Milestone Sound Collection
Milestone Sound Collection
February 25, 2011
Buy at Sweep Record
Milestone has been around for a while, mainly producing shmup style arcade games. Although they are not as popular as other shmup companies, they do manage to get plenty of playtime in arcades around Tokyo, at least from what I gathered during my recent trip there, and they’ve also managed to be published overseas for the Wii. The music for these games is composed by Kou Hayashi and Daisuke Nagata, collectively known as k.h.d.n. This compilation features the breadth of their shmup scores on a four disc collection, with the fifth disc actually containing a Windows version of their most recent game, Radirgy Noah Massive. In addition, there are also some never before published items, such as the music for Radirgy Noah Massive and a live set performed at an event hosted by Wavemaster in January 2011. For those who aren’t familiar with the music of k.h.d.n., get ready to dive into a world of very unique shmup music.
The first disc of the compilation set features the music from Milestone’s earliest games, Chaosfield and Radirgy. Regarding the music for Chaosfield, it still stands to this day as one of k.h.d.n.’s best soundtracks to date. Lead composer Kou Hayashi offers amazing rhythms and atmosphere, helping show his diversity as an electronic artist. For example, “25mg,” the select screen music, combines heavy industrial beats and crystalline synth to harness an exhilarating progression. “not back in time,” the music for the first stage, sounds somewhat mellow despite its use of industrial rhythms. The soundscapes are intense yet relaxing, due to the driving melody, calming electronic mix, and vocoder use. Speaking of calming atmospheres, “human’s figure,” the music for stage three, is also conflicted. The crystalline and mellow melody combines nicely with the intense beats and the layering is intensely complex.
On the other hand, Daisuke Nagata utilizes different techniques to create a nice mix of soundscapes. “coccus,” the music for stage two, combines some minimalist house beats with some nice synth effects and a bit of etherealness. As contradictory as it sounds, the best way to describe it would be an upbeat piece that clearly displays a lot of energy, but at the same time, the synth usage also takes on a calming quality. The boss theme, “spray,” is unlike most shmup boss themes for the fact that it doesn’t go for the super intense melody. Rather, Nagata gives it an extremely ominous atmosphere through the heavy use of industrial and techno beats and percussion. While the melody line supplements the piece, the star of the show here is clearly the industrial focus. Nagata was definitely breaking the mold when it comes to creating shmup battle themes when he composed this theme.
The duo also worked together to craft two themes for the soundtrack. “spinout,” the music for stage four, is definitely my favorite theme on the soundtrack. The sense of rhythm is fantastic and the overall atmosphere makes for an exhilarating listen. Lastly, the music for stage five, “back in to the machine,” is quite similar to “spinout” in terms of overall design. The flow of the piece is rather interesting though. It flows like something you might hear at a club with some clear transitions into the next section, which usually carry a very different soundscape than the previous section. The first section is rather intense with some fantastic melody lines and beats. The second section tends to adopt a more tranquil, yet intense, atmosphere, through the use of some intoxicating house beats, some fantastic layering, and less of a focus on a solid melody. It’s there, but it’s not as prominent as some of the other themes.
The music for Radirgy, on the other hand, is quite a different beast. Considering this is the brainchild of Daisuke Nagata, it only seems fitting that he composes a majority of the soundtrack. The tutorial stage, “Chatterbox,” is a pretty bubbly electronica theme with a variety of various effects, ranging from more modern to more retro inspired sounds. The beat, when present, is quite heavy, but I think the main strength of this piece is the untraditional melody line. His stage one theme, “Ukiha Shopping Mall,” has quite a groovy beat going for it and, when combined with a bubbly melody line and funky piano licks, it’s definitely a winner. It just has this really infectious quality about it. The stage four theme, “I Hate Tha Sun,” is definitely the least groovy and most mellow of Nagata’s stage theme contributions. It is a welcome change of pace with its spacey synthpads and house beats.
