Persona 4 Original Soundtrack
Persona 4 Original Soundtrack
July 23, 2008
Buy at CDJapan
Shoji Meguro changed the face of Persona with his Persona 3 soundtrack. That soundtrack was an aural adventure for me, so I was excited to see what Meguro would do in its sequel. Has he improved his style? Did he get rid of those lame Japanese rappers? Given how delightful Persona 3 was, Meguro just keeps going up in my mind. Let’s see how he fares here.
The album immediately buzzes with “Pursuing My True Self”, a jazzy vocal theme containing Meguro’s distinctive sound. Some catchy J-Pop singing is spiced up by distorted trumpets blaring in the background and some funky piano playing. It is a bit of a short opener, but welcome the entire time. Ah, “Aria of the Soul”. This is the seminal song that is included in every Persona game, but this time it is completely unchanged from Persona 3. Intense strings, gentle piano work, and beautiful operatic singing once again return for a rich five minute contemplation. J-Pop rules the day in Persona land with “Heartbreak, Heartbreak”. A piano provides a backdrop for some pleasant singing, but the real treat is the funky underlying tones strings and percussion. A strange timbre is featured in “Your Affection”. The keyboards have an almost bouncy quality to them whereas the drums have a refreshing tribal quality. Eventually, the J-Pop vocalist once again chimes in, but is tolerable enough.
“Reach Out To The Truth -First Battle-” gets listeners moving right at the start of the album. Meguro offers a peculiar blend of surfing guitar lines and upbeat J-Pop vocals. It sounds a little off for a battle theme, but it is creative and catchy enough to be enjoyable nonetheless. The organ provides excellent backup filling in some melody when the vocalist is absent. Developing the jazz sound, there’s some brass action in “Like A Dream Come True”. The trombone and trumpet work powerfully together here and really slam the high notes. They take a break before a jazz organ takes charge. The return of the brassy focus feels somewhat formulaic, but at least some piano chords colour the texture. It’s very catchy regardless. “I’ll Face Myself -Battle-” is a completely rock-inspired track reminiscent of Digital Devil Saga 2. The electric guitar mainly brings the action here and the drums complement each part well. When the guitar bows out, the drums take the beat and produce some truly interesting rhythms. Pure Meguro rock through and through, this one is a keeper.
“New Days” features that signature breakbeat rhythm that Meguro is known for. The rhythm drives itself through the entire piece while light piano work serenades the listener. The track gains some steam and a rearing guitar transiently takes over before the track settles back into its chill roots. The more industrial side of Meguro rears its head in “Castle”. Composed entirely of synthetic elements, the hard-edged beats and serious strings create a very devious nature. Eventually, however, an electric piano replaces the synth work and adds a very pillowy section into the mix. This is a perfect interlude since the industrial synth comes back and sounds even more urgent than before. “Deduction” features a nice blend of acoustic piano work and abstract synth. Although the drumming is of standard coffee shop variety, the trumpet and trombone work are more extravagant. Overall, the track brings a lot of elements together to create a perfect jazz hit.
Exploring some of the other vocal themes, in “Studio Backlot”, Meguro shows his flair for creating contemporary yet novel track by blending J-Pop vocals with march-like accompaniment. The instrumentation is very effective and the vocals create the right mood with even a little rapping featured here and there. Although the timbre is very interesting, there isn’t enough variation during the development. As a result, the track becomes a bit of a bore when it loops.”Heaven” has a bit of a confusing start and the body of the track wavers between sections dedicated to a beautiful voice and those with a poppy mood. Overall, it sometimes sounds like a sexy jazzy love song and other times an upbeat pop song. “Signs Of Love” is built upon strong beats with a great disco inflection pool. The foreground is mainly compromised of well-stylized female vocals and some jazzy organ section, though can sound bare when some of the instruments drop out leaving only vocals and drums. The song nevertheless keeps a certain grooviness the entire time, but it does become a bit monotonous after a minute.
“Who’s There” recounts one of the features Persona is known for — frightening and abstract piano work. The minimalistic piano motifs really give a sense of a lurking evil while the strings swell to create an even more sinister tone. It’s very effective in context and not bad on a stand-alone level either. One of the most ambient tracks in the soundtrack, “Midnight Channel” features high-pitched string crisis motifs being punctuated by some deep low-pitched strings. The high strings are relentless with their continuous rhythms and increasing dynamic level, giving a sense of being chased. However, it’s rather anti-climactic how the track suddenly just ends. In “Corridor”, gentle minimalistic piano work serandes the ears here. The strings waver in and out to bring an air of creppiness, but later provide a serene support to the increasingly more romantic piano work. This is a beautiful miniature. “Game” meanwhile seems to be a tribute to old-school game music. Distorted synth emulates the square and triangle waves of old, though gradually grows more dramatic and fuses the archaic sound with some more modern features. It’s not very good for more than a minute though.
