Soukaigi Original Soundtrack
Soukaigi Original Soundtrack
June 11, 1998
Buy Used Copy
Hiroki Kikuta is a composer that could be perceived as a fan’s favourite: one of those who seem to have few achievements in their career, yet who have always managed to win their fan’s hearts at just the right moments in time. After a three year leave following his successful Seiken Densetsu 3 score, Kikuta took an ambitious leap from SNES to PlayStation with Soukaigi, a score mostly made using live instrumentation.
The first thing that will strike you when you listen to this soundtrack is the vast range in instrumentation. Kikuta’s orchestral, electronic, and fusion styles seem to work perfectly within the themes, since he seems so adept at the manipulation of instrumental clusters, textures, and timbres. The soundtrack reveals the three A-Type incarnations of Kikuta: ‘Ambient Kikuta’, ‘Amorous Kikuta’, and ‘Action Kikuta’, an intriguing upgrade to his B-Type Seiken Densetsu 3 forms. This review will therefore explore each of these styles, and attempt to explain their roles within the album.
“Ancient Power” starts off the album, and its ambient nature has an immediate impact upon the listener. Gliding strings play to a glockenspiel ostinato and, in the background, a ‘cello part flourishes, thus allowing the development of the track to fully function. The 1:18 mark reveals a darker side to the composition as a tambourine, high-pitched strings, and a low-pitched, slow-paced, ‘cello melody play to demonstrate the fading of the ancient power. Of course, in typical video game music style, Kikuta lets the theme return to its original roots, thus ensuring that a certain amount of hope and awe is returned.
A second ambient theme, “Sign,” focuses upon the same type of atmosphere created within the 1:18 section of “Ancient Power,” but this time, Kikuta presents a fusion of styles. With a refrained bass guitar in the background, and some Arabian instruments taking lead of the accompaniment, the focal instrument in this track is a high-pitched violin. “Strange Promise,” uses a similar formula, but with a switch in the hierarchy of instrumentation. In this trip-hop track, strings take a small background role whereas the rest of the track orientates around a rock setting. The addition of drums, a creative piano line, and what seems to be a 12-stringed guitar work really well, and they seem like something of a shocking addition from a newly formed Kikuta. The last of the ambient tracks on the album takes the form of yet another instrumental style; “Silence” could be described as slow-paced electronica or trance, and although it is probably the least-striking theme on the album, it still functions beautifully.
So, how does Kikuta’s amorous nature evolve in this album? Well, namely, it all occurs in two tracks: “Lovely Strains” and “Broken Memory.” “Lovely Strains” is a bittersweet vocal track which features the charming voice of Kotomi Kyouno. Initially focusing on a minor key, this orchestral theme differs to what has been heard before since a sense of longing is developed through its cascading melodies. Word painting and carefully placed accentuation on words in the line “I suppress the pain in my heart and follow” [trans.] shows Kikuta’s creative capabilities in full flow, and although it can be easily missed, this type of technique used throughout the track are what makes it as successful as it is. As for “Broken Memory,” well, this is my favourite theme. It takes the form of a string quartet, and a sweet melody is presented by the violins. With the strings gracing each note so solidly, it’s hard not to adore the fluid nature of the piece, or perhaps even become intertwined with its gracious movements.
Two of the lesser of the passionate tracks on the album are “Angel’s Fear Again” and “Quake.” “Angel’s Fear Again” sees Kikuta adopt an acoustic style, with the main instrumentation being an acoustic guitar and a gentle piano melody. Despite its considerable potential, the theme falls dues to its blue end and lack of development. On a side note, for those of you familiar with “Angel’s Fear” from the Seiken Densetsu series, this piece doesn’t share the same melody, but is related as Kikuta’s tool of self-representation. Indeed, the two share a similar set of instruments. The next theme, “Quake” adopts a similar captivating atmosphere to the ambient tracks, but this time Kikuta also ensures that the entire style of the piece sees some variety, and not just the instrumentation. Starting off as a chant, the piece develops to explore a rock-orientated atmosphere. Powerful drums, a funky bass guitar, and a rather cheeky glockenspiel are all added to provide accompaniment to the chant before a violin presents itself in full glory.
Last but not least, Kikuta’s action side! “Absolute Lady” is the track that really gets it all going. Rather experimental in nature, the theme takes a bass-driven jazzy style at first before leading into a section filled with a rampant piano line. Female scatting in the background adds a nice effect while a sense of action is enhanced by the addition of some electronic distortion. “New Day” is just as original, and takes upon a very French impressionist feel. A rhythmic guitar background accompanies an impressive solo guitar melody to create a traditional ‘French hamlet’ atmosphere, but with a hint of action added too. “Frequency” blends the techniques used in “Absolute Lady” and “New Day”. The theme explores a traditional French sound, and a certain sense of buoyancy is created through its jazzy atmosphere. Lastly, “Energy” is the one of the more prominent explosive themes on the album. Kikuta ensures that an electric guitar takes centre stage. Although little development occurs in the first minute or so of the track, a Motoi Sakuraba-esque rock organ segment comes in to add an extra bit of oomph to the situation. Of course, as with the very first theme I mentioned, “Ancient Power,” Kikuta once more ensures that the piece returns to its original roots.
With such a great variety of styles and atmospheres created, Kikuta really gives us what the doctor ordered with this soundtrack: 500mg of kickasspirin. The blend of orchestral, rock, jazz, and various other styles all seems to come together to create a great album which will most likely impress most game music fans. Indeed, after hearing all of these themes, it’s hard to find any loose hinges at all. Doors were left open for Kikuta to experiment further. It’s rather sad that in the next year he went a little too far with Koudelka, but we’re all allowed to be ambitious once in our life, aren’t we?
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.