Kou Hayashi’s music helps solidify the musical direction set forth by Nagata. “2 the Sky” is a nice hybrid of styles. The A section features some more beat heavy sections that hint at a nice groove, mainly through the use of layering. However, the B section is where it really shines. A fantastic jazz piano section is added that is mixed with the music established in the A section. Overall, it’s a beautiful blend of music that really fits with the overall sound of the album. Lastly, the stage five theme, “24/7,” keeps the groove alive with his masterful blend of funk elements, excellent house beats, piano, and spacey synth. The A section definitely features more of the house beats, whereas the B section is a bit more mellow with some additional spacey effects and some more intricate synth layering. Overall, it’s a fantastic addition to the soundtrack.
The boss themes are some of k.h.d.n.’s to date. “The Ordinary People” is an excellent mix of nice house beats, awesome percussion sampling, great electronic mixing, and groovy piano. It’s one of those infectiously catchy pieces of music that just sticks in your head, even if it doesn’t sound becoming of a boss theme. Hayashi’s last boss theme, entitled “Finale,” features a nice steady house beat with a bit of groove in the melody and some spacey effects. It has a nice atmospheric soundscape overall, but is one of the less memorable themes on the soundtrack. Finally, “Asagiri,” the true last boss theme, is another brilliantly composed theme by Nagata. It’s another mellow theme, focusing on some futuristic synth soundscapes, though there is also some industrial influence heard in the percussion sampling. Overall, it’s a fantastic theme and shows that you don’t always need crazy music for a final boss theme.
The second disc houses the music for Karous, one of their most successful soundtracks, in my opinion, and Illmatic Envelope, a soundtrack that departs from the normal k.h.d.n. sound. Focusing on Karous, “1000 Clouds” is a great way to kick off the game’s stages. The piano-infused melody line gives the feeling that one is flying through the clouds. Without a doubt, the most special aspect of the theme is the crazy percussion work and industrial beats though. When it comes to the second stage theme, Hayashi’s “One Thing Reality,” Hayashi’s percussion line helps bring about a great sense of urgency to the mix and when it’s mixed with the heavy distorted industrial beats and the crystalline synth in the melody line, it manages to create a perfect mixture. Although the melody isn’t as present as in other themes, Hayashi offers an extremely catchy theme nonetheless.
The fourth stage theme “Electric Chair” features a great percussion line with some menacing synth layering. The industrial and distorted beats really help give the theme a bunch of power and, even though the melody isn’t as prominent as in some of Hayashi’s other themes, it still manages to impress through its heavy use of electronic beats and various electronic sampling. Nagata’s last stage theme, “Death from Above 4098,” is easily my favorite stage theme on the soundtrack. Even though it takes a rather minimalist approach compared to the other themes, this theme is all about power. The pounding bass, crazy percussion sampling, and menacing distorted synth in the melody line all make for an intense theme, even though the tempo is rather slow. Throw in some tranquil synth on occasion in the background and you have a winner.
The boss themes by Nagata and Hayashi are quite different in terms of approach. Nagata’s approach for the boss theme, “The Extraordinary People,” is no surprise. Featuring a more tranquil atmosphere with some great calming synth and percussion work, it manages to possess an ominous atmosphere, even if it doesn’t exude terror like some other boss themes. As it progresses, some mechanical and industrial beats are thrown in to give a semblance of power, but it doesn’t last too long. Hayashi is responsible for the true final boss theme, “Sex Pervert of a Silence.” For those who aren’t fans of these tranquil boss themes, then this theme is for you! Taking the motif heard in “Hey Little Girl, Go Home Soon,” Hayashi creates an industrial hardcore theme with a great tempo and a dire sense of menace, brooding beats. Some might find it noise, but I’d consider this Milestone’s answer to DoDonPachi’s final boss themes.
The inspiration for Illmatic Envelope, according to the duo, was the hip hop sounds of rapper NAS although they bring their own unique touches to the music as well. Daisuke Nagata’s tutorial music, “Hermit Network,” definitely incorporates the hip-hop sound they were aiming for in some of their songs with its distinctive beats and scratching. Although repetitive, it is a great way to introduce the more substantial themes. The first stage theme, “Phantom’s Dance,” mixes together a pretty intoxicating beat with some ethereal and futuristic soundscapes. It has a fantastic energy that really helps to counterbalance the mellower sections heard in the theme. “I Wanna Be with You in this World” is easily his best though. Its energetic tempo, retro-sounding melody, and sexy beats combine to yield a fantastic soundscape.
