Technosoft Game Music Collection Vol. 2 -Excursion-
Technosoft Game Music Collection Vol. 2 -Excursion-
February 1, 1990
Buy at Official Site
Fighting past Illusion, the Technosoft sound team eventually released their second album Excursion in 1990, seeking to provide new arrangements of classic Technosoft musical material. The work of Tomomi Ohtani, Naosuke Arai, and Michiko Shomura is still elusive in any full-fledged album releases to date, but this release sidesteps this issue by cleaning up the amount of filler present in their first album and focusing on the soundtracks of two games in particular — showcasing more well-developed and cleverly-arranged interpretations of music from Herzog Zwei and New Legend of the Nine Stars (plus a little something from Thunder Force II). Excursion successfully establishes a growing sense of stability within the Technosoft sound team, with the meandering harmonies presented by Ohtani and the varied arrangements of Arai, and also acts as the last big hurrah for these two composers.
The “Scramble Gals Club 1990” certainly is short-lived, but is also the only particular malignancy this album possesses. After such an ordeal of album promotion, Naosuke Arai treats the listener to the first of many great rearrangements, the first being being about how “The Super Fighter Invigorated Us”. As if to build upon the faux sense of cordiality found in a name like “Herzog”, the track opens with viola and pizzicato strings on a baroque note, before a predictable segue into the heat of battle. This does in fact make light of Arai and Ohtani’s stylistic interest in combining more complex melodies and harmonic structures into their music, particularly with the Herzog games, and this first arrangement establishes the influences of baroque music and how these influences work with traditional hard rock precedents to create a unique sound for the time.
To contrast this, “The Previous War” takes a more decidedly metal influence in its arrangement. It brings the title screen theme to life well past a scant 10 seconds to include organ solo passages and a ominous intro sequence — the very essentials of battle, expressed through music, and without much of the filler that normally plagues such early in-house arrangements around the turn of the decade. For Ohtani, it seems “There is No Time to Lose”. The arranger varies up this piece with some newly-derived downtime sections in between uptempo passages, before bringing the track to close on a percussive note. While the chord progression is notably morose in nature, this works with the overall percussiveness of the arrangement and the original context to provide a more-than-motivating battle theme.
“Be His Soul Rest in Peace” is a suitable contrast, a more grim interpretation of Ohtani’s endgame composition. Embellished percussion and brass in minor bring both a steady pace to the aftermath of a successful and destructive conflict, as well as a dying ambition to keep fighting in the face of futility. And, to prevent the whole atmosphere from turning utterly depressing, the artists conclude the Herzog section of the album with an arrangement of the ending theme, “Go with the Stream”. Compared to the somewhat-desperate battle themes heard prior, this ending ballad takes the same sense of percussion and pacing felt previously and applies it to a more hopeful and forward-looking melody, carried by slap-bass and choir as an intricate melodic line spurns forth from the annals of destruction. Indeed, ‘let there be peace for all’ is the prevailing message this piece carries. With a flash, a bang, and a bit of baroque majesty here and there, Herzog Zwei is certainly one of the more interesting shooting game soundtracks produced.
Going back further, Arai brings to the forefront a rearrangement of his composition from Shin Kyugyokuden (aka New Legend of the Nine Stars), going “On the Street Corner”. Of course, this is typical JRPG town theme fare, though it is well-arranged both through its contrasts of instrumentation and through the gradual development of the melody. More exciting is Michiko Shiromura’s lone composition on the Arai-arranged album: “Etude of Wind”. Composed as an early dungeon theme, the main melody evokes a playfulness that also hides many mysteries and puzzles well ahead, forming a curious waltz with piano, string bass, and minimal percussion. These two tracks already illustrate a level of compositional diversity that reveal the Technosoft sound team to be more than capable of different approaches to their soundtracks.
This is also the case with “The Legend of Nine Gems”, which applies the same arrangement process used for “On the Street Corner” to full effect. Starting from a reflective intro, carried by organ and cello strings, the grand piece then enters the midst of heroic battle, under the direction of blazing trumpets and powerful brass accompaniment. It brings variety to an otherwise archetypal chord progression with numerous sections of contrast and, in general, smart though conventional development of the theme. Ohtani makes his presence known at “Night Closed upon the Scene”, a more atmospheric scene typical of the artist. Starting out with separated vocal chords, coming together to form an air of murkiness and humidity, the track brusquely condenses into an active and misty dungeon theme — clearly meant for more harrowing and immersive conflicts on the road to the end of one’s journey. The musical journey started with a nice day in town has now brought itself to a more exciting, yet somehow yet-restrained status, and the action is only about to get more heated.
Enter the “Crazy Dance, Part 1”. Much like a classic Nobuo Uematsu battle theme, the intro is highly-intense under the guiding strings of acoustic guitars. It thereafter unravels into an organ-fed battle anthem, led by more intense electric guitar and synth as Arai slowly propels both organ and guitar to greater heights of catharsis, occasionally leaving room for more percussion to come in and fill in the rest. When the day is done and the night is over, though, it’s time to head home from one’s “Adventures – Highway Star”. There certainly isn’t much new to such an ending theme, of course: J-pop melodies and instrumentation aren’t too much to celebrate, though their presence is certainly comforting, as is the fittingly-short length of the track and the lack of filler. In the end, it’s everything “Scramble Gals” could have been, and should have been at that!
At the end of the day’s events, it certainly has been a nice Excursion. The new arrangements by Arai and co. present a varied and illustrious image of a more stable and musically mature Technosoft sound team, one that would hold steady the foundation for future releases and welcome in new sound talent. From the all-or-nothing Baroque rock of Herzog Zwei, and the more sentimental and airy music featured from New Legend of the Nine Stars, Technosoft has proven itself to have been just as much about excellence as it is about diversity, mixing the two for a nice big cup of adversity. Even so, the flaws from Illusion are still present: low sample quality for many of the arrangements featured, a few disappointingly developed arrangements, and incomplete soundtracks for each game! However, there’s certainly not much to scoff at in this album, because it’s still robust and quite a pleasant surprise for anyone willing to dig the album up on the Internet and purchase a copy.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Leon Staton. Last modified on August 1, 2012.