August 14, 2010
Buy at Official Site
Whisper Records is a circle that focuses mostly on making themed original albums with often Celtic and folk influenced instrumentations and stories. Over S is, to some extent, a follow up to their 2007 release Skywards, and we now travel beyond the sky onto new mysterious places. As with Skywards, Whisper called for Kou Ogata to help them tell these stories through music, as they have many times before. Kou Ogata is, of course, the famous flute player, who under the circle name K-Waves Lab, previously released Chrono Cross ~memory of music~ and Vana’diel Traditional Suite of Minstrels, a Final Fantasy XI arrange album.
Whisper Records albums are always geared towards the listeners’ interpretation of their music and what images they provoke. With this CD, they really try to play up a sense of mystery through exploration, which is often similar to themes we hear in RPG games, especially of the older RPGs during the SNES and early PSX days. All the compositions and instruments were done by Whisper’s Ryo and Kujira Shionagi while Kou Ogata delivers his trademark flute and fiddle performances.
“On Board (foresight)” marks the start of this five track journey. It starts with some gentle tones of a harmonica before a small horn section gets added. What’s wonderful about this track is the mood it sets — a sense of an early morning where everything wakes up and the day starts. With this, all the instruments “wake” up as they are introduced one-by-one before melody sets in. The low flute conveys a sense of trepidation as it slowly builds towards the main melody, where all the instruments return; they begin a driving main act with fast drums and a wonderful interaction between the low flute and the fiddle to signify that the journey is started and we are on our way.
“Seaside Line” is the grand epic of the album with its beautiful and adventurous mood. The first part of this piece is mostly guided by the tin flute playing of Ogata with a drum and synth backing track. This piece uses repetition quite efficiently as the beginning part uses very few instruments and eventually we come to a break down point where a small section is played over and over again. This is first played solo with the low flute by Ogata, but for every repetition the loop takes, one more instrument such as the guitars, fiddle, harmonica, and so on joins in and the melody intensifies. This actually goes on for some time to build up the mood and idea that you passing or climbing a big hill to reveal a grand landscape. As it completely builds up, it all breaks down again for a single more repetition with the tin flute before every instrument plays along to the main melody heard before the middle section.
“Lights’ Park” and “Uphill, Downhill” offers some different styles from those featured elsewhere on the album. Whereas the first two tracks have a heavy emphasis on Ogata’s live instruments and sampled acoustic instruments, these two are all about the atmosphere and use a different set of forces. “Lights’ Park” is a slow, almost somber, piece played entirely on accordion. The melody has an almost sea shanty feeling to it, but this is balanced out with an ambience of crowd noise and traffic, to give it a feeling of being in a village. “Uphill, Downhill” feels a lot more modern than the other pieces because of the heavy use of synths and electronic elements throughout. It’s really interesting that, in this piece, the different instruments play to a different mood: the marching band drums gives it a feeling of progress and movement, the piano a feeling of calm and warmth, while the pan flute gives off a mysterious vibe which all help to create a very adventurous track. This track is somewhat similar to the works of Hikichi Masanori’s works with the mixtures of moods and emotions going into the piece.
“On Board (with memories)” finishes off the journey with a return of Ogata and his variety of flutes and fiddle. This piece incorporates a lot of small passages from the different tracks across the album to give a strong reflective feeling. Like the first piece, this one also is performed in two parts, with the first part a slow acoustic melody with soft guitar strokes and chord changes. There’s a saxophone solo during the early parts of this piece giving it a jazz mood until the second part kicks things into gear with rock beat drums and a fast flute lead, reminding us that there’s more adventures ahead another day.
A thing to note is the absolutely gorgeous artwork that comes on the album. The CD is packaged in a folded paper sleeve which shows a picture of a girl on a windy beach looking out towards the sea where there is a mysterious mountain leading into the sky. The artwork is done by TOKIAME from art circle SWAY WIND, who does most of Whisper’s cover art and is as breathtaking as the music in every right. It was so good, in fact, that I had to scan it, painfully remove all text, and folds just so I could make a hi-res poster out of it.
I’ve always been a big fan of Kou Ogata’s work, both in originals and arrangement scenes, and his work with Whisper Records always seem to push some of his best performances out of him. All the pieces here work together to create a musical story, in the same way that KiRite did, and through great compositions and excellent execution it works great. If one was to compare the music here to any game, I would say it has a bit of The Wind Waker‘s explorative playfulness and Granstream Saga‘s sky and mystery. It’s one of my favorite releases so far in 2010 and a great return for Whisper after a three year absence doing works for other circles. A great release musically and artistically.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Audun Sørlie. Last modified on August 1, 2012.