Moving to some of Hayashi’s contributions, the stage three theme, “Roofie,” is an extremely diverse piece that mixes some slick beats with some mellow, beautiful piano work while also incorporating some more upbeat sections. The melody, although sparse, definitely shines in the mellow section of the music. Interestingly, Hayashi also incorporates the previously released showerheadz remix of this theme as a bonus on the compilation. It’s a nice addition that builds on the original with some subtle and bombastic elements. “Mr. Radio Shock,” the stage five theme, incorporates a similar style to “Roofie”. In the fact, there is an extremely driving beat mixed with a slower section that features some slick beats and some excellent electronic mixing.
Moving to the boss themes, the main boss theme “Pizza Phat Iller,” as always, shows how experimental and surprising Nagata can be when it comes to boss music. Heavy industrial beats mix with distorted synth and high-pitched electronic effects to create a sense of chaos. The final boss theme, “Channel Fannel,” evolves from a subdued introduction towards an energetic climax. Hayashi’s true final boss theme, “Killer Tune Store,” is also surprisingly subdued throughout, with its elegant mixture of ambience and crystalline synth usage. It’s easily my favourite on the soundtrack given its multifaceted layers and fascinating soundscape. It also receives a bonus remix, which is more voluminous in terms of layering and improves substantially upon the original.
The third disc is dedicated entirely to their most recent works, Radirgy Noah and its Xbox 360 version. Since the Radirgy series is considered the child of Daisuke Nagata, it’s only natural that he also composes the majority of the substantial themes on the soundtrack. Among his initial contributions, “Psychopath” and “Talk with the Wind” mix a bubbly demeanor mixed with some electronic beats, while “Tokyo Eight Spots” focuses more on heavy beats yet retains a pop flavour. Unlike the majority of Nagata’s contributions, “Blue Flower” is very industrial in nature and more in line with some of the themes composed by Kou Hayashi. Other highlights include “The Setting Sun” and “Humanlost Funk”, with their exquisite and ethereal blends of electronic elements. They’re somewhat reminiscent of the themes from Radirgy, yet with a lighter sound.
“The Tongue of the Woman” is probably my favorite from Nagata. It’s one of the more upbeat themes on the soundtrack, but it’s excellently mixed. The beats and percussion sampling are quite nice and I love the piano thrown into the mix to give a nice sharp contrast to the more atmospheric synth used in the melody line. Throw in a bit of industrial influence and you have yourself a winner! Among Hayashi’s contributions, “Phil Case” definitely has a more powerful persona than Nagata’s contributions, though its seriousness is counterbalanced by the playful melody line. It’s not the most melodically focused, but it matches nicely with the rest of the soundtrack. With its infectious beats and vocal sampling, “5 Questions” would fit perfectly in a club and is another highlight of the soundtrack.
The boss theme, Nagata’s “The Ordinary People [shaped],” is a refined version of the boss theme featured on the original Radirgy soundtrack. An excellent mix of beats, synth, and piano work, it’s one of those infectiously catchy pieces of music here and is presented in its definitive version here. “Keep Quipu” is probably my second favorite Hayashi contribution on the soundtrack. Copious use of industrial beats and sound effects dominate the theme, making it ideal for an intense boss encounter. Lastly, “Liver Dysfunction,” what I only assume is the true last boss theme, is my favorite Hayashi contribution on the soundtrack. It’s a nice industrial influenced piece with distorted vocal sampling, slick beats, and great percussion sampling. It’s a frenzy of layered sounds and I really enjoy how the melodic synth provides a contrast to the more menacing beats.
Radirgy Noah Massive
The new music for Radirgy Noah Massive is split between Daisuke Nagata and Kou Hayashi. Nagata offers the menu music “Mail Practice,” which focuses on bright piano, ethereal choral tones, and deep techno beats. It doesn’t develop much, but it features a pleasant atmosphere. The massive mode music “Minus Love” is reminiscent of the more upbeat themes from the Radirgy series. Dance beats, bubbly piano passages, wonderful synthesizer melodies, and ethereal accompaniment make this theme a winner. Towards the end, however, some more drum and bass beats are thrown into the mix. “The ordinary people dub,” the massive mode boss theme, is an intense remix of the boss theme with a slight dubstep feel. The original is integrated nicely into the mix and all the elements work together really nicely.
