GE-ON-DAN Super Rare Trax -Land of the Rising Sun-
GE-ON-DAN Super Rare Trax -Land of the Rising Sun-
September 30, 2011
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GE-ON-DAN Super Rare Trax -Land of the Rising Sun- is a two disc charity set featuring original music by a variety of composers, both in and out of GE-ON-DAN. Available only at the 4star Orchestra event this past September/October, it was sold to benefit those affected by the earthquake in March 2011. It is definitely hard to track down, but how is the overall product in comparison to the previous GE-ON-DAN albums?
Four artists contribute tracks that were previously on other albums. AKANE’s “Soaring,” from GE-ON-DAN Rare Trax Ver. 1.0, is a very unique composition that progresses with its distorted synthesizer and beautiful percussion to evoke a very ethereal yet liberating atmosphere. As the theme intensifies, it incorporates some beautiful Asian instrumentation that invokes a sense of flight, reminiscent of composer Saori Kobayashi’s work on the Panzer Dragoon series. It doesn’t focus on melody, but at the same time, it doesn’t really need to. Also from the first volume of this series is “Akasha” by Takuya Hanaoka. It’s another theme that goes all over the place in terms of direction, but at the same time, I think it makes the theme all the more special. At times, there are some more edgier synth rock sections which really help get the energy pumping, but at the same time, Hanaoka also offers some more calmer, spacey soundscapes. In the end, it’s a very unique theme with a variety of catchy passages.
Kohta Takahashi’s “Plug-in” is from the second volume of the series and was one of the weaker contributions from that album. It features some nice beats and a nice sense of euphoria, but at the same time, the progression of the track may come off as a bit monotonous to some. It reminds me of Ridge Racer 7 in terms of overall progression, but it manages to have some areas that are well-crafted. Shoichiro Sakamoto’s contribution is the first two themes from his original album Megalomachia 2 combined into a single track. It’s a very dark Falcom-inspired theme with a focus on electric guitar and violin, with some nice speed metal accompaniment. There is also a nice bridge that references the tone in the first theme through its use of music box.
Moving on to the original tracks, much of the album I find to be very successful. “Energy” by Kazuaki Miyaji is an upbeat rock theme featuring a strong melody and some killer guitar work. His work on the previous GE-ON-DAN album was really good, but this one definitely manages to be the most attention grabbing. Manami Kiyota’s “Flower Cut (2008)” is quite different from her work on Xenoblade. When I hear this theme, I immediately think of the Japanese and rock fusion stylings of Yoshimi Kudo and Noriyuki Kamikura on Muramasa: The Demon Blade. I absolutely love the combination of chorals, shamisen and electric guitar. It’s an extremely epic atmosphere with a lot of depth and a great melody. Another very successful track is “Sense of Mission -Toward the Horizon-” by Masami Ueda. It offers a wonderful ethnic orchestral theme with some electronic influence in the accompaniment. It captures this spirit of adventure, yet that feeling of the unknown through its pounding percussion, luscious strings, and powerful choral work.
There are also a couple of retro themes on the album. Yousuke Yasui’s “Kitty! Kitty!” is a very playful FM synth inspired piece with an infectious melody and, in some ways, an almost tropical vibe. It isn’t too unlike his contribution to the SuperSweep-published Monster Hunter arrange album. The other, by Loser Kashiwagi, titled “Today’s Challenge, Tomorrow’s Myself,” has a classic chiptune sound that also features an extremely infectious melody and bubbly demeanor. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Upon hearing it, I get this very carefree sense of the world around me and it definitely has the ability to lift spirits. Although not retro in style, Takafumi Wada’s “True Feelings” manages to capture this same atmosphere through its playful rhythms, harmonica tones, and organic instrument selection. In many ways, it is reminiscent of Gust’s themes.
One of the most successful themes on the album is “Dream Night” by recent Square Enix departee Kumi Tanioka. This theme, with vocals Seira Miono, is an extremely beautiful theme with an enticing melody, stunning performance, and a very romantic soundscape. This is easily one of my favorite vocal themes of the year and I would love for her compose more themes like this. Tsuyoshi Sekito and Yasuhiro Yamanaka’s “The Battle for Ziggy,” graciously donated by Square Enix for this charity album, has me extremely excited for whatever the iPhone project this comes from. I think this team is a winning combination based on previous collaborations and this further supports my love for this duo. It’s an epic orchestral rock theme that sounds like a lost track out of The Last Remnant and really manages to create an amazing energy. The track ends with Remi on vocals providing a very sultry addition to the melody.
