In Extremis

2019 Soundtrack Saturdays

Full #SoundtrackSaturdays playlist on YouTube

January 5

Mass Effect: Uncharted Worlds

Don’t worry, there’s no awful three-pronged choice that’s sort of patched up but boils the past decade of work into a singular meaningless choice here…Just another Soundtrack Saturday! This track is one of my favourites from the entire franchise, and one of the shortest. This is “Uncharted Worlds” from the original Mass Effect.
We start out, like we do most weeks with an arpeggiation, before we add in a bassline that’s more of a bell-ish note that decays quickly but takes a long time to be struck again. In the meantime, we get a nice little piano melody over the top. The piano plays some of the notes of the arpeggio, but it deviates into some high notes occasionally. Then, we get a synth that stabs for some consistent rhythm. Somewhere around the half-minute mark we get an extension of the high notes from the piano into sustained flute-like lead notes. When that stops, everything else but the arpeggio fades away before the extension returns as a melody for a quick restatement before the track ends.
January 12

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Dreaming of Twilight
Still talking about games I’ve never played. This week, we’re listening to “Dreaming of Twilight” from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Released for the GameCube in 2003/4, it’ll be out (again) later this year on Switch and PS4. The soundtrack was composed by Kumi Tanioka and extensively uses both medieval and renaissance instruments. We’ll hear them soon.
However, we start out with a marimba ostinato. What better way to start a piece? We get some other percussion (a tambourine and a triangle) as some of the rustic instruments start to trickle in, a drone on what sounds like a heavily muted oboe (probably just a mixing trick_ and we get our first melody on recorder. After four repetitions of the melodic phrase we get a wholly new phrase that we hear twice, which includes an interruption of the ostinato. Finally, we hear a restatement of the melody on something that sounds like a gayageum doubling the recorder. After some more doubling and back and forth between our melody instruments and the marimba, we get to hear a very quick crumhorn and then it’s back to more fun with the recorder, then marimba magic before the whole thing repeats.
January 19

Xenogears: Bonds of Sea and Fire
This game came out in 1998, and like many other games of its time, sought to combine Celtic and Japanese musical elements. Also the first major title for composer Yasunori Mitsuda since Chrono Trigger, today we’ll be listening to “Bonds of Sea and Fire” from Xenogears.
To start off, we’ve got a plucking party! Over a harp ostinato we’ve got violin pizzicatos for a few measures to establish our loop. Then, over the loop we have a repetitive flute line built from a couple of repeating rhythmic fragments. After that melody is heard twice, our strings open up to long chords, the harp slows down to the quarternote pulse previously occupied by the pizzs, and we get an entirely different, much more open flute melody. This track’s pretty simple—after this section, we repeat!
January 26

Abzû: Balaenoptera Musculus
Yet another game that I’ve never played, and that I’m honestly only familiar with because of Austin Wintory’s work on the soundtrack. Presumably it’s a game about nautical wildlife conservation, somewhat similar to cult classic Ecco the Dolphin, but I don’t know. Anyway, let’s talk music.
After a short fade in, we get an acoustic guitar and harp strumming over the fade-in material which consists of some electronic noises—a high pitch, what sounds a little like a flute pad, and some granulated mid-to-low end. After about a minute, we get a brief reed solo before some string swells as we can hear some wind chime-sounding things in the background. After a short string trill, we crescendo to a much fuller sounding string ensemble, with a soaring solo violin over low string pulsations and the rest of the strings doing some arppegiations. Let’s throw in a few voice swells too for good effect, which quickly disappear and we’re left with our solo reed from before. A short few phrases of that and we’re joined by the harp and strings again, which after some climactic-sounding crescendo settle back down – this back and forth happens a couple times before we get the solo violin again to take us to our full string section with a choir again. With some more tension as we fade away, we get back to the sounds we faded in with, and we’re ready to loop.
February 2

