Sigma Harmonics Original Soundtrack
Sigma Harmonics Original Soundtrack
September 24, 2008
Buy at CDJapan
After his cinematic work on Dirge of Cerberus, many people hoped Masashi Hamauzu would switch back to the style he adopted for the SaGa series with the DS murder mystery RPG Sigma Harmonics. The piano and violin are placed at the centre of the soundtrack and these instruments feature in most important themes. Electronica is also important here thanks to a mixture of influences from Hamauzu’s work on Unlimited SaGa and Musashi: Samurai Legend and the involvement of synthesizer operator and arranger Mitsuto Suzuki. The soundtrack is not very consistent thematically and, as indicated by the title of the soundtrack, the consistency resides in the harmonies such as the use of repeated chromatic transitions between two base chords. There are many masterpieces on the soundtrack so I’ll recommend some of the themes most worthy of listening to in this review.
The opener “One More Tomorrow” is an impressive solo piano opening with ideas from Chopin and Rachmaninov. “Rippling Dream” soon provides one of the major highlights in the soundtrack. It is a complete joy to hear how Hamauzu builds up the tension in this piece. The calm intro leads to an exhilarating mid section featuring innovative exploration of the bass motif and elaboration on the violin melody. This piece differs slightly from the track in the game, using pauses, additional effects, and violin solos, though the shortened version is heard in “Words Were Shaken”. Another major theme of Sigma Harmonics is “The Remains of Time”, the impressionistic theme featured on the background of the game’s official site. It has been slightly modified with more bell and clock sounds by Mitsuto Suzuki. “Gentle Timbre” is reminiscent of the joyous childish pieces of Musashi: Samurai Legend and Unlimited SaGa. Hamauzu’s distinctive violin sound merges with Suzuki’s minimalistic electronica to enjoyable effect. “Possession” is a fast-paced piece with many orchestrational skills and bursts of piano mastery and “Spun Time” builds further on the style with swift 16th notes.
Moving to the battle themes, “Hope Given” isn’t just any old theme. It is a mixture of many ideas in terms of rhythms, transitions, electronic effects, layering, and harmonies and some parts sound extraordinarily like Final Fantasy XIII‘s original trailer music. Hamauzu and Suzuki go all out with the electronic effects on “Bright Invitation”; the bass line is reminiscent of some pieces from the second disc of Unlimited SaGa but there are some very sophisticated acoustic solos and unusual harmonic transitions as well. The introduction to “Heartening”, again elaborated on from the game version, is reminiscent of the battle themes heard in the SaGa series and the exceptional melody can be heard in unison between piano and violin. Other familiar sounding pieces are “Expression” and “That’s Play”, which are influenced by Dirge of Cerberus‘s “Pegasus Riders” with their chord stabs and rock percussion, though nicely contrasted as well. “Guidance to the Ultimate” is an example of what Hamauzu is capable of on the side of techno with interesting transitions in frequencies. “The Whole World” is another example of techno mastery with fusions with jazz and experiments in panning, surround, and compression.
Moving on to the more ambient works, “Approaching Abyss” is a work of genius. Whereas the accent is usually placed on the first beat, Hamauzu changes the rhythmic progression after 24 measures by deleting a beat and giving the illusion that the accent is placed on the fourth beat of the measure. Slowly the listener will change their mindset and feel the fourth beat is actually the first beat in the subsequent measures. There are quite atmospheric cinematic cues on the soundtrack. Most of them, such as “A Man Stabbed by Evil”, “Men’s Shaped Regret”, and “Calling Triple Claw”, are short and comprised chiefly of electronic or sound effects so lack stand-alone listening potential. Towards the end of the album, “Watcher of the Time of Disasters” provides a more substantial atmospheric theme. “The Screams of Time Rotating” is a very powerful climax combining ferocious orchestration with bells, triangles, and piano accentuated in an almost anvil-like manner. “Who is He Anyway” showcases Hijiri Kuwano’s violin work in all its glory and “Visiting Time Before Long” combines it with other forces to create a cute floating effect. The album concludes with the gothic vocal theme “Harmonia Vita”, not composed by Hamauzu.
Overall I’m very pleased with this soundtrack and recommend everyone to buy it. It feels like Hamauzu has read feedback about his work and given to us what we hoped for. He offers fantastic modulations, techno sounds, sound effects, violin solos, orchestral mastery, and the usual piano accompaniment. There is innovation in rhythmic movement and harmonic continuity throughout the score. I can’t wait for his work on Final Fantasy XIII having heard this soundtrack.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Katchum. Last modified on August 1, 2012.