In Extremis

2018 Soundtrack Saturdays

Jan. 6

The Outcropping: “Butte”

A track from the $1 Outcropping EP, I think Butte is my favourite song from any of the Species EPs. It not only encapsulates what the Xiruen are about musically, but is a good representation of In Extremis too.

A cacophony of shakers fade in and out for five minutes, as pitched percussion and metals give us some sort of melody, with drums and other percussion keep the track moving along.
Jan. 27

Pillars of Eternity: “Elmshore”

This track is from the 2015 game Pillars of Eternity, a successor to Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale series. Published by Obsidian who has delivered games like Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and the first South Park game (Stick of Truth), I’m not sure why it needed to be crowdfunded. Nevertheless, the real-time RPG was a critical success, and its soundtrack is just as good.

A simple composition, we start out with a high string drone and an arpeggiating harp. As we add in more strings, we also get a soft bell sound, perhaps glockenspiel with yarn mallets or some sort of toy piano. A third of the way in, a choir appears with sweeping chords to fully establish we’re in a fantasy land. A soloist rises above the choir and echoes the bell melody, but much slower. After a couple iterations, the harp return, and the sweeping choir chords are replaced by strings who move chordally much quicker and slyly introduce a horn at the end.
Feb. 11

Secret of Mana: “Phantom And A Rose”
The weekend may have slipped by, but I didn’t forget about this! From the SNES game Secret of Mana, “Phantom and a Rose” also known as Sad Town, is played early in the 1991 hit. To celebrate a remake of the game this week coming to most consoles (in case you’re reading this Masaru Oyamada, I’d love a Switch port to be made), I thought I’d highlight this track from (arguably) the best RPG of all time. 

The entire track is set up over a four beat ostinato that slowly changes between chords as more voices are introduced. The track’s main melody line is carried by a flute/voice hybrid synth, and the secondary melody is carried by a synth reminiscent of strings. Near the end, bells and a much more realistic sounding flute continue the melody line, preparing the track to loop.
Feb. 17

Secret of Mana: “A Conclusion”
In a continued effort to highlight the remake of the SNES classic Secret of Mana, I’d like to take a look at the track from perhaps the most poignant and unexpected cutscenes from the game (Masaru Oyamada the Switch request still stands, please and thank you).

The beauty of the track lies in its simplicity. The overlying rhythm of the main (the wooden pipes-esque) voice does not change, which highlights the subtle shift in harmony over the track. Every eight repetitions, the lower voice changes its rhythm slightly with a harmony that pushes the main voice to its next chord.
Feb. 24

The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Seasons: “Pirate Gigue”
It’s been a long time since I highlighted some Zelda music. What a shame, for a franchise that has so much good music in its 30 year history. For those at home keeping track, it’s been since August of last year. Anywho, the reason I wanted to bring this track up is, as you might have heard by now, the first content bundle will feature Pirate related content. What better way to celebrate than a Pirate Gigue?!

The first two bars feature the theme of the Gigue tossed back and forth from a low voice to a high one, and culminating with a simple cadence. The next minute features an elaboration of the theme across the high voice with the low voice contributing as a quasi call and response. This process repeats a few more times until the video is done. The ‘track’ is really only ~35 seconds long, as the GBC didn’t have *that* much memory.
Mar. 3

The Legend of Zelda Link to the Past: “Credits/Staff Roll”
Rather than wait another 6 months to give you Zelda music, let’s go back to back weeks. The three major players of the Link to the Past soundtrack—a game which released in 1992 (outside of Japan)—are the organ, quasi-strings, and an ocarina/flute. In the credits track, usually listed as “Staff Roll”, all three of the major instruments of the entire soundtrack are present.

The organ sets the tone, establishing a rhythmic ostinato that changes with the harmony of each repetition to fit the melody. After four repetitions of the organ, the strings begin, followed by a higher string sound each pair of phrases. Once we get into a sequence, the ocarina/flute joins as a doubling to the strings, falling away as the strings descend to their original octave of the piece. Nearly halfway in, the piece falls apart to just the organ with its ostinato, which seems like it may be a literal repeat of the beginning, however this is not so. The other two instruments quickly return with new sequential treatment of the melody and a snare drum. This arrangement continues until nearly the end at which point a horn is added as the cherry on top.
Mar. 10

Super Mario 64: “Dire Dire Docks”
Released in 1996, Super Mario 64 revolutionized the home console industry in many ways. In a close-to-home view, the engine made possible the development of Ocarina of Time, a game which changed the Adventure genre and spun-off many others. Dire Dire Docks was one of my favourite places in the game.

