NieR Music Concert: Memories of Puppets
NieR Music Concert: Memories of Puppets (Blu-Ray Edition / CD Edition)
Square Enix Music
SQEX-20037 (Blu-ray Edition); SQEX-20038 (w/ Eng. subtitles); SQEX-10689/90 (CD Edition)
September 20, 2017
Buy at CDJapan
NieR Music Concert: The Memories of Puppets is the second concert video release for the NieR games, focusing on music from NieR: Automata with a few tracks from NieR Gestalt and Replicant. As with the previous release, the concert assembles many of the original vocalists alongside a handful of instrumentalists for largely stripped-down and intimate arrangements. Also included this time around are a series of new stage readings that expand on the story and lore of NieR: Automata, and the first-pressing even comes with the full script for one of these readings. The music performances were later made available as a CD set at special venues and events.
The first song of the night is “City Ruins”, performed by J’Nique Nicole and piano quintet. It is a very soft performance throughout, but one that sounds very different from the ethereal and expansive original mostly thanks to the immediacy of the vocal and the thickness of the strings. Nicole’s singing is light and vulnerable throughout, making the song feel even sadder than the original. As will be the case with the other performances from this concert, this performance does not seek to replace the original, but instead stands firmly on its own with its unique palette and emotional register.
It is Nicole’s other solo performances that allow her to show off her powerhouse voice and wonderful use of vibrato. “Memories of Dust” is one such performance, and it’s a highlight of the concert because of how much clearer Nicole’s voice is than in the original. Here one can much more easily appreciate the expressiveness of the nonsense “chaos” language utilized throughout the soundtracks; the dense consonants force Nicole to almost hurl out the words that she sings, making the longer syllables that much more satisfying. The performance is also bolstered by the strings and a great guitar performance, which give the track further edge. Another solo is “Alien Manifestation”, originally sung by Nakagawa who is regrettably absent from the concert. Although the instrumental is standard, Nicole brings a very different quality to the track, again utilizing the more vulnerable breathiness that characterizes “City Ruins”. But even her timbre, which is so much more western and familiar than Nakagawa’s original tribal vocal, makes the track feel much more human and grounded. Again, it isn’t necessarily better than the original, just very different and quite interesting, even daring. Her last solo is a quick “Weight of the World” with piano accompaniment, though shortened to just one verse. It takes a more tender tone, which is wise since its shorter duration doesn’t allow for much buildup, though it’s ultimately a bit unremarkable next to the other performances.
The other main soloist is Emi Evans. Her first song is “Amusement Park”, which I didn’t care for much on the original soundtrack; here it feels more interesting because of its stripped-down acoustic arrangement. The serious tone, the steady build-up, and the deliberate tempo are almost at odds with the mysterious and playful melody, but it works well especially in the context of the concert. Later on, “Peaceful Sleep” is as tender and beautiful a performance one could hope for, and Evans even sings the verse melody which was originally instrumental on the original. Without the percussion, the driving beat is halved so that the pulses of the song are now more like calm breaths, giving more impact to the lovely strings arrangement as it builds up. Then there’s “Vague Hope” which takes after the “Cold Rain” Version, but here it is simplified to mere piano and guitar accompaniment, which powerfully emphasizes the pain and isolation painted by the song. Evans’ later solos, the NieR Gestalt and Replicant reprises of “Kainé” and “Ashes of Dreams” are basically identical to the performances from the first concert. As repeats they’re overshadowed by the other, more interesting arrangements of the concert, yet they still nicely round out the concert.
The remaining tracks are mostly duets or ensemble pieces. The only instrumental track is the sombre “Mourning” for the string quartet, which translates well but just feels like an interlude. “A Beautiful Song” is one of the more impressive pieces from the original soundtrack, and Evans and Nicole return to sing it here. Nicole shines in this track with her exceptional vocal performance, and though it’s a real shame that the arrangement essentially repeats itself a second time without any changes to the accompaniment, the performances largely make up for it. Evans and Nicole also handle “Song of the Ancients – Atonement”, “Bipolar Nightmare”, and “The Tower”, all of which are fairly straightforward. The latter two are more interesting since the duo’s vocals are so different from the originals, but they could have used a new arrangement to match that change. Evans is joined my Marina Kawano for “The Sound of the End”, which sticks to the atmospheric side of the original. The strings make this track very mournful, so that it is effective even without the build-up of the original. Kawano is joined by the young Saki Ishii for a cute but again straightforward performance of “Pascal”. But the big event here is “Weight of the World / The End of Yorha” in the encore. It loses its chiptune opening, but the three performers on the track, along with the audience response, make for an emotional showing, which wonderfully ends the concert.
As for the Blu-Ray itself, there is much to be noted. First is the complete inclusion of the stage readings that were present at each concert, each presenting different scenarios expanding on the events and lore of NieR: Automata, featuring the original voice actors. Each concert had a different set of readings, and each version is available here, although only two of them were filmed, while the other five are just audio. A couple of them aren’t very substantial, but the others will be sure to satisfy fans of the game with their emotional scenarios and performances. The original Japanese release does not feature English subtitles, but the one available from the international Square Enix stores does. First press editions come with one of the scripts in Japanese, while the Blu-Ray has the full scripts of all performances on disk. The footage itself is nice, with more editing and effects than most concerts often have. The focus of the effects is more on mood than strict clarity, but it rarely feels intrusive. And although there isn’t much happening on stage, the lighting and outfits work together to make some beautiful shots. It is certainly worth watching, and combined with everything it makes the release one that is worth having.
NieR Music Concert: The Memories of Puppets is a great follow-up to the first NieR concert release, with great vocal performances and nice acoustic arrangements to accompany them. There isn’t as much instrumental improv here as there was on the first release, but the stripped-down arrangements make more of a difference, and the result is quite moving for the slower tracks. There is also a nice amount of extra content for those who played the games, and it is great that all of the different stage readings across the nights are included, for which English-speaking fans should be sure to pick up the version with English subtitles. Even for those not as interested in the games themselves, the musical performances here offer more than enough entertainment, and I can only hope that this concert series will continue for future entries in the series.
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Posted on January 9, 2020 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on March 26, 2020.