NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Choir Arrangement Album
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Choir Arrangement Album
Square Enix Music
March 2, 2022
Buy at CDJapan
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Choir Arrangement Album is an official arrangement album for the music of NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… featuring choral arrangements with some accompaniments from an organ and a harpsichord. All of the arrangements are handled by Sachiko Miyano, and are inspired by new texts written by game director Yoko Taro, which are included in both English and Japanese in the booklet of the physical edition.
Although the ensembles suggest that the arrangements might draw from Renaissance and Baroque music, I was disappointed to find that there isn’t anything approaching something like a Renaissance polyphonic motet or a Baroque aria on the disc; there’s little complex contrapuntal motion, no improvisation on figured bass, no classical developments of melodies. Likewise, the choral aspects are pretty run-of-the-mill, with no interesting textures or dynamic shifts. Instead, the arrangements are more just about evoking these sounds while adding some extra harmonic colour to the tracks. The opener “Snow in Summer” thus opens with the truncated version of the original’s choral opening with altered harmony, and then brings in the organ for a conventional arrangement. Just shy of two minutes in there is a sudden shift to harpsichord and what sounds like the exposition of a new melody in fugal fashion, but unfortunately this is rather short-lived. The arrangement soon reverts back to the piece we are familiar with, though the harmony does at least diverge more drastically as the piece picks up. The playing of the harpsichord is here strangely kind of messy and uninspired; it provides movement and texture but little else. Overall the track is still alright; in many ways it could still fit into the original soundtrack just fine since that also featured organ and choir, but the harpsichord and harmonic changes here provide just enough to make this track feel different.
From there the album has varying success. The next track, “Song of the Ancients,” is solely performed by a woman’s choir and makes use of the more modern a cappella technique of non-verbal imitations of instruments. The three-part voiced arrangement again brings some nice harmonic colour to the otherwise gentle track, though I wish there were lengthier periods where each part moved independently to contrast more strongly with the homophonic sections. But as it is, I find it to be one of the better tracks of the album, and a nice departure from the originals. The organ-with-choir “Grandma” is disappointing in comparison, as the arrangement is too close to the original in atmosphere and structure, and the performance is too sedate compared to its haunting original, so that the arrangement is for the most part simply boring. I do like how the women’s choir sound on the melody as they push into their higher registers towards the end, but it comes too late. The men’s choir “The Wretched Automatons” is thankfully much more interesting, continuing the track’s pattern of having rather left-field arrangements on the albums on which it is featured. It is the most daring arrangement here, unafraid of being downright strange with odd vocalizations, harsh dissonances, and occasionally warbly vocals. Some will find this very off-putting (as many modern choral pieces often can be), but it is an album highlight for me.
The middle run of the album is also mixed. “Kainé” makes rather uninspired use of the harpsichord. It adds a certain Baroque gracefulness to the proceedings, but isn’t very well suited to the original piano figures that have been retrofitted for the harpsichord. The choir is also unremarkable here, lacking the emotion of the original vocal, so that the whole arrangement just plods along and doesn’t make much impact. It’s still a listenable track thanks to the original melody, but it really deserved better. “The Dark Colossus Destroys All” brings the entire group of singers and instruments back together in a decent arrangement; the harpsichord provides good momentum but also levity to counteract the usually overbearing atmosphere of the original, especially at the midway point when the organ drops out for a short time. It’s still far from my favourite NieR track, but it feels more bearable here. “Fleeting Words” works surprisingly well here with a harpsichord accompaniment that actually feels appropriate for the instrument, emulating a steady obligato part. There’s no big climax here, nor does the track really need one; the melody and sad atmosphere conjured up are enchanting enough to carry the piece.
Moving towards the end of the album is “Emil” with choir and soft organ accompaniment. This is another arrangement that suffers from being too close to the original while falling short of the original’s emotion, though at least here the organ accompaniment is perfectly acceptable and doesn’t feel at odds with the tone of the track. I also appreciate the inclusion of the additional melody from the NieR:Automata version of the track, and as a whole the arrangement is still quite listenable. “Shadowlord’s Castle” opens with a brief dissonant opening before becoming more conventional with organ accompaniment. There’s some new counterpoint here, but the buildup doesn’t go anywhere as it did in the original, so that it’s just a largely redundant expansion of the first half of the original track, which was already choir with organ to begin with. The final track “Ashes of Dreams” is unfortunately also rather limp, as it isn’t very emotional, doesn’t make good use of the organ or harpsichord for texture, and doesn’t really go anywhere dramatically. The one nice bit of the song is the bridge where the choir opens on a warm set of chords, but the homophony here really needed to be contrasted by polyphonic segments for more impact. Overall, a disappointing ending.
As much as I have been complaining about the missed opportunities of NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Choir Arrangement Album, I don’t hate listening to the album, since it’s not that far removed from NieR material that I have loved for a long time; even a weak NieR album is better than a lot of other stuff out there. But the album doesn’t make good use of any of its elements, lacking the depth of the period that it evokes, and for the most part the arrangements feel like they could simply be an extension of the original soundtrack. When the original material has already been arranged so many times, new projects really need to step up in creativity to set themselves apart, and that isn’t what happened here. At a lean ten tracks, I wouldn’t recommend spending so much for the physical edition when the material is so inessential next to the originals; best to just pick up a few tracks digitally or wait until it is available for streaming.
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Posted on March 7, 2022 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on March 7, 2022.