The track begins rather modestly, with an ostinato punctuated by octave displacement at the very last note. After a few repetitions of this, we get a new instrument playing the melody, a segmented and transposed arrangement of the previous ostinato (on top of which the melody plays). Again after a few repetitions, string/pads are added with swelling chords that gradually fade in from nothingness until they too are part of the melody. As the high string instrument begins to take over the melody line, in come percussion instruments from nowhere. A kick drum, hihat, and snare slowly crescendo in before a cymbal bell syncopated pattern disrupts everything. From here, the song fades after a couple repeats.
Mar. 17

Neverwinter Nights: “Heart of the Forest”
It’s finally time to take a look at some classic soundtracks that I didn’t actually hear firsthand, from games I haven’t played. Let’s start with the classic RPG Neverwinter Nights.

Heart of the forest begins with a choir and strings on top of a low harp, punctuated by a solo voice peeking through the mix. Then, the harp plays the same line, faster and up several octaves, accompanied by a flute section. Another quick change has the track going back with strings and the choir again with a slightly modified melody, before quickly introducing a clarinet and horn. A dissonant chord on a pad synth leads us to new territory, occupied mainly by brass and low strings. For such a short track, there’s a lot of quick sections.
Mar. 24

Baldur’s Gate 2: “Pirate’s Isle”
Another short track from another game I’ve never played, this is Pirate’s Isle from Baldur’s Gate 2. Don’t forget about the bundle released last month, the Space Plunder update, featuring In Extremis’ own pirate music.

At a minute forty-five, this seems like a short track, which it is. It’s actually repeated halfway through—the melody is especially short. So what does it take to have a great pirate song? A wood flute helps, but a bouncy drum ostinato with a tambourine on top really seals the deal. Bonus points if you have a classical guitar doing some barred chords in the background to keep up with the melody.
Mar. 31

Planetscape Torment: “Sigil”
This track is…something. More appropriate for Halloween perhaps, I wanted to start musically leaning into the theme of the next In Extremis update. You’ll figure it out over the next few weeks, I’m sure.

A grandfather clock’s chime is the basis of this track, and provides a rhythmic sense of constancy and although it’s a very ‘normal’ sound, it gives the piece an otherworldly feel. On top of a simple drum pattern, strings and brass well and decay between dark chords, with some electronic elements highlighting particular moments of tension. The calmest portion of the track is at the end, when some kind of pipe or flute begins to take over with its vibrato and everything else dies away underneath.
Apr. 7

Jak II: “Haven Forest”
Ah, back to a game I grew up with. Jak II was an especially good game, and its soundtrack is no exception. This also plays into the theme of the upcoming update. Any ideas yet?

As with many of the Jak and Daxter tracks from all the games, a percussion ostinato plays a large role in the piece. On top of that, there’s a low bounce between two notes at a time, like a reductionist alberti bass. From here, the track builds with strings, sometimes electronic sweeps, additional percussion, a bass guitar lick, a harp ostinato, variations and combinations of all of the above. It’s a rather dense track, much like the Haven Forest.
Apr. 14

Halo 2: “Ancient Machine”
Another childhood favourite of mine. Halo 2 is my pick for best Halo. The Legendary difficulty is absurd—but that’s a discussion for a different time. The soundtrack is amazing, and this was my first experience with the Flood.

How do you musically convey a parasitic species that’s semi-sentient and a threat to the entire galaxy? Detuned guitars, choirs whose lines shake all over the place, DJ scratches, and a digital piano with a solid chord progression hidden deep enough in the mix to be missed but present enough to be effective. It pokes out at 1:15-1:25 just playing the beat.
Apr. 21

Dragon’s Age Inquisition: “The Place of All Fears”
Back to games I haven’t played, but this track is amazing, for a lot of reasons. Dragon Age (I) and II were composed by Inon Zur (who composed most of Fallout 4), and despite that both games were wildly different in terms of gameplay, both soundtracks were amazing. Zur went onto other things, and Trevor Morris stepped in and did a phenomenal job on the soundtrack.