Xenoblade Chronicles: Field of the Machina
Today we’ll look at a track from a composer whose work we covered just a few weeks ago, but this piece comes several console generations (and just over a decade) later. Today, we’re going to look at the 2010 release Xenoblade, specifically the track Field of the Machinae (aka Mechonis Field) by Yasunori Mitsuda.
We start out with a really mechanical and electronic noise that fades into these bell sounds, which set up something of an ostinato, but they never lock into anything specific. After a quick frequency sweep, we’ve got somewhat of a baseline with a synth piano playing some chords. Following a few loops, we get some percussion for a really solid rhythmic base before another frequency sweep. NOW we’ve hit the good stuff. We get a really high synth sustain pad that plays some melody, with a funky guitar sound underneath giving us some counter melody during sustained notes. After two phrases we come to my favourite part with the repeated notes that give way to a fall, which repeats twice before we have a nice key change. We get more of the same, with different instruments filling out different roles—what was previously our repeating sound briefly takes over the main melodic role and the sustain pad plays when the prior countermelody would. What great fun.
February 9

Pokémon Diamond-Pearl-Platinum: Snowpoint City (Night)
Back again with a game I haven’t played, but is from a series that I have at least played. So that’s a start. This week we’re looking at Pokémon music yet again, specifically the soundtrack for Diamond/Pearl/Platinum. We’re looking at the night theme—a recent development for the series—from Snowpoint City, mostly because it’s cold for me right now.
We start out with a solo piano with a little delay playing half notes in a spacious melody. After a brief pause, we get our second instrument, a synthy-stab that fills the spaces between our original melody line with chords. Soon after the second loop, we get a third instrument—a more melodic line that feels very much like the original at twice the speed. Just about a minute in, the feel completely changes. We get some strings and and a series of metallic runs that feel entirely similar to the instrumentation of the day theme before we strip the instrumentation back down to the beginning solo piano.
February 16

Witcher III: The Fields of Ard Skellig
While I know very little about this game, I know even less about the soundtrack. However, after hearing this track I knew I wanted to talk about it a little this week. But how did I hear it if I didn’t know anything about the soundtrack? If you guess because the name is close to “Skeli’n” you’d be 100% correct. This week we’re looking at “The Fields of Ard Skellig” from The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.
We begin with a low drone before getting two stringed instruments. One is bowed, one plucked as a synth pad slowly fades in. Our violin-ish instrument is good for a very beautiful melody, pausing to let the lute-sounding instrument fill in some baroque-evoking counter melodies. After a bowed melody line, we get a voice line, which is solo for some time before trading off with the plucked string instrument, finally joining with the bowed string for the last delivery of its melody before the two strings return to trading time with each other similar to the beginning .
February 23

Chrono Cross: The Girl Who Stole the Stars
Beautiful, beautiful game. Also, beautiful music. We’re talking this week about Chrono Cross (I’ve never talked about Chrono Trigger??! I’ll have to fix that soon…) and specifically the track “The Girl Who Stole The Stars”. There seem to be a few names for this piece, likely the result of translation and/or localization.
Just like two weeks ago (Snowpoint City Night) we begin with a solo piano, but it’s only seconds until we hear our second instrument: the flute. The piano takes on a traditional role of chords while the flute (and shortly violin after a brief handoff) take the melody. We get a voice sample with a counter melody around the 1’ mark, with multiple strings adding to the thickness of the texture with some long, sweeping chords. The flute occasionally joins in to embellish the melody, and after some cadential-ness we’re right back at the start after almost two minutes.
March 2

Shadow of the Colossus: Farthest Land
I’m not sure how I’ve managed to go so long without talking about one of my favourite video game soundtracks of all time—It’s been since August of 2016 since I first (and last) made mention of Shadow of the Colossus’ magnificent ost. This time instead of “Prayer” we’re looking at “The Farthest Land”, a track that somehow manages to be texturally light and airy yet evoke a feeling of a mystic celebration with many instruments/musicians.
There’s this instrument to start off—it sounds somewhere between an electric guitar and a mandolin, so it’s probably one of the two with some kind of effect—before we actually get mandolins. We get our underlying chord progressions that feels melodic in a way before a few mandolins come in to deliver the /real/ melody. We get a little wind chime transition and the mandolins are joined (effectively replaced) by a flute-ish instrument, perhaps a shakuhachi that doesn’t stay for very long. Another wind chime transition and we’re back to the beginning.
March 9