Kou Hayashi’s two tracks also follow a similar style. “Nairobi,” the gallery mode music, is more atmospheric than Hayashi’s contributions. It features quirky synth and drum and bass beats, but little else. More impressive is the death mode music “Human’s wild figure,” which features heavy techno beats in combination with very playful arcade-inspired melody. Combine that with more ethereal synthesizer accompaniment and 90s dance influence, it’s a very unique combination. Like the other tracks, it fits quite well with the overall sound of Radirgy Noah.
The fifth disc of the album also features the PC game Radirgy Noah Massive. It will certainly appeal to shooter followers with its intense gameplay and visual style. However, it’s a surprising decision to incorporate it on a music compilation and may be an unwelcome decision for those looking for the soundtracks themselves. Indeed, it may have been better for Milestone to publish the still-unreleased soundtracks for Tank Beat, Heavy Armor Brigade, and Twinkle Queen on the fifth disc instead. Still, the package is reasonably priced given it contains four music discs and an entire game.
The fourth disc features the GameCube and PlayStation 2 version of most of the themes for the Chaosfield game. While these tracks are exclusives to the compilation, most of the remixed music only features slight alterations to accommodate these ports and there is nothing significant of note. The music is still top notch, but it’s fairly similar to the original soundtrack already mentioned. As a result, these eight tracks are somewhat redundant here and reduce the value of the compilation slightly. After all, so much unique music could have taken their place.
There are also some Chaosfield remixes transferred from a promotional album. Daisuke Nagata’s “coccus (umbrea remix)” is quite a creative variation on the original with its slick beats, various vocal samples, and darker tones. “kairo (CFL Room738” is also impressed, given it expands upon a subminute track to yield a fully-fleshed remix. Kou Hayashi’s “not back in time (9090909 remix)” features some new intense beats and a heavier focus on the vocoder, which seems to be saying ‘chaos’ quite a bit. It doesn’t deviate much from the original, but I do enjoy the larger focus on vocoder.
k.h.d.n. Live Set
The last part of the album is a recording of the live set performed by k.h.d.n with a guitarist at Video Game Music Live “EXTEND.” The set itself traverses their entire Milestone career, featuring remixes of tracks featured elsewhere on the compilation. The opening track, “25mg (dub)”, revisits Chaosfield in a style fitting for a live set. It features some excellent drum and bass style beats characteristic of the duo’s work. However, the focus of this remix is clearly on the funky soundscape provided by the addition of the electric guitar.
The addition of the electric guitar performances Ikeda MinoRock are the most notable feature of these live tracks. While the focus of the opening theme was clearly placed on the instrument, “1000 Clouds (extend edit)” focuses instead on adding some wonderful atmospheric touches to the original. The addition of electric guitar serves as a wonderful harmony in “you can’t fxxk me (extend edit)” too and really adds another layer of depth to the original. Most of the other adaptations on the set further develop on this approach.
The last track of the set, “Sex Pervert of Silence (dat bxxxh),” is a take on k.h.d.n.’s heaviest track to date. Although short, the combination of intense industrial beats, grungy guitar work, and some killer shredding really builds on the original. The resultant sound is a bit messy, intentional or not, but highly compelling nevertheless. It really makes for the definitive remix of this theme and is a great way to close the set.
In the end, the Milestone Sound Collection is a very nice compilation of the work of k.h.d.n. It serves as a way to obtain fantastic soundtracks such as Chaosfield, Radirgy, Karous, and Illmatic Envelope at an accessible price. Those who own the original soundtracks already may find this to be a warrantless purchase unless, of course, they are hoping to obtain the live set, some of the more rare remixes found only on promotional items, or the exclusive music for Radirgy Noah Massive. There is only one press of this album, so once it’s sold out, it might become difficult to find. I recommend this album for those who haven’t had the opportunity to purchase any k.h.d.n. soundtracks and are looking for a complete set of soundtracks.
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.