Speaking of, this is perhaps the most special song in the OST to me. Creepy, yes, but it’s special in that it doesn’t really go anywhere, but after nearly 3 minutes of chromatic ups and downs, it feels like you certainly went /somewhere/ but alas, you have not. While it doesn’t make use of the shepherd’s tone (a musical barbershop pole) the constant and smooth up and down bends don’t give the ear much to hold onto in terms of establishing a solid tonal center. Which is just lovely.
Apr. 28

Xenoblade Chronicles: “Searching Glance”
Another amazing game, Xenoblade Chronicles has an amazing soundtrack from start to finish. This specific track reminded me of a sub-genre of another series—specifically boss music from the Legend of Zelda with the big staccato chords or stabs.

A horn crescendo leads us into a piano and cello ostinato that loops a couple times before brass comes in. Strings come in at the end of a horn phrase and remain in the background for a phrase until the rhythm breaks down, lead through a slower section by strings and low brass. Back to our ostinato briefly until we get to those stabs I talked about earlier. Then the track is at its highest intensity for 10-20 seconds, slowly working itself down, though introducing new material—such as the electronic percussion/synth in the second half of the piece.
May 5

The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess: “Battle With Zant”
After almost two months, back to Zelda. Just can’t stay away. This track is from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and late in the game. The entire OST has some creepy music—especially that of the Twili and anything related to the Twilight in general, and the Zelda franchise is no stranger to creepy music anyway.

This track begins with a metal pipes arpeggio with a reverse grace-note motif, soon joined in canon by another set of pipes before the thunderous low-end material comes in, perfectly complimented by a gliding string siren.
May 12

Wii Weather Channel: “Nighttime Globe”
Unlike last week, this theme is absolutely gorgeous. Not quite from a video game, but from a console—who could forget the various Wii Channels’ great music. From the shop to the Mii plaza, the various menus were filled with great music. This is from the Globe interface on the Weather Channel, specifically at night.

The ‘meat’ of the song is a very lush pad sound that slowly crescendos and diminuendos through the track. Over the top of this track are a couple different instruments or virtual instruments: a vibraphone-ish that is mostly for chords, doubled with a very soft glockenspiel, there’s a harp on occasion, and rarely a soft electronic piano that plays an arpeggio while quickly fading out.
May 19

Journey: “Threshold”
This track is from thatgamecompany’s game Journey, masterfully composed by Austin Wintory. A soundtrack with a fairly sparse (and almost entirely acoustic) instrumentation with virtuosic soloists, this track is no exception.

We begin with a dance-like opening highlighted by the flute and harp that slowly unravels into a relaxing but soaring series of call-and-responses before reaching a climax about halfway through, returning to the dance-like figure in the flute. A little later, the percussion becomes very involved, pushing the music forward with the help of a viola solo that fades into a shimmering blend of electronics and acoustics. From this, a cello springs forth to finish off the track.
May 26

Minecraft Alpha: “Chris”
One of the shortest songs from the Minecraft Volume Alpha, Chris is my personal favourite. It represents everything that Minecraft was at the time the game came out, simple, serene, yet full of little intricacies. 

Beginning with a simple bassline, the melody soon comes in, led by a piano but in very much a synth-lead style instrument. As the melody breaks down with glissandi and diminuendos, the piano takes over as the bassline too fades away. A simple and short piece.
Jun. 2

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze: “Twilight Terror”
A fantastic remix by David Wise and company, Twilight Terror is a fantastic reimagining of the Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest track “Stickerbrush Symphony”. Not the only Stickerbrush Symphony homage in Tropical Freeze, Savannah Symphony also revisits the track, bringing out different lines with an imaginative orchestration.

Here, a smooth choir fills out the opening under the ostinato of a smooth bassline, staccato acoustic guitar, and lots of quick metallic percussion. Soon, a flute or woodpipe of some kind takes us through the first melodic statement before we again hear the choir and a much more solid acoustic guitar deliver the countermelody. The flute continues with a new line, and the cycle continues.
Jun. 9

Super Mario World: “Star Road”
Going several layers deep, this song was sampled by D.R.A.M. on his song “Cha Cha”, which was incorporated into Drake’s hit “Hotline Bling”. Jumping through a couple hoops, it’s not too hard to see Kondo’s connection to billboard chart topping hits!