Another theme that I really enjoy is Akari Kaida’s “Stop Playing a Video Game.” I really like the jazzy focus of the theme, but what really impresses me the most is how much it sounds like an opening theme from a modern Persona game. It’s got an infectious melody and a great rhythm. Hiroto Saitoh’s “Look Ahead” is done in his preferred jazz style, but with a bit of a French flair. I really like the piano and big band brass focus, particularly in the introduction, but I really like the French atmosphere that the strings pick up in the melody. It gives it a very charming sound and really manages to succeed in keeping the listener’s attention. It’s a very inspirational theme with that notion that things will get better in the future.
Both Keishi Yonao and Go Sato offer some electronic compositions that really provide a lot of energy. The former, “The Light of Day” is very reminiscent of his work on the Strania soundtrack. It has a great electronic flair, a heroic synthesizer melody, and a great sense of adventure. In fact, it’s a lot stronger than some of the themes featured on that soundtrack. Sato’s “Subspecies” is a bit more intense in terms of atmosphere, but definitely has a great energy that would be perfect in a racing game. Lots of electronic textures really make this one successful, even if it doesn’t focus much on melody. Moving on, “Live Together” by noisycroak Yasuhiro Kawagoe is a very stunning piano and electronic piece. While it may not focus much on melody, it has a very moving and emotional atmosphere, with the dreamy piano and ethereal synthesizer creating a very heavenly tone. Even the vocoder usage manages to add to this atmosphere.
“Missing 0.H,” by Hirokazu Koshio, offers a very ambient electronic tone with some nice bass rhythms. It’s very uplifting and calming and it’s nice to see some more relaxed tones from Koshio. Shohei Tsuchiya’s “Rejected 2003” offers a similar tone, but his features a more organic approach, thanks to the lovely woodwind work that compliments the electronic tones. It’s another beautiful theme featured on the album and I really like how Shohei Tsuchiya is able to work in a variety of styles. “Wolf-Rayet,” by MANYO, has that ambient electronic soundscape as well. I really like how the synthesizer melody with its sharper tones meshes quite well with the more ethereal, dreamy soundscapes present. There is more to the track, however, offering some darker, industrial tones with some ethnic choral work as well. The two may seem like they go against one another in terms of progression, but MANYO really manages to make them work together.
Norihiro Furukawa’s “White Scenery” offers a very relaxing Asian inspired soundscape with a touch of rustic twang. As the name implies, there is definitely a feeling of awe inspiring mountain views and I really think that the rustic approach to the woodwind work and the haunting choral work really provides an extremely inviting atmosphere for the listener. “Prayer,” by Kenichi Tsuchiya, also offers an Asian soundscape; however, his is a bit more traditional in approach. The strings and choral work are very beautiful and really combine nicely with the more industrial drum pad. It’s a theme that really captures the essence of Japan, but also features some of the more tragic tones associated with the disaster. GE-ON-DAN leader TECHNOuchi’s “Dragon” is another Asian inspired piece featuring traditional Japanese instrumentation over intricately layered electronic tones and techno beats. In some ways, it is reminiscent of Ryu Umemoto’s work, whose first name incidentally translates to “Dragon,” although this was not the primary inspiration for the theme.
There are also some piano based themes on the album. Kinuyo Yamashita’s piano arrangement of “Ending from Mega Man X3” really turns the original into an extremely beautiful piece that has a very poignant atmosphere. While it isn’t a complex piano piece, it is one that is definitely nostalgic in nature and will definitely win over fans of the original. The other piano based piece is by Motoi Sakuraba for rock trio, meaning you can also expect some synthesizer, bass guitar, and drum work as well. For fans of Gikyokuonsou, this theme will definitely be for you. I love the intoxicating atmosphere of the piano as it carries the wispy melody to new heights. The synthesizer work is a bit darker in approach and could see itself working well in a Valkyrie Profile game. Regardless, it’s a very successful progressive rock theme that would also have fit perfectly on his After all… album. This is easily one of my favorites on the this album.
There are also some orchestral focused themes on the album as well. “Minto Diapolico”, by KYO-chan, has a very interesting progression. At times, it’s a very playful, almost waltzy theme, like something out of the Dragon Quest series; however, the theme definitely gets more tense and sinister in nature. It’s a progression that works, despite its seeming randomness, and the listener never finds the theme getting stale. “Green Star,” by Riichiro Kuwabara, opens with some xylophone and boys choir work before moving into a sweeping orchestra theme that focuses on grandiose brass work and romantic strings. The last orchestral focused theme is by Yoko Shimomura and is titled “The Devil’s Loneliness.” This is another one of my favorite themes. It features a darker side of Shimomura, something I’m hoping to hear from Final Fantasy Versus XIII, with romantic violin work and ominous piano and choral work. It’s a very beautiful theme and manages to capture that sadness that many families may have experienced during the disaster, even if this theme did originally come from what seems to be a stage show.
