Songs for the Cure ’11
Songs for the Cure ’11
March 29, 2011
Buy at Official Site
In 2008, composer Josh Whelchel, known for his work on The Spirit Engine 2, began The Indie Music Cancer Drive to raise money for The American Cancer society via, fittingly enough, indie music. This year’s relief effort consists of Esuna and Remedy, two albums that come loaded with a total of 39 exclusive tracks and names sure to resonate with most video game fans. Each album contains songs from a broad array of musical genres, offering up chiptune arrangements alongside several non-VGM tracks with styles ranging from ambient to acoustic with a bit of a cappella thrown in for good measure. Are they worth a listen? They are, if you don’t like cancer!
At the risk of oversimplification, the tracks of Esuna and Remedy can be broken down into four main groups: Techno/Electronica, Ambient/Jazz, Acoustic/Indie, and VGM/Chiptune. There are, of course, exceptions to these groupings- songs that do not feat neatly into any of the four groupings, and they are some of the most enjoyable and noteworthy tracks on the albums. The ridiculously catchy “Ebenebe Ga Egbu” by LucasArts composer Wilbert Roget, II is one such track which blends traditional African vocals with a modern bluegrass feel. Poolside’s “Forever Young Rachel” is another exemplar, which is unfortunately slightly less enjoyable. The somewhat obscure reference to Final Fantasy VI all but obligates me to like it, as does the late 90’s goth-feel that the track strives for, but the performance of the vocalists makes it somewhat difficult to listen to.
On the video game music front, Souleye’s “Alone Without You” is a masterstroke of a chiptune ballad which features some rather intricate fade effects that helps assuage the trademark flat tones of the genre. “Keep On” by smartphone game soundtrack composer Whitacker Blackall delivers a less traditional style of chiptune with more dance and rock elements layered in throughout. It is an enjoyable track on its own, but it segues nicely into Jay Tholen’s “Flames Grew Higher” on a random shuffle. The crossover genre chip-hop is represented by A_Rival’s bass-heavy “8-bit Pimp (Just Pimp ’em Remix)” which is, I can attest, easily capable of setting off nearby car alarms given a halfway decent subwoofer and heavy hand on the equalizer.
Jake Kaufman aka Virt’s contribution to Songs for the Cure is “Roboflamenco”, an electronic powernoise flamenco which would make great entrance music for a cybernetic professional wrestler from Barcelona. Although a rather high concept piece, it is easily one of the best on either album. Equally high concept is Josh Whelchel’s “Requiem Aeternam”, which is as dark and operatic as it is electronic in its inspiration. The vocals are balanced perfectly over the supporting musical elements and the end result is something of a connoisseur’s electronica. FFMusic DJ’s “Mind Eleven” is a more typical representation of electronica/techno music with a steady, understated backbeat that only falters when the song enters the obligatory, trippy bridge smack dab in the middle of its run time. It is techno cheese at its finest, and it is quite enjoyable as a result.
On the acoustic/indie front, Kara Ali delivers steady alto vocals and incredibly proficient guitar work on “Burn On” which recalls some of the greater moments of the female folk resurgence in the mid 1990s. “Burn On” finds something of a stylistic companion piece in Tina Lundelius’ “Live Life Wide” which is a bit more college rock in its sound but certainly worth a listen. One of the most enjoyable songs in this grouping is Michael Tannenbaum’s instrumental “Moon and the Spoon”, an instrumental acoustic guitar piece that simultaneously highlights the Hawaiian musician’s technical prowess and the versatility of the acoustic guitar.
Finally, representing the ambient/jazzy grouping is Morgen La Civita’s “Glass”. A smoky, jazz piece with seductive, wonderfully balanced vocals from the New Jersey based musician, it proves that not everything to come from the state these days is déclassé pop culture fodder. “Kite in June”, contributed by OneUp Studios’ Joshua Morse, is an upbeat piece of contemporary jazz piece with a bright piano theme that shines even in its slower moments. Meanwhile Mass Effect 2‘s Jimmy “Big Giant Circles” Hinson contributes “Cubic Zirconium”, which features masterful blending and progressive themes. Although “Cubic Zirconium” is a slower piece, it feels far too short at 4:15 — a testament to Hinson’s mastery of tempo and pacing.
There is no doubt that Esuna and Remedy offer music that will appeal to a broad range of fans, but the largest problem the albums face is finding a rare fan who can appreciate all of the tracks taken as a cohesive whole. A fan of college a capella may love David Saulesco’s “Light Up The Whole Sky Like Fire” but find DJPretzel’s “Electrotherapy” jarring and abrasive, while fans of traditional video game music may scratch their heads at Jamie Jamieson’s inspirational “Afraid of the Dark”.
Ultimately, the unifying element of the albums is the songs themselves which — regardless of their genres and labels — are all of exceptional quality and support a terrific charitable cause. Esuna and Remedy are a bargain at $5.00 each so give them a listen, expand your musical horizons a bit, and rock out knowing that your donation helped advance the field of cancer research. Note that a third album, Reiki, is slated for release later this year but was unavailable at time of this review.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Matt Diener. Last modified on August 1, 2012.