Final Fantasy VIII: Fisherman’s Horizon
If you’ve been following In Extremis for long enough, you can probably guess why I picked this track. Well, not only is it great and evokes them feels, but I…well let me tell you what it is so you can guess. Today we’re looking at and listening to “Fisherman’s Horizon” from Final Fantasy VIII. If you guessed that I picked this because of my penchant for nautical and nautically-related things, you’d be correct! But, on to the music.
To me, the digital/electronic piano sound we get to start this piece feels very 80s to me, and the extremely smooth MIDI “flute” adds to that feeling of evocation. After that MIDI flute we get a harmonica sound that is also incredibly smooth, followed by a gritty blown bottle MIDI sound, for finally some timbral texture. I think it’s no coincidence that the key changes for a little bit here with the blown bottle as well. Once the bottle wraps up and the digital piano takes us back to our original key, we’re back to the beginning.
March 23

Chrono Trigger: Secret of the Forest
Well, I said it exactly one month ago; I couldn’t believe I hadn’t looked at a track from Chrono Trigger yet. So now I’ve fixed that. Today we’re looking at/listening to “Secret Of The Forest” from Chrono Trigger, one of my favourite tracks from the game.
We open with our first glimpse of the bassline and a harp arppegio, both of which change harmony twice before repeating. After the repeat we get *most* of the rest of the instrumentation of the track. This includes a flute-esque patch for the melody, some drums and a tambourine for percussion, and the occasional pad for a chord. After the first statement of the melody, we get a piano for a counter-melody, which features a “voice” at the end of each counter melody. After two passes of the counter-melody, we take the harp up and down a couple octaves to get the original flute-esque melody played on a solo string patch instead, and after once through of that, we get our piano instrument back to make a real groovy duet with the bassline to play some chords based on the harp arpeggiation before we loop the whole thing again.
March 30

Pokémon Black-White: Dragonspiral/Celestial Tower
What happens when you take the harmonic/melodic ideas from Chrono Trigger’s “Secret of the Forest” and combine it with the rhythm of “Light World Dungeon” from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? Well, the jury’s still out on that because this isn’t an exact replica of either, but the similarities are audible. This week we’re talking about Dragonspiral/Celestial Tower from Pokémon Black/White.
If you listened last week, the initial melody/harmonic progression heard in the first 15 seconds is reminiscent if not inspired by the tune we covered last week. Instead of Harp and a Bassline, we get “piano” rolls and a string-section pad. The piano takes a very similar function to the harp from Secret Of The Forest, but doesn’t arpeggiate straight up, with a more alberti-bass kind of sound, with a hypermetric phrasing seemingly inspired by the Link to the Past’s reference. However, instead of simply restarting the loop at the end of each statement, the track first goes into a more rhythmic and percussive section before playing a chord that leads us back to the beginning of the loop, first heard around the 50” mark.
April 6

Monument Valley: The Garden
Here’s a game I know absolutely nothing about, save for that its OST cover has some very Escher-esque artwork, which likely is reflective of the game…at least one would think so. The game came out for mobile platforms in 2015, and according to the developer, FEZ was an inspiration. After looking at screenshots for about 30 seconds, I can clearly see that. Listening to this track, you’ll hear it too.
There’s only a few of sounds in this piece, and I mean that in several senses. By my count, there’s only a handful of chords, which are played by one “instrument”, a repeating ostinato figure played by a bell-ish instrument, and an instrument that when it sustains has a sort of slide whistle sound, but is sometimes joined by another more metallic sound on top of it.
April 13

