March 30, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Fiction II is Yuki Kajiura’s second solo album, released more than eight years after her first. In the lengthy interim, the composer has contributed to a vast quantity of works. As such, in a similar arrangement to her last, this solo album contains a mixture of old and new pieces, the only difference being that some tracks are not arranged at all from their originals, but are merely re-releases. How do the new tracks fare, and are the older ones worth the repeat purchase?
The album opens with “In This Winter,” a new recording of the first Fiction album’s “Winter.” It’s the only track to not feature vocals, and is used primarily as a short instrumental introduction. The melody is certainly as excellent as it’s always been, and the arrangement for the accordion is pleasantly evocative. Continuing on with the new recordings, “The Image Theme of Xenosaga II” opens with uilleann pipes playing atmospherically, creating a nice soundscape, as chanting voices are overlaid above it. A pounding electric guitar and percussion are soon introduced as the melody rises in pitch to a stunning climax, and the track proper begins, sporting a welcome, and fantastic, new coat of paint over the original in the form of a tremendous impact.
“E.G.O.” is the next arrangement featured, taken from Aquarian Age, starting right away with an addictive, electronic beat that hooks the listener from the outset. Soon a violin and vocals are introduced, contributing to a nice contrast between a natural and mechanical sound, complemented by an enjoyable if somewhat nonspecific melody. The final arranged track is also the last piece on the album, “Maybe Tomorrow,” from Xenosaga Episode III. Graceful strings introduce the piece, but soon give way to the vocalist and piano. The track slowly builds in complexity until it reaches a rather wondrous fervor, though the melody is a little too typical of the composer to really raise eyebrows.
The vocal theme from Xenosaga: The Missing Year, “My Long Forgotten Cloistered Sleep,” previously unreleased, is also featured. The melody in this piece is absolutely wonderful, and excellently portrayed, particularly thanks to the spiccato on the strings, which give off an excellently realized mysterious aura. It’s curious that this song took so long to release given its quality, but it’s good to finally have it for posterity.
There are five more tracks that find a new home on this album, though unfortunately these are all the same recordings as featured on their original respective albums. Three of these are from the anime El Cazador De La Bruja. “Forest” is a whimsical, haunting vocal theme that could certainly be considered a new standard of composition for Kajiura. The same praise could not necessarily be given to “L.A.,” however. While it is a rather fantastic composition, it’s also not immediately attractive considering its repetitious, atmospheric and mysterious nature, causing curiosity over its inclusion.
The other reprises help to fill out the release. “I Reach for the Sun” is a peppy, happy track, perhaps overly so. Still, it’s more of an attractive piece than the preceding. “Sweet Song,” the ending theme from Xenosaga Episode II, was a shoe-in for inclusion, given its instantly captivating melody and endearing use of flute. “Everytime You Kissed Me,” from Pandora Hearts, is a rather gentle piece with particularly interesting melody and pleasant composition.
There are several new pieces featured on the album as well. “Lotus” is a rather atmospheric piece, featuring sparse moments of relatively uninteresting melody. The true attraction here is the soundscape which, while not exemplary, is enough to hold interest. “I Swear” is curiously uninteresting. The melody isn’t terribly appealing, and the instrumentation, while put together well, feels somewhat empty. Still, all things considered, it’s still an enjoyable listen.
The other originals aren’t particularly remarkable either. “March” is short and sweet, featuring some rather pleasant accordion sections as well as soothing strings that support the playful melody. “Heigen” takes a good minute to get going, but once it does, its peaceful, nostalgic melody enthralls the listener. The piece is rather long, without much development, but it’s so unobtrusive that it’s hard to dislike, though by the same token, there isn’t much that stands out either.
Fiction II does not quite reach the heights of its predecessor. The recycling of tracks, while these are some of the composer’s finest, feels somewhat aggravating given the wholly unique material on Kajiura’s first solo album, and the original tracks, by and large, leave much to be desired. The newly arranged tracks are where this album shines. That said, none of the tracks are in any way unpleasant to listen to, and, while five tracks are recycled, they are all excellent in their own right, making this another recommended purchase for the casual fan. This album’s a safe bet for regular fans, as well, given the forewarning that the original tracks aren’t terribly interesting, and, of course, those recycled tracks.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Marc Friedman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.