Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo 2 -Bra★Bra-
Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo 2 -Bra★Bra-
Square Enix Music
March 23, 2016
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo 2 -Bra★Bra- is the second official concert band arrangement album of Nobuo Uematsu’s music from various Final Fantasy entries. The album is once again performed by the Siena Wind Orchestra, and also covers tracks from the first ten mainline Final Fantasy games. The album features fewer medleys than its predecessors, giving instead full attention to individual themes, though for the most part this still results in safe arrangements rather than particularly interpretative ones, and often there is a bit of unnecessary padding and repetition to fill out the time. Still, while it mostly feels very familiar, its a solid album with great tunes that we all know and love.
The album begins with an arrangement of “Battle at the Big Bridge”, one of four arranged battle tracks. It’s pretty interesting to hear the winds handle the quick arpeggios usually done by strings, but otherwise the arrangement really isn’t that different from the many other popular orchestral renditions of the track, which usually prominently feature brass and wind anyways. “Festival of the Hunt” is a more notable inclusion, since it is seldom arranged. It’s yet another very close arrangement to the original, and the original synth sounds translate just fine to the band arrangement. A bit of the sinister atmosphere is lost in the translation, though it is more bombastic now. “The Man With The Machine Gun” also proceeds without surprise, close to the orchestral version. “Fight With Seymour” on the other hand is a very interesting choice, as one might not expect it to give way to an orchestral arrangement easily. As it turns out, it works quite well in concert band, with the winds handling the opening descending lines nicely, and the drums more naturally accompanying the brass than they do strings. They also play with a good emphasis on dynamics here, and they also take some liberties at a few points to make for an effective and fresh adaptation.
The non-battle themes include the famous “Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV”, and its arrangement is standard like the others. The atmosphere is as cautiously hopeful as ever, and while there are a couple of newer sections that slow things down and push the intensity or layer extra melodies on, it still sounds very familiar and doesn’t really stray far from the original. “Cosmo Canyon” on the other hand is a nice take on the track, with appropriately flavoured percussion and a nice, full sound from the brass on melody. The supporting melody line found on the winds throughout is a very nice touch, and heightens the oriental feel of the track too. The main melody could have used some variation, but otherwise it is quite solid. The dramatic “Something to Protect” opens with a slower rendition of the theme before quickly launching in with the more standard arrangement of the track that we’re familiar with. The quieter segment returns later and this time steadily rebuilds its energy. It would have been a perfect and easy opportunity to introduce a new countermelody and work it in through to the end, so its a shame they didn’t take it.
The “Final Fantasy I-II-III Field Medley” is one of a few smaller ensemble pieces, having a more soft and intimate sound throughout. It allows the new aspects like added counterpoint to stand out more in the arrangement, and it makes the newly written sections stand out more as well, since this arrangement depends more on the melodies than the atmosphere for identity. There is a nice moment at the end where all of the themes converge, and it works wonderfully. “Fragments of Memories” is another quieter piece, and a very lovely one at that. It is understandably less elegant than its strings-counterpart from A New World, but it makes up for that in warmth and the light playfulness that it gains as it picks up in pace. It thankfully switches things up quite often and keeps things moving, preventing it from becoming tiring. “Gold Saucer” changes the ensemble to a group of recorders (recalling arrangements from Cure SQ). It’s cute enough, but even at a mere two minutes it can feel overlong for its conceit, as it has nothing else really going for it.
The remaining two tracks are more playful band renditions that take more liberties with the feel and structure of the track. “Kefka” is a brilliant arrangement and the obvious standout from the album, turning the villain theme into a finger-snapping and toe-tapping jazz number that is simply delightful and fun. There’s a wonderful groove throughout the track, and plenty of soloing later on to sustain it. It’s the only truly fresh arrangement on the album, and while it might have been a risk, it absolutely works here and pays off. The other band track is “Mambo de Chocobo”, which is yet another version of the iconic theme, and to be honest it doesn’t really bring anything to the arrangement that hasn’t been heard in the other countless versions of the track. It’s fun and playful with thankfully a fair amount of soloing and improv from the middle onwards, but I still would have much rather heard that soloing found in the middle of a mambo rendition of some other Final Fantasy track, as there are plenty to choose from.
Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo 2 -Bra★Bra- is the more of what we’ve heard in the first album, with the same ups and downs. The arrangements are for the most part solid but very safe, staying close to the structure and even instrumentation in some cases to the original soundtrack versions, or to other existing orchestral versions. Thus for some listeners the album will be exactly what they want. Others will likely be tired by the retreading found here, desiring something more new and exciting (like with the “Kefka” arrangement). It certainly doesn’t help that so many of these tracks are already staples on Final Fantasy arrangement albums, enjoyable as they are. Thus by all means, check out the previews of the album before you buy, and you’ll know easily enough whether its something that you want. This album will hold me off for now, but I’m still waiting for something a little more different from the Brass de Bravo series.
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Posted on July 21, 2016 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on July 21, 2016.