This song is actually quite short by modern standards, as most songs of the era had to be. With influences from lounge music and latin rhythms, the song goes through its short melody (which is one bar long, with a second bar of a “counter” melody) three times before coming to a rhythmic cadence. It then repeats from here, and considering the song is meant to be played while users are selecting levels (and not engaged in gameplay), the length—or lack thereof—is wholly appropriate.
Jun. 16

Pokemon Diamond/Pearl: “Eterna Forest”
What a beautiful track. Of course, it helps if you know what I’m talking about, so for clarity’s sake this week I’m looking at (and listening to) Eterna Forest from Pokémon Diamond/Pearl. The song, like many others in this particular ost do a brilliant job of building up tension, drama, and chords only to beautifully unwind the tension with imperfect harmonic resolutions.

It opens with piano arpeggios and chords bouncing between channels (left and right), joined by a flute with a simple statement of the melody, which smoothly works up and then leaps back and forth on its way down. A GROOVY bassline is plopped down and we’re content to roll with this for a few phrases until the strings arrive to bring us some harmonic tension. Around 45” in (and several other times in repeats) the strings take us up before the piano winds us down, immediately followed by the flute attempting to do the same job, which takes us right back to the beginning of the repeat with the arpeggiated piano.
Jun. 23

Halo Combat Evolved: “Under the Cover of Night”
Speaking of awesome basslines, we have to visit the theme from Halo “Under Cover of Night”. Though it appears in a couple of other games (and I think done a little better), I think the original needs to be looked at. It’s really emblematic of what makes Halo music so great, with the smooth choirs, groovy basslines, and perfectly driving percussion.

We start out with some synth voices—not like other tracks in the OST where Marty and Mike sung themselves—and quickly get that groovy bass started. Some strings slowly help the choir fill out the track, working up to a point and starting over with each phrase that goes by. As everything else dies away just after a minute and a half, we’re introduced to the percussion, which builds on itself over the choir. By the time we have the bass back in, we’ve got almost the full percussion ostinato going, and a quick (real) vocal melody over the top that comes and goes. From here, the percussion drop a few instruments every now and then for dramatic effect and variety, but the track continues on like this to the end.
Jun. 30

Hyper Light Drifter: “The Winding Ridge”
3 minutes of pure atmospheric bliss. It’s a real shame I haven’t covered any of Disasterpiece’s (composer) music before, but there’s just so much good video game music some weeks it’s hard to pick. This track is called “The Winding Ridge” from the game Hyper Light Drifter, coming soon to Nintendo Switch, so that means it should be available just about everywhere now.

There isn’t much to this track, but what it does, it does well. There’s lots of space between chords formed by a mix of what seems to be some strings and some reeds. Further on we get the introduction of what seems to be an 808 synth too high up to produce a huge lowend boost, but it’s percussive impact is there long with some white noise sustain. Before long, some triangle-based synths come in as we reach the climax of the piece before those too, fade away. Later, this process repeats as we build back up to a sublime melody in a sine-based synth with a late attack, as if we slide into the chords. Near the end, with this synth we get some consistent and present meter as the piece works itself up harmonically again before decaying away with volume rather than through instrumentation.
Jul. 7

Wild Arms 3: “A Person’s Warmth”
How can a piece of music be both relaxing and make you want to dance around in your chair with an infectious rhythm? Very easily, apparently. This piece of music comes from the 2002 game Wild Arms 3 and is called “A Person’s Warmth”. I think the title is very fitting.

To begin we start out with a simple acoustic guitar ostinato along with shakers, both of which never go away. Soon we’re given a very syncopated melody with some sort of blown instrument, likely a ‘blown bottle’ vst or some sort of wooden pipe. Not much later we get the full instrumentation, with a funky bassline, some low synth pads, and string counterpoint buried a couple layers deep in the mix. A glockenspiel is the cherry on top of our cadence as we repeat around the 1:35 mark.
Jul. 14

Final Fantasy X: “Daughter of the Great Summoner”
Going back a little further from last week, this piece is heavier on the relaxing vibes and much lighter on things thats make you want to dance. From the 2001 game Final Fantasy X, this track is “Daughter of the Great Summoner”.