Animal Crossing: 6PM
Animal Crossing is a hit franchise, and it’s always great to look back, musically and otherwise, to where franchises started and take a look at their roots. At a most basic level, this is what Animal Crossing developers and composers thought it should sound like when their idea was new and fresh, and I really like comparing the atmosphere created by these tracks from game to game. Anywho, this week we’re looking at 6PM from the original.
Disregard the hiss of the noise floor, I couldn’t find a single YouTube video that didn’t have it…But about the music, I love the non-weather and non-event music in Animal Crossing because each track usually begins with a majority of its instruments, bringing in melodic instruments and effects later, but the backbone of the music is assembled from the start. 6PM is no exception, as we get our bassline, drums (HH and snare), and electric piano syncopated stabs at 0:00. Another synth comes in to play the melody, the last bit of which is played by whistling. After two loops of the melody, the  main melodic instrument becomes some wooden tones for a bit—we keep the whistling!—before we get back to our main instrument with a rhythmic break and a key change. This time we get through the whole melodic statement before another rhythm break and *one tone* by the whistle before we start our whole track loop again.
April 20

FEZ: Forgotten
I’ve talked about FEZ once before, but since we listened to a track and game that was inspired in part by this gem, I figured it would be great to talk about it again. If you’re not familiar with this 2012 masterpiece, I highly recommend picking it up on pretty much any platform (except Nintendo…sad face). Last time we looked at “Flow”, which does some cool things with rhythm and harmony, and this time we’re going to listen to “Forgotten”, which does some stuff with harmony…but that’s not my main point.
So what is my point? Well, first let’s listen to the first 10 seconds. We get (if you’ve listened to the whole OST or played the game) our trademark FEZ synths, some gliding from one to another but all being very smooth. As the last chord in this progression fades we can start to hear some…noise. Hang on to that. We get a second progression, just as long as the first and in the same general shapes. The kind of rhyme, to mix metaphors. By now, we’ve added more (lower) notes to our chords, and the distortion should be apparent to everyone. That’s the real kicker, for me. It takes until just about the 1’ mark before we get the melody of the piece, and I think that’s because the composer really wanted to hammer two things: 1. the chord progression that loops and changes a *little* bit each time isn’t the point 2. the distortion (relevant to when this track comes up in the game) is really more of the “point” for this piece. When the distortion fades in and out is more important and cool (to my ear) than the subtle changes in harmony, especially since the instrumentation and harmony are both fairly constant.
April 28

the Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask: Final Hours
HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE I TALKED ABOUT ZELDA? (21 weeks, actually) If #SoundtrackSaturdays had its own office space, there would definitely be a sign on the wall saying “It’s been # weeks since I posted about Zelda music”. It’s a trope sure, but it’s good music, and music I love (and grew up with), so I talk about it. This week, we’re looking at “Final Hours” from Majora’s Mask. 
There’s soooo many things going on here. For starters, the two sounds we hear at the beginning of the track and play constantly are actually just two “instruments”-the high pass high pitch is an instrument all on its own, and the “bells” rhythm is actually just a looped sample. If you listen closely you can hear the rhythm change slightly as it’s pitched up and down to match the current chord; here the loop itself is being sped up and slowed down to change pitch. Anyway, the rest of the track has cool things too—there’s the repeating strings progression, the harpsichord, and the *COOOOOL* cymbals and metal percussion that follow it. If you have the opportunity to listen in stereo, percussion parts (there’s two of them) start in both channels and slowly become more hardpanned until you get alternating “notes” in each ear (if you’re in headphones).
May 4

