it’s a bit of a shame that there are so few of them.
BRA★BRA FINAL FANTASY BRASS de BRAVO is a decent arrangement album of Uematsu’s Final Fantasy work, fleshing out the concert band sound in arrangements that range from satisfactory to very good. The lesser arrangements include the ones that are very straightforward and too similar to their original or orchestral counterparts. Still, it’s nice to see some lesser tracks get representation here, and the more ambitious interpretative arrangements for “Zanarkand” and the “Aria” should definitely be checked out. Some tracks really find their home in the concert band sound over the orchestral sound, and it shows in fun tracks like “Airship Medley” and “Never Look Back ~ Dead End”. This album is a good start, and now that many of the more typical pieces are out of the way, perhaps the team will return for another round with more attention to lesser themes and interpretative arrangements.
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Posted on April 11, 2015 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on April 11, 2015.