To begin we get a simple two chord ostinato in a vibes-like instrument that is repeated a few times before changing chords. On top of that, we get the melody in the form of string pizzicatos. A simple counterpoint, this continues until about a minute twenty when we get some new instruments, a deep pad sound, a synth to replace the vibes, and a triangle. This fades out into our original instrumentation around the 1:45 mark, and we’re back where we started.
Jul. 21

FEZ: “Flow”
Ohhhhh this is such a beautiful track that beautifully recalls the chiptune soundtracks of yesteryear while also having a very modernistic minecraft flair to it. Of course, I’m talking about the 2012 game FEZ’s track “Flow”. Now that it’s pretty much everywhere (except for Nintendo consoles), you should check it out if you haven’t yet.

Beginning with a slightly distorted bell sound that increases in tempo until we build ourselves an ostinato, the track begins as an homage to chiptune sounds with a monophonic presentation at first. As we go, we layer in a simple whole note bassline, accented syncopated rhythmic figures, a quarternote bassline (on top of the old one), along with some driving percussion. A minute in, we get our first bit of melody in the form of a short staccato synth. A longer, reverb-laden synth comes in half a minute later to fill in the gaps that the original left out, until that too fades for an even longer synth. Our two main melodic statements trade back and forth twice until the melody is carried for a several phrases by the last synth. Eventually a recapitulation of the second melody is heard in an entirely different synth and the piece gradually begins to wind down.
Jul. 28

Jak and Daxter: “Sentinel Beach”
Ah man, do I miss this franchise. I haven’t looked up the composer(s?) ever, but they were very good at keeping the musical language consistent throughout three games of different tone and maintaining a sound that always sounded like “Jak” no matter where in the world you are. This week, I’m looking at “Sentinel Beach” from the original Jak and Daxter.

As with most location tracks in the Jak and Daxter franchise, we begin with a bass drum roll and drone right into our loop. Immediately, we can hear a shaker on the strong beats, which is one of few things at first on the strong beats of our measures. Eventually we get a whole note melody/upper bass line to contrast our very harmonically static and syncopated pitched percussion line. About a minute in we get a trademark Jak and Daxter bassline that just sort of sprawls and dies out for a few phrases. With some punctuated bass drum hits and a few more incomplete pitched percussion melodies, we guide ourselves back to the beginning of the loop around the two minute mark.
Aug. 4

The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks: “Underwater”
Back to Zelda! Of the two DS games, Spirit Tracks in my opinion was the better, having refined controls, a more well-thought out form of exploration, a better map, and great items. Of course, both games had great soundtracks, but Phantom Hourglass (by nature) had to be very derivative of Wind Waker, so with Spirit Tracks we got a LOT of new musical ideas. This is the “Underwater” section of the game, found in the sea section of the map (as one might expect).

The main melody is handled by a kalimba-esque instrument, with plenty of background. Our percussion sounds a lot like tablas, along with an acoustic guitar to handle the middle ground in a bit of chord/arpeggiation ostinato business. The secondary melody is handled by a wind instrument, while occasional chords are handled by a very breathy sound, like a harmonica or accordion to simulate the train. At a minute-forty our loop starts anew.
Aug. 11

Kirby’s Epic Yarn: “Bubbly Clouds”
Ohhhh this soundtrack is so fun. Kirby music in general is fantastic and very relaxing in the same way that Yoshi music tends to be smooth while also being upbeat like the Wild Arms 3 track I talked about last month. Maybe I’ll talk about Yoshi music soon… Anyway this is “Bubbly Clouds” from the 2010 game Kirby’s Epic Yarn

There are so many instrumentation changes in this piece and yet somehow they just all work. The piece starts out with solo harp, arpeggiating before we’re introduced to a recorder-esque instrument with our first statement of this track’s melody. We get a few phrases of that and then move on with a very buzzy bassline complimented by violin pizzes. A very abrupt shift in instrumentation gives us an english horn, dulcimer and legato strings that quickly give way to soaring high strings, an electric bassline, and I think a harpsichord buried pretty deep. A quick transition to flute and other wind instruments in the same kind of arrangement as our original is played before we get a sweeping wind chimes sample to take us back to the beginning of the loop before we fade out.
Aug. 18

