The World is Square: SquareLove
The World is Square: SquareLove
September 11, 2015
Download at Bandcamp
For the uninitiated, The World is Square (a reference to Final Fantasy VI) is a five-piece Massachusetts-based VGM folk music cover band that solely focuses on game music associated with Square Enix. The band eschews the distortion and heavy drumming of usual cover acts, opting to go with a more unconventional set of instruments ranging from acoustic guitar, keyboard, mandolin, glockenspiel, hand drums and even a melodica. I love fast-paced, hard-rocking covers of Final Fantasy music as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s nice to kick things down a couple of notches and give the game music-listening crowd something wonderfully unique and relaxing. A year after the release of their second album, Stay Awhile and Listen, The World is Square is back at it with their latest EP, SquareLove.
With only four tracks totaling at 9:27, SquareLove is a super brief listen, even for an EP. With that said, it’s aim is to be a little teaser for the band’s next album, due out sometime in 2016.
Even if it might not be long enough to tide me over during the entirety of a Final Fantasy summoning cutscene, I have to applaud the band for its track selections, which include excellent deep cuts from Revo’s Bravely Default, Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy IX, Yasuaki “Bun Bun” Fujita’s Breath of Fire and Yoko Shimomura’s Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars soundtracks.
Bravely Default’s “The Fascinating Flower Country (City of Florem Theme)” appropriately kicks off the EP with an upbeat, Romani-flavored melody backed by melodica, disco beat and steady hand drumming. I really enjoyed the unison of the electric guitar and mandolin, which gives the main melody a lot more power.
“Slew of Love Letters” from Final Fantasy IX is perhaps one of the game’s most oft-forgotten tunes. The underrated, quirky Uematsu tune is made even quirkier by the band, thanks to the creative melding of glockenspiel, bass guitar, banjo, mandolin and shaker. This studio-recorded version features some percussive enhancements since the release of their live performance of the track in the form of added hi-hats and snare drum. I have to give a special shoutout to the funky bass guitar effects handled here by way of a wah pedal. It really adds to its whimsical nature.
While Breath of Fire is technically a Capcom series, the first game was published by Squaresoft in North America. This loophole has allowed The World is Square to tackle the first game’s music, and the festive “Song and Dance” serves as a great choice. Despite the guitar intro feeling slightly off note-wise, this rendition shines with its guitar leads backed up by varied, intricate hand drum patterns. It still sounds fitting for parties (and anthropomorphic / human hybrid weddings) despite it being far less over-the-top than the original tune. Sometimes I wonder if “Song and Dance” was ever considered for DeeJay’s Theme in Super Street Fighter II.
While there are a handful of YouTube and OC ReMix covers of Breath of Fire tunes out there, this marks the first time a full-fledged, touring VGM cover band has ever released a cover song from a Breath of Fire game. Given my admittedly huge passion for the series, this means a lot to me, and I hope it sets the stage for more covers of Breath of Fire’s music in the future.
The EP closes out with Super Mario RPG’s “And, My Name is Bukki (Booster’s Tower).” The original track sported a very grungy-sounding bassline that perfectly fit the personality of Booster. The low keyboard backing captures that spirit somewhat, but I feel it’s way too quiet in the mix. The track is still playful and fun to listen to, with the strum-heavy outro being one of my favorite parts.
Despite its brevity, SquareLove is a wonderful tease of things to come for the band. With every subsequent album the five-piece delves further into the deep cuts of Square Enix’s musical library. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air in a niche scene where it feels like almost every VGM cover band needs to cover “One Winged Angel” and “Dr. Wily Stage 1” for the millionth time. Consider SquareLove a worthy five-gil investment.
Posted on September 18, 2015 by Patrick Kulikowski. Last modified on January 19, 2016.