Pulse: Final Fantasy XIV Remix Album
Pulse: Final Fantasy XIV Remix Album
Square Enix Music
September 30, 2020
Buy at CDJapan
Pulse: Final Fantasy XIV Remix Album is an official remix album for Final Fantasy XIV, covering tracks from the base game and the first three expansions: Heavensward, Stormblood, and Shadowbringers. The remixes are mostly by Takafumi Imamura and Daiki Ishikawa, with lead composer Masayoshi Soken providing two remixes. Although there have been plenty band and arrangement albums for the game, this is the first remix album focusing on electronic and techno remixes.
The album begins with “Rise” remixed by Takafumi Imamura. Immediately the strengths of the album are on full display; whereas many of the original tracks were very consistent and often relentless in intensity (perfectly acceptable for battle tracks), these remixes go through many shifts in the dynamics and atmosphere, so that the result is very refreshing. With “Rise”, I fell in love as soon as the vocals came in and the song quieted down, allowing the vocals to be heard clearly (though they are still gloriously unintelligible). The remix slowly builds to its banger of an instrumental chorus, a fun new rave melody that keeps the original chorus rhythm. I quite prefer it over the original. In a similar vein are Daiki Ishikawa’s takes on “Through the Maelstrom” and “Under the Weight”, which keeps some of the original rock elements but contrasts it with trance synths in the former, and pulsing club sounds in the latter. The added melodies here help keep them from becoming as repetitive as their original counterparts. I had become a bit tired of the originals, and the remixes were a nice update. The original “A Long Fall” probably would have fit in on the album just fine, but Imamura’s remix is more likely to be divisive due to disruptive hardstyle sections that won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The sections around the hardstyle are still quite good, though.
Other tracks feature female vocalists, and have a different feel. Imamura’s remix of “What Angel Wakes Me” is perhaps the most inessential of the album, since it stays so close to its original in structure, tone, and even instrumentation to an extent. It has some added bells and whistles (literally) and dubstep elements, but they’re quite secondary and don’t get in the way of the track. Then there is “Equilibrium” remixed by Soken himself, and it is one of the more surprising remixes. Very prominent bass with light disco elements for such a melancholy song are not what I expected, but it works. “Beauty’s Wicked Wiles” remixed by Ishikawa also sports a contemporary techno-disco sound, but for the most part lets the instrumentation take a backseat to the vocals. It has a brighter, more positive atmosphere than its original, and I like the vocal sampling at work. The original “Sunrise” is my favourite of the tracks represented here, so I was disappointed to find Imamura’s remix feeling a bit disjointed. Each individual section is good, and I quite like the chorus with its waves of synths; I just wish it flowed better, but it’s still a decent track thanks to the strengths of the original.
There are two standout tracks for me, which are remixes that are quite daring, yet still fit in the album theme. The first of these is Ishikawa’s stellar “Thunder Rolls” remix. The original was already a standout of the original soundtrack due to its composition, and its remix is similarly unique here. I would never have expected the remix to take an electro-swing direction with prominent brass, but it works really well for the track. It’s in a completely different emotional register from the original, but the toe tapping rhythm just takes over, and I love the balance between the vocals and brass. Then there is Soken’s remix of “Oblivion”, the strangest track both in instrumentation and atmosphere. It’s a darker, slightly psychedelic techno track where most of the instrumental lines aren’t exactly in harmony with each other, and there even are extra sound filters added to vocals and some of the instruments. It will probably be a head scratcher to most, but I really appreciate Soken experimenting here.
The remaining tracks to be discussed are all remixes from instrumental tracks of the original soundtrack. They still fit in with the other remixes here, since the other remixes often have emphasis on added instrumental choruses. The first of these is Ishikawa’s remix of the Fractal Continuum theme, “Unbreakable”, which is a bright little track with disco underpinnings and a surprisingly wide variety of instruments involved, including the original track’s jazz organ. Again it’s a completely different mood from the original rock track, and though it’s not a standout here, it’s a pleasant addition. The emotional “Neath Dark Waters” is likewise transformed by Imamura into a bright dancehall track. It’s a bit slight and I wish there was more going on, but the strong melody gives it enough substance. Although I don’t care all that much for the original “I Am the Sea” (which is inoffensive but slow and plodding), Ishikawa’s remix here is one of my favourites, thanks to the faster pace and charming sea shanty instruments which gives the track a similar enough sound to its original without feeling cheesy. The Yanxia theme, “A Father’s Pride” achieves a similar success, though Ishikawa’s transformation of it is more drastic and impressive. Between the reharmonization, rhythmic adjustments to the melody, and the instrument changes, the track is at times nearly unrecognizable, and I have to focus to remind myself of the corresponding parts of the original. But thankfully the track really stands on its own, and it too stands up to the more iconic tracks that are remixed on the album.
Pulse: Final Fantasy XIV Remix Album is a remix album that is solid and entertaining from beginning to end. Far from being generic or low-effort, the remixes here cover a variety of styles and an even more impressive array of instruments and sounds. Most tracks have a great balance of recognizable elements with completely new ones, and some changes are even very clear improvements over the originals. Although only a few tracks really do anything to transcend their genres, the album all comes together as a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, so that it’s up there with the most successful arrangement projects for the game. Fans of the game should definitely check it out for a fresh take on old favourites.
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Posted on November 3, 2021 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on January 19, 2022.