The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds: “Swamp Palace”
MORE ZELDA! While I personally give ALBW a lot of flak about things that it didn’t improve on from aLttP, the soundtrack is the area of near-universal improvement in my opinion. Rather than having one static track for the light world and dark world (lorule) dungeons respectively, each dungeon got their own track, very subtle mixes and arrangements of existing melodies. This week, we look at the “Swamp Palace” from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

From the beginning, we can hear an arpeggiation with a synth-strument (ha) that is ubiquitous with the ALBW soundrack. However, the Dark World Dungeon theme is clearly audible in the muted glockenspiel/toy piano line that juuuuust sits on top of the mix, as well as the clear and obvious transition points that line up and are audibly similar effect wise in both pieces. While it isn’t a brand new track, the inclusion of ALBW’s special synth, clanging metal sounds, and its own arrangement make this Dark World Dungeon remix feel like it belongs specifically to this dungeon.
Aug. 25

The Sea Will Claim Everything: “Plinpling Fairydust”
Short and sweet, this beautiful track from the indie game The Sea Will Claim Everything (2012) doesn’t give many hints about the game it’s from.

Mostly a beautiful solo piano piece, there are two main elements in the piano: the walking bassline and the repeating syncopated figure in the top part of the range. Occasionally, some strings or wind chimes come in for depth, but the melodies played over the two main piano elements are the real special sauce.
Sep. 1

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild: “Kara Kara Bazaar/Desert Oasis”
BACK TO ZELDA! Maybe I’ll stay away a little longer now that I’ve done 3 Zelda tracks in 6 weeks. Maybe. This lovely piece is from the newest Zelda game, Breath of the Wild. It’s a really short loop but perfectly encapsulates the bazaar. While it is an oasis in the middle of the desert, it also serves to warn the player about entering Gerudo Town under normal…circumstances.

The song is a short loop with just two instruments: Piano and Hammered Dulcimer. It begins with the Piano moving back and forth between I and IV (and +IV) chords before the dulcimer really tries to throw our sense of meter off with a heavy rubato descending line. This pattern is repeated (in essence) over different chords, with the piano moving around the tonic and submediant as a deceptive move. The loop ends on the dominant that is allowed to breathe before it resolves after a long rest before the loop resumes.
Sep. 8

Final Fantasy VIII: “Balamb Garden”
Another game I haven’t played. This time, from Final Fantasy VIII, “Balamb Garden”. The entire series has had plenty of composers to helm gorgeous soundtracks, and I’m sure there will be more Final Fantasy tracks we listen to. We’re at 2 now.

The track is made up of two sections, a plinky electric piano sounding synth sets us up by establishing the rhythm before the strings and flute take over. The strings are pretty low in volume while the flute carries the short melody for a few phrases before handing off to a reed, and we get a half-time section before returning to our plinky piano again as the sections loop.
Oct. 6

Pilot Wings 64: “Birdman”
Back to the past now that we’re back with Soundtrack Saturdays. Took a little bit of a vacation there in September but we’re back now. Enjoy this track from the 1996 game Pilotwings 64.

This track is phenomenal. An unrelenting string pad holds out for the duration of the entire song, just reattacked at varying levels for contrast with the occasional octave jump at the ends of some phrases. There’s a real groovy bassline that goes with the string pad. The bassline stays just underneath the pad volume wise, so that you can always just barely hear it. Several different instruments take turns with the melody—the first is an 80s-sounding synth. Lots of grace notes and and syncopation give the track its groove. After the synth, a digital piano with a chirpy little bells sound takes the melody and while it doesn’t repeat the melody exactly, plays with a lot of similar concepts. Next, a (clearly synthetic) flute takes over briefly before ending the melody on an organ sound, which rises with the drums to finish off the song.
Oct. 13

Earthbound: “Snowman”
With colder temperatures in my neck of the woods, I thought this would be fitting for this weekend’s #SoundtrackSaturday. Did you know, this classic is the SNES game with the highest percentage of it’s memory devoted to sound? It’s true, as Earthbound sampled several real-life instruments whose waveforms were too complex to recreate with the SNES’ internal hardware, as both the developer and composer felt that realistic sound was key in creating this work of art.

