North Blue

North Blue Album Title:
North Blue
Record Label:
Magical Trick Society
Catalog No.:
MTSA-2
Release Date:
August 14, 2010
Purchase:
Buy at D-Stage

Overview

Before Yuji Horii swept Japan off its feet with the release of Dragon Quest, he was making us bite our fingernails in suspense over crime and murder stories. In what is today dubbed as the Yuji Horii Mysteries, players would navigate themselves through an investigation adventure by collecting clues, talking to suspects, and solving puzzles. This trilogy — dearly loved among Japanese gamers as the first true adventure game onn the Famicom — gripped young gamers instantly. The enchanting music featured in the latter two games was a big factor to its legacy and the music from the second title, Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin, is the basis of Magical Trick Society’s latest special release.

Magical Trick Society is a well known circle in the doujin world. Being formed in 2003, they have now been responsible for nearly 20 releases, all featuring video game arrangements. What brings so many fans to love MTS is the diverse selection of both video games and music genres they decide on, resulting in many projects filled with undiscovered sources and interesting takes. This CD is no different from what is now trademark MTS. Doujin circles often employ artists outside of their “homegrown” talents, acting virtually as what we would call music labels. This CD was arranged and performed by AMTR who was also responsible for the stellar Sound of Labyrinth -Wizardry Arrange-.

Body

The album cleverly uses ambiance to its advantage. You will hear sweeps of wind travel across the soundscape and heavy use of hard notes to never let off that a serious crime has taken place. “Title” might be the most familiar track as it is often featured on arrangement CDs, with the most recent example being Pia-Com, where Keita Egusa put his soft piano touches to the melodies. The take AMTR decided on is not too far from Egusa’s, though the sound is wider with the use of a greater range of instruments and technology. This track properly illustrates the mixed feeling of safety with the soft sounds, but the sense of violation and sorrow from the crime committed in a seemingly quiet and safe town. There’s a nice touch to the end, where it hints at a jazz vibe reminiscent oc the style used in old American private eye crime movies.

Not all is doom and gloom, however. “Name Entry”, for instance, is a catchy pop rock song with shades of Casiopea’s influence. It uses a lot of synth horns and a lead synth guitar, giving a sound reminiscent of the arrangement CDs that game companies would put out in the early 90s. The song breaks into an awesome keyboard solo midway through, with the basslines and rhythm guitar sounding very similar to the shop song from River City Ransom, with a happy summery feel to it. “Encounter from the North” meanwhile is a light hearted pop song with influences from Japanese high school anime music; with a juvenile sense of energy and a harder edge to the guitar, it offers quite a spunky attitude.

“Harumi Sea Whale” acts more like a ambient piece and features a no gap lead-in to one of the greatest tracks on the album, “Downtown”. A driving and unsettling rock melody is presented on a somewhat distorted guitar, which almost narrates the story here. It might not be the intended purpose, but it works out great at any rate and sets this track apart. “Leblanc” is another track that sets itself apart, offering a French romantic pop vibe with piano, riverbed guitar, and plenty of bass. “Beginning” begins with a straightforward electric piano solo, though the rest of the track is mostly composed of sound effects of aeroplanes coming and ongoing. It doesn’t offer much melodic content, but is rather there to progress the story told by the album.

“Good Luck” goes back to the beginning of the album with a similar style found in the opening track, though it eventually breaks out the mandolin and accordion. While the opening track has an overlying feeling of pain and shock, this track has more of a curious feeling, with light touches on the piano and prolonged notes from the lead instruments. “Disappearance of Ohotsuk” offers yet another great rock epic, blending a riveting distorted lead guitar with backing strings and fast paced percussion. It’s again the main theme, though this time is given a different arrangement reminiscent of the Konami Kukeiha Club. “Second Investigation Ends” closes the album with a calm bell-based arrangement, featuring the main theme in the synth backing track.

Summary

This album offers exactly what MTS is so well known for: diversity with a clear retro tone going through the entire tracklist. It is a bit on the short side, but it is meant to be the first in a series of Yuji Horii Mystery albums, so what is left out or bound to be revisited will surely make its way onto the next albums. MTS rarely disappoints with their output, and North Blue continues to testify this.

North Blue Audun Sørlie

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!

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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Audun Sørlie. Last modified on August 1, 2012.


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