Halo Combat Evolved: A Walk in the Woods
This is one of my favourite tracks from the Halo series and it’s because of that B-E-A-U-TIFUL bassline. Ooomph. The theme and track has been reworked and heard in four out of the first five Halo games, under the following titles: A Walk In The Woods (Halo: CE), Heretic, Hero (Halo 2), Another Walk In The Woods (Halo 3), Walking Away (Halo Reach). It’s one of my favourite parts of each soundtrack to hear it return, so let’s look at it.
The first thirty seconds of this are absolute bliss; Marty and Mike clearly knew what they were doing. Immediately we’re introduced to the very round bass sound along with a multi-layered voice synth. As the bass builds from a series of notes at a time to an actual bassline the synth follows it, wrapping around it. Right at the 30” mark, the layers of the voice synth drop out and we’re left with a single ‘voice’ and that’s where the drums come in. After a phrase, we bring the rest of the voice synth back in along with the bass, before the drums develop some more rock-ish pace. After a drums-only moment we’re taken back to the smoooooooooth voice progression from the beginning with the basic bassline again, really letting the drums take over the track, before we’re left with just the drums again as they fade.
May 11

Skyrim: Awake
I was looking back last week and was surprised by the sheer number of Halo songs I’ve talked about. I love the series and their composers, but I consciously think of myself as loving the music of the Elder Scrolls series a little more. So, in the spirit of writing some perceived imbalance, and because I just posted my ambient version of this piece two weeks ago, let’s look at my my favourite piece in Skyrim’s soundtrack.
As far as I know, Awake is the shortest piece on the OST, but like all other tracks, it’s made from a simple melody or theme with simple yet exquisite orchestration. In Awake, the Horn carries the melody – it appears in the very first chord as we open, and slowly winds its way through two phrases before diminuendoing as we get to the climax of the piece, complete with sus. cymbal and mark tree. From there to the end we only hear the strings repeating a simple two bar phrase that goes back and forth between tonic and dominant chords.
May 18

the Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask: Stone Tower Temple Upside Down
Pretty sure I do this every time I post about Zelda. I go a long time without posting (give or take usually around half a year) and then I post another Zelda track a couple weeks later. 
The Upside Down or Inverted version of this theme is quite similar to the original (which makes sense). To begin, we get a sample that sounds similar to the Lens of Truth sound, but played in reverse and at a higher pitch. While many things stayed the same, there is also the addition of a wind sound as well. Otherwise the changes include the percussion loop being slightly different, the “chant” ostinato of whole-half-half notes being played by an accordion-esque sound rather than synth male choir, the middleground ostinato being played on acoustic guitar instead of reeds, and the main melody being played by a plucked string instead of a flute.
May 25

the Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask: Mountain Village
Well now I’m really doubling (tripling?) down on the Zelda. Back to back weeks, so I’ll have to avoid another piece of Zelda music for a year. Ouch. I had four tracks to pick here, and I went with the Mountain Village theme. Well, I say theme lightly, because really all of the major four area locations have the same music. That’s right, Mountain Village, Great Bay Coast, Southern Swamp, and Ikana Valley are all the same song. Just with different Instrumentation and dispersement of the theme.
We start out with wind noise before the “theme”s main melody is played with some kind of bell-sound that has quite a lot of vibrato-laden sustain. Our counter melody – heard in gaps between the melody’s first repeat – is very masked but is definitely some kind of synth voice. Once the melody repeats we get a full choir voice pad to emphasize chord shifts every few beats (or so). The ending bit is picked up by a digital piano with a much lower choir (likely the same “instrument”) plays the counter melody to that.
June 1

Mother 3: Phantasmagoric
Another soundtrack I haven’t had the pleasure to experience in-game as I’ve never played this game. Mother 3 never (officially) left Japan, and was even rereleased on the Wii U Virtual Console. Still though, the soundtrack got a CD release, and despite not being scored by Suzuki and Tanaka but instead by Shogo Sakai, it still feels very much like the franchise should sound.
Speaking of “Mother sounds” the track starts off with a smooth low pad and “strings” before getting a very echo-laden digital piano. The low end drops out briefly and we change the mood by raising the rhythm of the strings and giving them a nice, breathing cresc. and dimin. The mood changes again and we get the long slow strings and pad underneath a flute and synth lead which take us through our halfway point. The ebbing strings return underneath a quick string melody before becoming very blocky underneath a low clarinet melody. We slow down and almost evaporate into some slow strings before a harp arpeggiation sweeps us up to the end.
June 8

