Touhou Zerokyo Kitan -Sophisticated Insanity-
Touhou Zerokyo Kitan -Sophisticated Insanity-
Zero Symphonic Battalion
December 31, 2010
Buy at Official Site
Touhou Zerokyo Kitan -Sophisticated Insanity- is the first release from Eminence’s new doujin circle, Zero Symphonic Battalion. It was entirely arranged by the acclaimed composer of the Mana series, Hiroki Kikuta. Featuring remixes from older Touhou games and some original compositions, it shows sides of Kikuta that are both novel and classic. He also enlists the popular OverClocked Remix vocalist Jillian Aversa for one of his remixes. How does his first Touhou remix album turn out?
The album opens up with a remix of “Maiden Capriccio ~ Dream Battle,” entitled “Type Zero Symphony ~First Movement~” It’s an excellent track to lead off with as it features fantastic energy. Electric guitar is the melodic focal point, accompanied by some dreamy, but upbeat, synthesizer work and drum pad. It really manages to capture the listener’s attention from the get-go and, although short, the guitar solo is absolutely amazing. Towards the end of the arrangement, the guitar does a few liberties adding some flourishes to the melody that help it from feeling like a rehash of the guitar work previously heard. In the end, it’s a very successful remix.
My biggest gripe with this album lies with the overall track selection, rather than the production values. Two themes, “Never Ending Night,” a remix of “Spring Lane ~ Colorful Path” and “Suisei Yume Kagura,” a remix of “Mystic Oriental Love Consultation” feature three versions of the remix, some of which I feel could have been replaced by other songs from the Touhou series to offer a more diverse listening experience.
“Never Ending Night,” featuring Jillian Aversa on vocals, has a fantasy feel to it and her vocal work is definitely reminiscent of something I might hear on a Celtic album. It really adds so much to the lush instrumentation heard in the remix, such as the electronic/industrial beats, elegant piano, and powerful strings work. While a successful remix, there is also a vocaloid version of this song that I find absolutely unnecessary. Fortunately, the “Never Ending Night REMIX,” focuses on the more elegant aspects of the original, such as the acoustic guitar, piano, and Jillian’s vocal work, and transforms them into a powerful and extremely catchy trance tune. It’s a different interpretation of the theme that actually changes the soundscape.
“Suisei Yume Kagura” follows a similar path. The original, with vocals by Aoi Kidokoro, sounds like an opening theme for an anime, focusing on pop/rock accompaniment, such as catchy drum pad work, strings harmonies, and some guitar riff accompaniment. The instrumental bridge is quite lovely though, adding a lot of contrast, with a very jam session sound that really helps to slow the pace a bit. As with “Never Ending Night,” I feel the vocaloid version is unnecessary. The remix version is another trance take on the original, but I feel it lacks some of the more enticing elements of the counterpart remix by focusing mostly on the electronic side, which isn’t always a bad thing. I think it would have been better if the piano elements were featured a bit more prominently, rather than at the end, when the piece starts to climax.
There are also two originals on the album. The first, “Halo of Vanishment,” definitely feels as though Kikuta was trying to emulate the Touhou style. However, Kikuta brings a lot more energy to the series’ soundscape by providing some crisp electric guitar work as well. Aside from that, the music definitely has a jazzier midsection that relies heavily on piano and percussion, similar to the Touhou style. The second original theme, “The Gift of the Magi,” is a slow, melancholy violin piece. However, despite the great performance, I find the overall theme to lack substance. Any sort of accompaniment would definitely make the theme much more enjoyable.
Kikuta’s remix of “Witching Dream,” entitled “Halcyon Loreley,” was actually the first theme I listened to on the album and, to my surprise, it was a very wonderful trance theme, which seems to break ground for Kikuta. While there are definitely better electronic remixes out there of Touhou music, I felt this was definitely a satisfying one that catered to Kikuta’s love of piano, as it is prominently featured, and it definitely focuses on the melody of the original. “Eternity and a Day,” a remix of “Dichromatic Lotus Butterfly ~ Ancients,” opens up with a rainstorm soundscape to some beautiful piano work, before moving into a smooth jazz theme with some wonderful saxophone, violin, and percussion work. It really fits with the rainy setting established in the introduction of the piece, as a jazz bar would definitely be a nice way to escape from the storm. Lastly, “Tonight, Using a Galaxy as a Glass,” a remix of “Hakurei ~ Eastern Wind,” has a bossa-nova sound reminiscent of his Mana work. As for other elements in the remix, the strings work really brings a beautiful harmony to the piano-focused melody.
In the end, I think that Hiroki Kikuta’s first Touhou-related album from his new doujin circle comes with its ups and downs. While I do enjoy the fact that Kikuta breaks out of his standard style by including some electronic remixes, I am put off by the inclusion of three remixes of the two of the themes — taking up half the arrange album — when a more diverse array of Touhou themes are definitely available for remixing. His instrumental themes are quite lovely as well. In the future, I hope that Kikuta diversifies his track selection a bit more and, perhaps to spice things up a bit, invites guest arrangers to participate in his circle to ensure a more diverse stylistic offering. I notice that the follow-up album, Scarlet Bloodbath, only features one arrangement by him.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.