One of the more meaningful efforts, “Secret Base” is presented by a sad but determined piano line. It is embellished by some modern electronic instrumentation and some ethereal interludes reinforce the gentle nature. Piano also drives the melancholic “Traumeri”. After some contemplation from the solo piano, hip-hop drumming is added and gives some depth to the piece. The track is simple with two parts, but is a much-needed break from some of the clutter of the other tracks. “Alone” is an appropriate name for this track because the lead piano has a very depressing sound to it. The intro starts with some happy chords, but after the masking is over, the piano reveals the character’s true feelings and the track descends into some sadness. The piece battles with itself since the character isn’t sure what they are feeling. This gives the track an interesting dichotomy. At first, “SMILE” seems like another pretty piano-led piece, but the track eventually evolves. The piano bows out while a fascinating synth line comes out to provide the melody. I found myself smiling at this onee, just enjoying the dynamics between the two instruments.
Meguro gradually builds a guitar-driven arena track here in “The Almighty”. The overdriven guitar plays the melody over fairly frisky drums. After a bit of messing around, the piano adds a more serious tone for this encounter. The result is a very dynamic and enpowering composition that entertains throughout its comparatively long 4:39 duration. The trance goes wild in “Zone Time”. The electronic beats are exciting and the drums offer a fast-paced clicking sound in the background. Some strings are added to give some desperation to the already sinister theme. Despite this, the track is a bit stale and there is not enough variation to really write anything home about. The longest track on the album, the secret boss theme “The Genesis” assaults the ears with foreboding and bombastic low brass. Timpani blast out the beat and snares comes in to add a bit of a march inflection. The track is a bit on the repetitive side, but the build up can be interesting to listen to. If you can bring yourself to get to the five minute mark there is a reprisal of “I’ll Face Myself” featuring especially compelling brass work. A great achievement, though perhaps overly long.
Courtesy of Atsushi Kitajoh, “Muscle Blues” is a very bluesy, jazzy piece that lives up to its name. It starts out very strong with a very interesting instrument choice; the saxophone takes a stranglehold on the melody and hires the organ to provide some backup. Also from the artist, “It’s a Showtime” is a Latino piece with strong samba vibes. The melody isn’t all that interesting but its solid nonetheless, though the short track length doesn’t really allow for any interesting developmnt. There’s more Latin pieces from him in “Someone Else’s Man”, a lovely guitar-punctuated tango, and “Quelorie Magic”, a very bubbly and bouncy track. “Junes Theme” meanwhile is a very peppy theme composed by Ryota Kozuka. The techno has a very cheery feel and more instruments are added to reinforce the joyous sound. Woodblock and dog barks are played in the background to add to the cuteness. It’s not an amazing composition, but it all adds to the diversity and charm. The artist also offers arrangements of “Strength of Heart” and “The Path is Open”. Whereas the former is more ambient, the latter emanates with brightness.
Moving to the closure, “Never More” is a slow J-Pop theme. The track takes its time, but it is completely worth listening to, especially with the trumpets blaring in the background. This piece never seems to get repetitive despite its six minute length since Meguro brings plenty of variety and freshness to the mix. Moving to the remixes, ‘another version’ of “I’ll Face Myself” is kind of neat. There is a simple hip-hop drumming in the background with the trumpet playing the main melody. The piano jumps in to take the melody for a little bit only to give it straight back to trumpet. They don’t seem to want to share parts at the same time; it’s either one or the other. “Electronica of the Soul” is the now trademark re-imagining of “Aria of the Soul”. The main operatic section clashes so badly with the instrumentals that the Master of the Velvet room would throw the Belladonna out. The reinterpretation is appreciated but the song fails in so many aspects that I should go listen to the original to forget about this.
That was quite a trip. This is another solid effort from Meguro. Not everything in this soundtrack was completely pristine, but much of it was good. The album took more of a retro feeling instead of a hip-hop feeling, although the influence from Persona 3 is there. Again, Meguro offers an eclectic mix of genres in this album and merges them so well to create a distinct sound. The improvement of the vocal tracks covers up many weak points from the last soundtrack. If you enjoyed the Persona 3 soundtrack, you will love this soundtrack. If you were a hater of P3, then still give this one a try as Persona 4 is varied enough to inspire some positive feelings.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Daniel Jackman. Last modified on August 1, 2012.