There are some themes that are enjoyable, but do have some issues as well. The opening theme by Yu Miyake, titled “Jungle in the Chocolate Factory -Welcome Dance-,” has a big brass sound with a lot of playful and seductive tones. However, the overall direction of the theme is a bit muddled, focusing on too many elements at once, making for a very difficult listen. The same could be said for WASi303’s “Africa (Remix 2011).” It’s a rock and electronic theme that, while featuring a nice soundscape, can, at times, be a bit cluttered. This is definitely a theme that will split opinions, but for the most part, it’s enjoyable. Hideaki Kuroda’s “Just Kickin’ It” is a jazzy theme with a focus on saxophone and piano and while for the most part, I find it to be a very enjoyable theme, it comes off as a mediocre theme, but does manage to lift it with its bright and jovial atmosphere. “Temperature Difference,” by Naoto, is a funky guitar track with some electronic accompaniments. While the soundscape is nice, offering a very emotional and deep atmosphere, the track doesn’t really manage to capture my attention too much.
The vocal work in “Ambiguous Factory” by Ippo Yamada and Ryo Kawakami is definitely the detracting portion of their theme, but the electronic and chiptune influenced accompaniment is quite enjoyable. Another vocal theme that suffers is “Kamiarizuki – Halfsize,” by Ayako Minami. While the soundscape is very hypnotizing with its romantic tone and a very successful one, I find the Miku Hatsune vocaloid to be a tad abrasive. It isn’t nearly as bad as some implementations, but at times, it does become a bit distracting. “Speed Stabilizer” by Jun Fukuda has a great melody and a soundscape going for it, but I find the vocal work to be a bit distracting. Fortunately, it isn’t always present, making the majority of the synthesizer focused melody quite enjoyable to listen to in the long run. Maki Kirioka’s “Superficial and Deep Kunaifu Rhapsody” is a very intriguing theme. The vocal work, unlike some others on the album, is quite fitting for the theme. It also features a very unique instrument, the kunaifu — which is played by fluctuating water present in a glass tube and playing it almost like a flute — ensuring a distinct sound. That all said, the overall progression from superficial and deep moments shifts so much that it makes for a very confusing track.
Fortunately, there are only two tracks on the album that I do not really enjoy. The first, by Seiko Kobuchi, titled “Love Beat ~Year 2000 ver.~,” has a very modern approach, but I do not particularly enjoy the vocal work on this album. The beats definitely have a bit of a jazzy R&B style, but they sound rather generic and quite manufactured in approach. Some might enjoy this theme though. The other track is “Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts” by Hiroki Kikuta. It features a very basic melody that is quite his style, given the focus on plucked strings and percussion, but I find it to be a very shallow theme with very little depth at all. It’s rare for the composer to disappoint me like this.
The last two themes I have left to discuss come from very good friends of one another. The first is from guest contributor Miki Higashino. Titled “Tomodachi,” which translates to “friend,” it’s a very uplifting and inspiring piece that bears influence from Pat Metheny. The acoustic guitar and piano really work well to create an inspiring melody. While not as complex or deep as some of her earlier Konami works, it is still nice to see her composing again and I hope it’s a trend that continues for some time, even if it is only small contributions here and there. Out of all the themes, this one is probably my favorite. It just manages to strike a chord with me for reasons I can’t explain. The album closes with Soyo Oka’s “Sunset Praying Guitar,” and serves as a very fitting ending. I really like the rustic approach that the acoustic guitar brings to the tune and coupled with the piano and electronic soundscapes, it has a very dreamy, uplifting atmosphere.
In the end, I think this charity album is quite successful. It features a variety of composers in a variety of styles and, for the most part, they are able to create a very satisfying listening experience, with few tracks really detracting from the overall experience. With its broad cast and great diversity, it’s a great finale for GE-ON-DAN — who have recently disbanded for unknown reasons — while serving a philanthropic purpose with funds donated to tsunami relief efforts. While this album was only sold at the 4star Orchestra event, if you were to find it on a secondhand site, just keep in mind all the money would be going to the seller. However, I do think the album is worth taking a look into, as there is surely something here for everyone.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.