Hero Muzik Vol. 1
Hero Muzik Vol. 1
February 13, 2012
|Download||Download at Bandcamp|
It”s not easy to break into the video game music hip hop scene on your own, but when you’re a friend and frequent collaborator with Random (aka Mega Ran) like K-Murdock is, it seems that a solo album is a natural, and inevitable, transition. Within months after the release of Forever Famicom DLC 2, K-Murdock has released his first solo nerdcore hip hop album, Hero Muzik Vol. 1. This ambitious collection features the musical themes of the 14 playable characters from the beloved 16-bit Final Fantasy VI remixed as instrumental hip hop tracks. Traditional fans of FFVI might be Dancing Mad at the suggestion of a hip hop remix album of their favorite music, but the end result is a solid and artistic addition to the nerdcore scene that does the original music proud.
Being a man who has a deep and at times unhealthy obsession with Final Fantasy VI I admit that I was slightly nervous to see this project announced. After listening to the album, my fears were put to rest. “A Dying Breed (Terra)” takes the familiar flute melody of the overworld music and adds a steady, rolling backbeat to it. The full resolution of the theme doesn’t occur until 3:30 into the track so you will have plenty of time to envision three suits of Magitek armor trudging across the frozen tundra as you bob your head in time to the music. “Thief’s Theme (Locke)” adds a good bit of energy to the album that is needed after the slower opening of “A Dying Breed” but retains a bit of the surreal feeling thanks to K-Murdock’s mixing. The synthesized hand claps help “Thief’s Theme” clip along and play off the reverberating bass perfectly.
“The Ruler’s Back (Edgar & Sabin)” is an instantly enjoyable track that features only minor additions and alterations to Uematsu’s theme, principally in the area of distortion which is a welcome stylistic touch. The added cheers and crowd noise make this a great thematic track and exactly the sort of music you’d like to hear play whenever you enter a room. “Ballad of the Lone Warrior (Celes’s Theme)” is a more subdued arrangement and adds a dreampop level of dreamy interpretation to the iconic theme with synthesized sitar and a good amount of distortion. I wasn’t sure if or how K-Murdock would incorporate the signature Neosonix sound into this album until I heard “Ballad of the Lone Warrior” (shades existed in “The Ruler’s Back”) and it really seems like this is the first track where K-Murdock relaxes himself and unleashes his full creative talents.
“Whistles in the Wind (Shadow)” continues the momentum of “Ballad of the Lone Warrior” as K-Murdock adds a simple progressive bassline underneath of the main whistling theme from the game. This is an inspired touch and really pulls the track together given the relative simplicity of the sample track that he was working with. In “The Pride of a Nation (Cyan)” K-Murdock dissects Cyan’s theme and mixes elements of it in playfully to create a wholly new track that retains the feel and overall progression of the original but is distinct enough to really stand on its own. The energetic resolution is the fastest element on the album and is a jolt of auditory energy needed to bring a listener’s mind back from idle reflections of Doma Castle, as well as the slower tracks that preceded it.
As I write this, I realized that I probably should have seen the jungle animal sound effects on “Where the Wild Things Are (Gau)” coming before I listened to the track, but their addition was a cute touch that made me smile in spite of their cheese. They also play nicely over the reverberating cello theme (which always sounded like a countermelody to Celes’s Theme to me) and offer a pleasing bit of thematic unity when coupled with the tribal percussion rhythms of the track. “Gil Toss Anthem (Setzer)” builds slowly and steadily, with the descending bass runs sampled perfectly to give the piece a quick, steady rhythm from the outset. The distorted “hey hey!” vocals in the background when coupled with the odd cash register sound effect that pops up in the mix gives “Gil Toss Anthem” and undeniably hip hop sound without compromising the main melody.
K-Murdock had mentioned that the final three tracks on the album “Blue Magic Bounce” (Strago), “Watercolors (Relm)”, “Kupo-Cabana (Mog)” were among the most difficult to remix due to the more limited nature of their themes. While this may have been a concern at the outset of the project, a casual listener would never have surmised that given the expert remixes created for each. “Blue Magic Bounce” has a meandering, jazzy feeling with a minimalist bass track and fun temple block samples added for effect. One might need to listen to the full song while driving in a car equipped with a powerful subwoofer to gain the full effect, but it’s a great ambient track in its own right. The same holds true for the R&B styled “Watercolors” which, while slower than any other mix on the album, is one of the more artistically ambitious tracks attempted by K-Murdock and will win fans over with its whimsical nature.
“Kupo-Cabana” is equal in ambition to “Watercolors” but is a marked departure from the rest of the mixes on the album as it incorporates a good amount of backing tracks and samples not present in the original theme. The overall result is a dreamy, ambient track (reminiscent at times of Conjure One) that serves as an extended dénouement to the album. As a final note: the physical copy of the disc includes three bonus tracks featuring the themes of the two more obscure playable characters, Umaro and Gogo (give it up fanboys, you cannot revive General Leo!), as well as a remix of Kefka’s Theme.
The music from Final Fantasy VI is considered by many to mark the beginning of Nobuo Uematsu’s most creative period as a composer, and is held in great reverence by his most ardent fans. Although the hip hop remixes of Hero Muzik Vol. 1 might not be the tribute these fans would have expected for the iconic soundtrack, there is no denying that it is a tribute mixed with equal parts love and skill and that few could have handled the project with the polish that K-Murdock did. Relaxed and easy to listen to with enough bass and percussion to keep everything moving, Hero Muzik Vol. 1 demonstrates that subtle remixes can be as enjoyable as the more involved and stylized fan arrangements. Still, at times it felt like K-Murdock could have taken a few more liberties with the overall melodies to add a little variety to the more repetitious themes (“Watercolors” or “A Dying Breed) and as a result, the album may alienate those unfamiliar with Final Fantasy VI or video game music as a result being quintessentially more “nerd” than “core”. Regardless, Hero Muzik Vol. 1 is a worthwhile addition for the modern game music fan’s collection.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Matt Diener. Last modified on August 1, 2012.