Super Metroid: Lower Maridia
Ah, a blast from the past. I’ve always loved the soundtracks of the early Metroid games, and while I like the soundtracks from the Prime series, they don’t quite have that same feeling as the early games. There was just something about the original that captures simultaneously a sense of dread and the wonder of exploration, and combines composition and sound design in a way that still captivates me.
At the beginning we get two of the main sounds for this game, the plodding synth rhythm and a bell-like sound. While the plodding synth sort-of arpeggiates out a chord progression, the bell-like sound hits a couple of notes in line with the other synth. A few moments in we get this long-stretched out synth with audible oscillations as a “melody” that weaves above and below our plodding synth. After a couple of phrases of the melody we get a low bass rumble that’s just wonderfully gritty. The bass comes in and out over the rest of the track, and really creates a feeling of emptiness as it diminuendos out, which just really makes this track stand out for me.
June 15

Pokémon Colosseum: Relic Forest (Ambience)
Another favourite of mine to help myself narrow in on what it means to make these ambient creations that blend soundscape, melody, and harmony. I’ve loved this track since I first got here way back in 2003/4, and I personally like this presentation/version a little more than the one in XD: Gale of Darkness. I worked the theme a little temporally in the same way that I did the Skyrim Awake ambience, but tried to go a couple steps beyond that this time, tweaking some note lengths and holding certain notes out rather than just carving music up and inserting space. It’s a learning process, and I’ll have more In Extremis ambient music soon!
June 22

Final Fantasy VIII: Find Your Way
Nobuo Uematsu is a genius. There’s no other way to put it. The success of the first decade and change to me has a lot to do with his amazing music. I’ve talked about Final Fantasy in the past (four times) but neglected to mention Uematsu’s work as an icon in the industry.
There’s so many instruments and things going on in this track (in contrast to last week’s track) that it’s hard to cover them all. We start out with a woodwind chord, low harp, tubular bells, and a music box (or deskbells?). Soon we get smooth, flowing strings, and what sounds like a doubling of dulcimer and piano. Eventually we get a bassoon solo that trades off with a flute solo before returning to our “normal” instrumentation. There’s also a couple of very rare bass drum/double bass pairings.
June 29

Rime: Alone in the Light
I haven’t played this game (yet?), but I saw Lindsey Stirling’s name in the credits and was intrigued. The game visually and gameplay wise reminds me a lot of a Team Ico game, and like those games, it seems to have a lush soundtrack to accompany your time spent alone or with a barely verbal companion.
The track opens with quiet, slow strings and a smooth piano that really make you feel “alone”. As the full orchestra starts to come in, we get a very smooth upper woodwinds and violins before a very brief choral entrance. Back down to piano and strings again, this time the orchestra’s entrance is more prolonged as individual members and sections come in in smaller groups. We slowly work our way to that big, full orchestra sound, which only appears for fleeting moments at a time before we get an extended section to close out the track before that too fades away.
July 6

Final Fantasy III: Eternal Wind
I’m not super hip on the ongoings of the Final Fantasy series, but I recently watched the trailer for XIV: Shadowbringers and heard a theme I remembered, so I thought we’d go back and look at that theme this week. It’s a lovely combination of the calming FF sound that always has a beautiful melody combined with some…disco influences? This is Final Fantasy III’s Eternal Wind.
We start with just an arpeggiating synth soon joined by a flute and the beginnings of a groovy bassline. For now the flute changes on beat while the bassline avoids it, but as the flute becomes what we will find out is the melody of the track the bassline falls back a little to put more emphasis on the downbeat. Once we get drums, another synth plays a counter melody to the flute, and the bassline ramps up a little. Soon, we get a full disco feeling with the open/close hi-hat pattern that gives us a small embellishment on the bassline as well before the track steps back a bit in intensity before abruptly ending.
July 13

