March 4, 2014
Buy at Brave Wave
In Flux is a veritable East meets West experience. Coming from World 1-2‘s Brave Wave Productions, it features original tracks from Japanese legends such as Manami Matsumae and Saori Kobayashi, Western indie artists Stemage and Jim Guthrie, and modern chiptuners such as Eirik Suhrke and Chipzel. Hosting a variety of styles from chiptunes to rock, it manages to create a very diverse sound, while still coming together as an impressive whole. What can one expect from an album featuring such a bevy of artists?
The album opens with “Iridescence,” composed by Marius Masalar, and it gives a good overview on what to expect on the album. It gives off a really uplifting vibe that immediately made me think of a start of an adventure with its colourful use of instrumentation, ranging from whimsical woodwinds to marching percussion to intimate piano. It even includes some tasteful dabs of chiptune in the accompaniment. “Blue Star,” written by Manami Matsumae and featuring bassist Tim McCord, also something of a classical undertone, particularly in the piano and strings section; however, this track has a much more sombre tone, with its desperate melody and understated electronic elements. When the electric guitar enters at the 2:15, the emotions become all the more bittersweet. All in all, a wonderful collaboration.
“Diamond,” by Monomirror, is the first chiptune piece on the album and has a very relaxed vibe overall, focusing more on atmosphere more so than a memorable melody. While it isn’t the most exciting piece on the album, it still manages to entertain with its compelling progressions and vibrant implemementation. “Slime Crust,” composed by Eirik Suhrke with additional composition and arrangement by Keiji Yamagishi, gives off a classic video game vibe and is quite catchy; however, I don’t find it to be as particularly enthralling as some of the other tunes on the album, partially due to the rather basic bass line beat that accompanies most of the piece. Their other collaboration, this time composed by Yamagishi with additional composition and arrangement by Suhrke, is titled “Bounty Hunter,” is much more successful. It has an unforgettable melody and the authentic samples instantly reminds me of the Mega Man series, although with a bit more flair.
One of the most poignant additions to the album is “Wish I Were You,” composed and sung by Jim Guthrie. Though the track boasts a modern rock vibe and cutting-edge implementation, for some reason, the track also reminds me of more progressive/psychedelic rock hits by Pink Floyd. As with “Blue Star,” this entire song has a bittersweet vibe and is extremely emotionally-nuanced). The song progression is fantastic, the lyrics have so much conviction (Somebody screamed, “You’re talking to a ghost, who says ‘I wish I were you’”), and the acoustic and electric guitar work is incredible. It’s also of note that this track in fact features additional arrangement and performance from Akira Yamaoka, who first worked with Guthrie on The Scythian Steppes.
“Shattered Moon,” by Saori Kobayashi, known for her work on the Panzer Dragoon series, is another standout on the album. It is very atmospheric and features a beautiful piano melody that really shines. The soft electronic accompaniment helps give it a slight industrial flair and as the piece progresses, it takes on a more lush atmosphere by incorporating more instrumentation and some synthesizer tones as well. Lifeformed’s “Chloroplast Skin” is also an atmospheric piece that fits well after “Shattered Moon” on the album. It is definitely an experimental piece that in some ways reminds me of the original Drakengard, with the way that the chorus and chiptunes are mixed in quite a “choppy” way, although it is definitely not nearly as abrasive and is in fact highly ethereal. “Putting the Beacons to Bed,” by Stemage and featuring Manami Matsumae, is an instrumental rock ballad that really gives off a relaxing yet elating vibe, befitting of the title. While it isn’t quite as striking as other tracks on the album, I still absolutely love the emotionally-guided progression of this one. The subtle piano and electric guitar interlude from the 1:50 mark is particularly well done.
Among the other chiptune tracks on the album, “Manta Ray” from PolarBirds is one of the most catchy additions to the album. It gives a very Megaman-like vibe, particularly in the chiptune melody, which is deceptively simple and gorgeously shaped; however, I really enjoy the electronic accompaniment and the progression of the melody. It’s bubbly, fun, but also has some more serious tones as well that really manage to keep the tune fresh. This is definitely one of the highlights on the album for me. Lastly, “Menacing Wonders,” by Chipzel and featuring Manami Matsumae, is the final chiptune based piece on the album. It definitely has a darker tone compared to most of the music featured on the album, at least initially, before it progresses into a more uplifting and bubbly tune. In the end, a very successful chiptune pieces on the album with a melody that definitely resonated with me from the start.
In the end, In Flux is an album that works excellently whatever way you look at it. The artists contribute plenty of diverse standout tracks, my favorites being from Guthrie, Matsumae, PolarBirds, and Kobayashi. However, the album works even better as the sum of its parts, given it manages to give a sense of a journey throughout. Given this album is the product of a truly international collaboration, this is particularly impressive and shows the great insight of producer Mohammed Taher. There are plenty of styles that will appeal to most game music fans, so it’s worth sampling through Bandcamp and purchasing a physical or digital copy.
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Posted on May 26, 2014 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 19, 2014.