In this two minute video the track repeats once to play twice, meaning each loop is just over a minute long. We begin with three clear voices: a smooth melodic voice, a short rhythmic voice, and a wide bass voice—all synths. Soon we get our fourth voice (a bloopy kind of synth) and everyone’s winter favourite: sleighbells. Soon, the harmony shifts to a different set of chords and we go through a B section that repeats before fading out to just the sleighbells and starting over at the beginning.
Oct. 20

Animal Crossing City Folk: “1AM”
It’s 1AM! Totally not what time it is while I write this, that’s the name of the track. This lovely little tune is from Animal Crossing: City Folk. This game came out in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii and the whole soundtrack is full of gems. Kazumi Totaka did great work.

It starts with a simple arpeggiation and chord in acoustic guitar before we’re slowly introduced to percussion. First a low flat kick, then a shaker before adding an electric piano sound that has the smooooothest sustain. A woodblock gives us a little bit of a backbeat. After a few chord changes we end up back where we started harmonically and (surprise!) there’s an accordion. So smooth.
Oct. 27

Stardew Valley: “Winter”
From the indie hit Stardew Valley comes the track Winter (The Wind Can Be Still). Released in 2016, the game is still finding its way onto new platforms and new fans.

The track starts simply, with two synths providing a winter-esque melody and harmony. Soon, the synth previously providing harmony pulsates out chords and a new, sliding synth becomes the downbeat harmony instead. We then reduce the instrumentation to a simple 8th note arpeggiation, adding in a bassline before our melody returns via the sweeping synth. After a minute or so, we get our first taste of percussion which immediately fades away. We return again to a sparse instrumentation reminiscent of several different points of the track put together before the track shifts to major with a quick hit of percussion as the track ends.
Nov. 3

The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks: “Papuchia Village”
I made it a whole month! without talking about Zelda music (technically 33 days). This time we’re looking (again) at The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks—a game which I have only talked about once before. Well, with this being the 16th of 19 games released (so far), it’s hard to talk about them all. That’s a little under half of the Saturdays in a year and I *try* to talk about other games too. Anyway, onto the track:

We open up with some arpeggiations, chords and percussion before getting our first melody and counter melodies provided by a sitar-esque instrument (probably a Shamisen), a string section, and a solo string (which we later find out is our main melody). The string section counter-melody is very reminiscent of the Tower theme, the central dungeon of the game. These three melodic ideas cycle around over our looping arpeggiation and percussion, beginning the loop again near the end of the track.
Nov. 10

Okami: “Princess Sakuya’s Theme”
While we aren’t looking at and listening to Zelda music this week, we’ll be focused on music from a game heavily inspired by and compared to Zelda games. I am of course, talking about Ōkami, and specifically the track “Princess Sakuya’s Theme”. Released initially in 2007 to critical acclaim, it’s been rereleased and ported to many other consoles (including Nintendo consoles Wii and Switch).

While much of the gameplay is inspired by Zelda games (specifically the original The Legend of Zelda), the music is heavily rooted in the game’s aesthetic—a combination of several Japanese mythologies. Immediately we get a mix of Japanese and Western instruments, with a Koto (or similar instrument) being played over a string section drone. There’s a flute of some sort along with Taiko drums and Sasara (or something similar). The Japanese instruments slowly spin out a melody (and counter melody in the flute/wooden flute), while the strings play long, thick textures. About 1/3 of the way through we get wind chimes that slow the mood down briefly before we return to our original theme and instrumentation.  The texture slowly builds up again until we return to the wind chimes and the track is done.
Nov. 17

Gravity Rush 2: “Banga Ambient II”
AMBIENT MUSIC?! I LOVE AMBIENT MUSIC! This comes from the 2017 game Gravity Rush 2 (or Gravity Daze 2 in JP), and is titled “Banga Ambient II”. I don’t actually know that I’d call it ambient as it’s fairly active, but it is fairly ambient comparatively to the rest of the OST composed by Kohei Tanaka (Gundam, Pokemon: Lugia movie, One Piece, and more).