Xenoblade Chronicles: Reminiscence (Music Box)
This song has a lot of forms in game. There is the Piano-focused track called “Memories”, and the ‘normal’ version of this that uses a vibraphone as the main instrument. Originally, I was planning on going with Memories and describing its instrumental intricacies in the normal detail, but today I felt like I should leave you with this, a Music Box version of Reminiscence from Xenoblade Chronicles.
July 20

Flower: Lazy Daydream
I have never heard of this game, but I found the track in a playlist that I’ve found some other gems in, along with plenty of other music that I already recognized and loved. The game is called Flower, devoloped by thatgamecompany and released in 2009. Thatgamecompany also developed a game you might have heard of (I’ve covered the OST before) called Journey.
After some solo ambience, we’re introduced to our main instrument: the solo acoustic guitar. We get one repetition of our main ostinato before the melody begins in the higher range of the guitar, and a soft pad joins in the background. The guitar falls away and leaves us with the ambience after a little while, before it resumes with a broken, segmented melody. It’s not long until we get our soft pad again, and the guitar shifts to a more harmonic approach but keeps the same rhythmic features. This style is the majority of the track.
August 3

the Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword: Sailing the Sand Sea
It’s been long enough that I can talk about Zelda without feeling bad again. Not that I feel bad, per se, it’s just that it’s my favourite series so I’m wary of over-covering it. This might be a good exception to my practice of waiting a while, as this is a gem in an already under-appreciated game. Today we’re listening to “Sailing the Sand Sea” from Skyward Sword.
This piece is underpinned by these two ostinatos that we hear immediately in the beginning, along with some more ambient and free flowing percussion. There’s a quarter note dulcimer ostinato that dips in and out along with a broken eighth note acoustic guitar that fades in and out as well. Over the top we get a beautiful woodwind melody that we hear early no that dances around the lower range. Towards the middle of the track and the ends of a few phrases the melody leaps to a higher range only to immediately come back down. What really holds the track together is the shaker rhythm, a constant short-long repeating figure that gives us a grid that makes all other parts of the track feel more free flowing in comparison.
August 10

Pokémon Ruby-Sapphire-Emerald: Dive
I debated (with myself) for a while about which version of this track to use. The ORAS version of this track is a little more relaxing and has a oddly lofi-hiphop related element, as if the composers were aware of that trend…a couple of years before it became popular. I settled on the original mostly because it’s the original, but I also prefer the smoother tone used for the synth in the old version.
There are four elements to this track, and we get two of them quite early. There’s a two-note bell pattern much like agogo before we get a mostly-arpeggiating harp line. The smooth tone of the melody comes in over that before we get the percussion, which is made up of a kick, snare, and white noise sound for rolls on the snare drum or to emulate a hihat perhaps.
August 17

MapleStory: Aqua Road Shining Sea
Every time I listen to the MapleStory OST I love this track. It reminds me of Aquatic Ambience from the DKC series with it’s spacious pads and fun bassline, but the melody and percussion is just a bit more upbeat and gives the listener a similar yet different feeling. This is “Shining Sea” from Aqua Road.
August 24

the Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks: Lost Woods
I can’t help myself, we’re back to looking at Zelda games again. Spirit Tracks is in my top 5 (and I’ve said this before) both as a game and an OST. It’s an absolute gem, and I listened through a couple songs I was thinking of covering this week, but I kept coming back to this. It has this interesting musical device that despite being a very simple track creates feelings of loneliness and eeriness. There’s only a handful of sounds, but the main two are a bell instrument and the vibraphone. The bell instrument has this ostinato that fades in and out volume wise but never changes. The vibraphone really makes the piece work in my opinion. It too, has an ostinato (sensing a theme here?), but it also has a duplicate sound playing that slowly fades out of phase with itself. Listen closely and you’ll soon hear what sounds like a vibraphone line sound like it’s playing every note twice really quickly, then before and right after it feels “broken” there’s a smooth division where the vibraphone is heard playing twice as fast as it actually is.
August 31

Chrono Cross: Voyage ~ Another World
Since today’s also the end of month wrap-up and I didn’t previously prepare a writeup, let’s take a break from all the words and just experience the music. The “normal” Soundtrack Saturday will be back soon, I promise.

