Project Majestic Mix -The Trance Album-
Project Majestic Mix -The Trance Album-
November 5, 2004
Buy Used Copy
KFSS Studios’ Project Majestic Mix: The Trance Album is a collection of trance video game remixes that, unfortunately, fails to impress. While the studio was certainly interested in creating the best possible album to follow up the earlier A Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu, The Trance Album does not improve upon its predecessor. The work is not horrible and a listener can certainly hear the music in its entirety without being completely turned off, but there isn’t anything that stands out either. In some cases, one could be forgiven for thinking that much of the album consists of one track were the gaps between tracks are not present. While there are one or two high points, a lack of variety in the melody, harmony, and underlying beats all contribute to a bland experience.
I really want to be able to say that KFSS Studios produced great albums when they were still around. After all, I support fan-produced video game music and generally want people to succeed at writing great music. But it would be wrong of me to try to sugarcoat the fact that KFSS Studios was not able to produce an album that rivals those produced by OverClocked ReMix, OneUp Studios, or the game companies themselves. This is perhaps the main reason it ended up shutting down in 2008.
The biggest problem with The Trance Album is that all the music sounds the same. While trance is a genre where, to some extent, the melody is less important than the beat, some semblence of melody is still important to differentiate the tracks from each other. If the melody is absent, then the beat has to differ, or the harmony has to vary. But on The Trance Album, the melody is only hinted upon, appearing here and there for a few seconds at a time. Meanwhile, the same beat, or one that sounds very similar, continues with little differentiation throughout the song or even across several tracks. The effect is almost like elevator music in that it fades into the background — quite unlike most psychadelic trance out there — which is why a better term might be “elevator music on steroids.” Where the melodies do appear, repetition is often used in place of arrangement. At times, a single series of notes will be repeated over and over, perhaps an octave up or down, for 30 seconds or a full minute with little variety.
Part of the problem might be that the songs being remixed here are not well-suited to trance in the first place. "Mistaken Love" from Final Fantasy IX, for example, is probably not the first song that comes to mind when imagining a trance album. There are awesome songs in a number of video games that could be remixed incredibly as trance. For example, if KFSS wanted to include a Final Fantasy track on the album, then "Dancing Mad" would have been a much more interesting selection than "Mistaken Love". I would have loved to see how the artists took a song that has been traditionally performed by organ or, more recently, guitar, and turned it into something few would have imagined at first. Instead, however, the creators chose slow songs like "Rena’s Theme" from Star Ocean: The Second Story or the "Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII" and attempted to force them into a mold where they simply do not fit.
In addition to not "fitting," some arrangements, like "Egg of Dreams" from Xenogears, are simply poorly produced. "Egg" is one of the few cringe-worthy remixes that I’ve reviewed for this site, because the sample that is used for the bells/keyboard is so distracting that it’s almost impossible to evaluate the rest of the track on its own merits. Even if the sample weren’t used, however, there’s little that redeems "Egg", with much of the track consisting of too few instruments and too much repetition to sustain listener interest. This track is definitely the very low point of the album.
"G-Storm" and "On Top of Jacob’s Ladder" represent an improvement, although these two mediocre tracks are not home-runs. They differentiate themselves from many of the other songs on The Trance Album by varying the selection of instruments. At one point, for example, a piano breaks up the tension created by the pounding beat that had been continuing unabated from the start of the piece. Changeups like these keep things interesting, and the other songs would be significantly better if even one of these "breaks" were included. When an album relies so heavily on the same continuous rhythm, even a short break makes things seem fresh again.
Finally, while no track reaches a level of greatness, the album concludes on an above-average note with "White Skies", based on “People of the Far North” from Final Fantasy X. I liked this track because it more closely follows the conventions of a traditional remix, with the original melody more closely intertwined with the trance elements. It’s OK to step away from the original for a while, but the remix needs to return to its foundation periodically to succeed. "White Skies" is one of the only tracks to accomplish this feat.
The Trance Album, unfortunately, would have needed significant improvement in order for KFSS to sell as many albums as do the game companies’ official releases. Much of the work is bland, with little variation. It’s possible for the listener to tune out, not even noticing the gaps between one track and another. The melodies of the original game pieces are nearly lost, and it is often difficult to identify the originals in the remixes. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the experience is that the album could have been so much better had better source material been selected. If you’re a completionist and have to hear everything that’s been produced by the game arrangement community, then find a copy, but the majority of listeners won’t miss anything by avoiding this album.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Stephen Sokolowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.