The piece begins with some slow strings and drums, which quickly pick up when a solo violin and sakuhachi (or something similar) come in to deliver the melody. We get a short reprieve from the violin, marked by a clear bell introducing flutes with the counter melody and a shamisen. Our rhythm winds down to where the piece started, and we effectively loop for another iteration of the melody and counter.
Nov. 24

Destiny Beta: “Main Menu 6”
So this was a little hard to track down, as it is most known to me as “Main Menu 6” from the Destiny Beta. The source is ultimately “The Ruin” from Music of the Spheres (still waiting on that release, Bungie), but is known in the Destiny soundtrack as “Excerpt from The Ruin”. It’s one of my favourite pieces from the series as a whole, and it’s short and sweet.

The piece opens with a harp ostinato, which a number of instruments overlap with to create the illusion of rhythmic complexity. Shortly after the harp we get the following: staccato clarinet repeating every beat and a long chord in the high strings, Bass clarinet which repeats every four beats, a legato-staccato line in the flute that repeats on the 16th after each beat, a glockenspiel 8th note line and a short series of smooooooth chords from the strings. After two phrases of strings we get a short fade in and out of choir ‘ah’s combined with piccolo and some other instruments before we more or less start at the beginning with different dynamics to bring about a cadential feel.
Dec. 1

Night In the Woods: “Mae’s House”
Another game I haven’t played but whose OST I absolutely love. From the 2017 cute sidescroller/platformer game Night in the Woods comes the next track: Mae’s House. You can even go purchase this track on the Volume 1 of the game’s OST (it’s in 3 parts) over on bandcamp. But for now, I’m going to talk. You know how this works.

The whole song is built around a very simple yet relaxing 2-chord 4-measure progression with cadential phrases at the end of 8-bar phrases. Piano (both acoustic and digital) have a very prominent role in the track, in both of the “sections”. Our first section is more lively feeling, with a bouncing arpeggio in the middle of the piano and some counter melody high up. The second section features chords from a more digital sounding piano with some melodic fragments by an acoustic. The first section also features traces of an acoustic guitar and a backbeat laden drum part. Every 40” or so, we switch between sections.
Dec. 8

Donkey Kong Country Returns: “Palm Tree Grove”
Oh man is this funky! I’m sure David Wise and the rest of the team from the Donkey Kong Country original games for the SNES would approve of how jazzy this reimagining of an old tune turned out. This is Palm Tree Grove from the 2010 Wii game Donkey Kong Country Returns.

We begin with a very jazzy intro with an acoustic bass and some smooth electric piano chords. We then get a really fast piano that comes in with some hihats. We add drums and lower parts of the piano before getting a muted trumpet that finally feels like Donkey Kong. Between rifs we get a build of the bassline, then piano, then sax on our counter melody with some vibes. Then, flute plays around with a counter melody, passes it to the piano before a drum fill takes us to a down tempo section that feels like the beginning all over again. Rinse and repeat.
Dec. 15

Pokemon X/Y: “Snowbelle City Theme”
Well it’s that time of year (at least for the upper half of the globe) where it’s cold, and this week’s Soundtrack Saturday reflects that! Today we’re looking at Snowbelle City theme, which sounds very familiar…there’s trace elements of Sidon’s Theme from Breath of the Wild. Like, the first four notes are very reminiscent. Anyway, the music at hand:

We start out with some high string sustain, and some mallet instruments arpeggiating over a piano before we get some woodwinds coming in with the strings to introduce the theme. After a cymbal roll we get brass and more percussion to intorudce our counter melody. Another cymbal roll takes us to piano and bells for amystical wintery feeling. A short sequence takes us back to the beginning and we loop.
Dec. 22

“Niuavi” MIDItrail redux
A revisiting of one of the first YouTube Singles, with a new visual angle. In the future, the more melodic tracks in this series will be shown in this manner, which is more visually appropriate
Dec. 29

“The Wilderness”
The newest YouTube single and the first one more focused on establishing a soundscape. Tracks like this in the future will not use MIDItrail, as the notes are integrated into the soundscape itself.

Leave a Comment about what you read

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.