NieR Music Concert & Talk Live: Horobi no Shiro Saisei no Kuro

Album Title:
NieR Music Concert & Talk Live: Horobi no Shiro Saisei no Kuro
Record Label:
Square Enix Music
Catalog No.:
SQEX-20032
Release Date:
December 14, 2016
Purchase:
Buy at CDJapan

Overview

NieR Music Concert & Talk Live: Horobi no Shiro Saisei no Kuro is the first live concert video release for the NieR games, containing music from NieR Gestalt and Replicant along with previews of new tracks from NieR: Automata. There is also footage of the talk portion of the concert which featured a question and answer session as well as footage from the new game. The concert features a few vocalists from the games, a handful of instruments, and portions of playback to fill out some of the arrangements. The concert is available as a Blu-Ray release, but without downloadable mp3s as has been the case with some other releases; a CD of the concert was made available only as part of the collector’s edition of NieR: Automata. Both releases have improved audio over the original livestream of the concert, which had occasional balancing issues and some stray notes. Generally the performances are similar to the originals but more intimate, often with some nice improvisations that make this a worthwhile acquisition for fans of NieR music.

Body

The concert starts with “Snow in Summer” a track that faithfully translates the choral parts of the original to a string quartet arrangement. It feels more mournful in this form, which makes up for the lack of dramatic build-up. It is one of two instrumental tracks of the evening, the other being “Repose” a bit later on. “Repose” is one of the more remarkable arrangements, starting off as a straightforward piano and guitar duet before allotting time for both to do free jazzy improvisations while keeping its moody atmosphere. The track builds much more than the original does, and Takanori Goto on guitar in particular plays very forcefully, heightening the emotion of the performance. Although it was one of the lesser tracks on the original soundtrack, lost between more impactful songs, here it is one of the standout tracks of the concert.

The other tracks all feature vocals, many of them with main vocalist Emi Evans, who sings as beautifully and hauntingly as she does on the originally soundtrack. Her first track here is “Hills or Radiant Winds”, but the star in this performance is really the guitar again, whose aggressive playing adds a new dimension to the track and helps fix the slight monotony of the original. Following this is “Kaine”, which is a bit overlong though beautiful as ever, adding here a nice improvised piano solo intermission. Next is another concert highlight, “Song of the Ancients / Devola”, which strips things back to just voice, guitar, and piano. The simplicity of the arrangement is very moving, as the trio effortlessly fills up the concert space with their soft and tender performance. The contrast is indeed almost overwhelming, and I’ve been moved to tears on occasion watching it. The piano improv here is particularly lovely. It’s a bit of a shame that “Ashes of Dreams” later on did not get the same treatment, as it is a rather straightforward performance that is fine but ultimately overshadowed by these earlier performances.

The other main featured vocalist is Nami Nakagawa, who was also heavily utilized on the original soundtrack though less prominently featured. Her solo performances here begin with “Possessed by Disease”, an Automata preview track. It is a bit shortened, but Nakagawa’s exotic performance is stunning, covering several octaves with power and ease. Normally on the original soundtrack, Nakagawa’s voice is one of many, so it is wonderful to hear her voice on its own, since she has such a nice use of vibrato and a unique timbre. Unfortunately the uniqueness of her voice puts her at a disadvantage for her rendition of “Emil” as it doesn’t quite work (a more pure and youthful voice is needed for it). But her voice does work well for “Shadowlord”, a slower rendition of the track that is another of my favourites from the concert. The simple and restrained piano quintet accompaniment is very effective, and contrasts well with Nakagawa’s almost operatic vocal, creating an air of tragedy. The last solo performance to be discussed is “Weight of the World” by J’Nicque Nicole, which is a fine albeit very straightforward performance of a rather basic track. She’ll have time to shine much more in the next concert series, but here there is nothing too notable.

The remaining tracks are all duets between Emi Evans and Nakagawa. They first sing together for “The Wretched Automatons” with much more playback than the others, keeping the synths and mechanical percussion of the original. The vocals and strings don’t deviate much from the original, but the piano does introduce small flourishes in the second half of the track, adding a further dimension of beauty to contrast to the harsher industrial elements of the track. “Grandma” also does not deviate substantially from its original, so that while it is still an excellent track in itself, it feels unnecessary here. “Song of the Ancients / Fate” also follows its original closely other than a few stripped down passages, but the live instruments help elevate it. I might have preferred the performance to cut out the extra playback and be purely acoustic, but it is still enjoyable as it is.

In terms of visuals, the set-up works quite well for its intimate sound, with a very dark stage and simple but effective mood lighting on the performers and drapes. There is also a screen on stage which displays a mixture of in-game footage, non-game imagery, and Japanese text. It’s a treat to see the performers, who are eminently watchable even though there is little actually going on. As for the talk portion, there are discussions with the composer Keiichi Okabe, each vocalist, and the Japanese voice actresses for 2B and Emil. Discussion revolves around both the original games as well as Automata, but there are no English subtitles. The value of this portion will thus depend on one’s interest in the games as well as one’s comprehension of Japanese, but ultimately there isn’t anything too essential here, especially now that the game has been out for some time.

Summary

NieR Music Concert & Talk Live is a wonderful first release for the games, with strong performances from both vocalists and instrumentalists, and arrangements that often bring some new elements, either in improvisations or changed up instrumentation. It is remarkable that the concerts even happened given the initial performance and reception of the games, but the team delivered. The concert portion is a bit short, at just over an hour, with over half an hour dedicated to the talk portion, but the music portion will certainly satisfy fans with its emotional performances and instrumental improvisations. I do wish the CD was more widely available, perhaps as bundled with the Blu-Ray, but as it stands the releases are very worthwhile additions to the NieR music canon.

NieR Music Concert & Talk Live: Horobi no Shiro Saisei no Kuro Tien Hoang

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Posted on December 17, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on December 17, 2019.

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