At’Ypx Takes over #SoundtrackSaturday

November 9

Ajika Theme
The official theme for the historical society of Omneutta, the Aebrahnd Miethhas Ajika. Commissioned for the Ajika by Laeh Serin.
November 16

Final Fantasy X: Wandering Flame
While numbered as the tenth game in the series, it is not the tenth game released for the Final Fantasy franchise, and also boasts the title of fifth-highest-selling PlayStation 2 game. Developed by Square with composition by Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano, this track was specifically handled by Hamauzu.
The majority of the track is a simple four-chord progression on a very floaty synth pad, effortlessly blending between chords. A processed reed-like instrument comes in to fill the gap every few chords, along with some reverb. After a few repeats of this grouping, we are joined by an organ-like tone that slowly spins a melody out of the chords. From the slow melody and out of the processed instrument spins a low reed instrument solo, swelling and fading in time with the rising and falling of the pad to create a feeling of smoothness. Just before the two minute mark we are treated to a brief modification of the melody in a higher register for contrast before we loop.
November 23

Xenoblade Chronicles: Colony 9 (Night)
Originally released for the Nintendo Wii in 2010, the game was later rereleased as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D on the 3DS, and has a forthcoming port on the Switch as Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. There were six composers credited on the game, with three listed as the trio “ACE+”. Manami Kyota, Yoko Shimomura, and Yasunori Mitsuda are credited with their names, while Tomori Kudo, Hiroyo Yamanaka (also known as CHiCO), and Kenji Miramatsu comprise the trio.
Soft middle- and back-ground elements including smooth guitar chords and plenty of rounded synths make up the first twenty seconds as we wait for the main melody to enter. This melody is made up of a quick plucked string sound that is sustained by a wind-like sound, a combination of at least two instruments. This gives way to a counter melody played by a wooden wind instrument, and both of these melodies are restated and elaborated by other instruments, at times interpolated with sections of slower harmonic rhythm for balance.
November 30

Super Mario Odyssey: Seaside Kingdom
While Super Mario Odyssey is fairly new (released in late 2017), the style of music quoted in this piece is quite new in the timeline of Earth music. Born on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in the late 1950s, composers Naoto Kubo, Shiho Fujii, and Koji Kondo make a beautiful Bossa Nova, a style most known by “The Girl from Ipaname”, reportedly the most played Earth song behind “Yesterday”.
Like many other bossas, an acoustic guitar is central. In fact, this piece has at least two, one strumming accompaniment chords and another that trades the melody between vibraphone, piano, accordion, and itself. The aim is to create a relaxing, picturesque mood reminiscent of relaxing on a beach, much like the music of Pale Shores. A lively but not overbearing percussion section including small drums, shakers, and wind chimes keep the track moving.
December 7

Secret of Mana: A Bell Is Tolling
Secret of Mana (also known as Seiken Densetsu 2) was released in Earth year 1993 to critical acclaim. The game featured a real-time active battle system, unlike the turn-based systems of its contemporaries and predecessor. The cooperative multiplayer system was also praised for its innovation, and composer Hiroki Kikuta produced several standout tracks among a gem of a score, one of which we’ll listen to today.
This track maintains a mysterious quality to it despite morphing several times in its short span. Beginning with a low atmospheric pad and a sustaining bell-like sound that continues with an ostinato, the track suddenly shifts, the bell-like sound loses its sustain to become a counter melody, and a string-like synth carries the melody over an active bassline. Halfway through, we shift again and introduce a backbeat over another active bassline. The melody in a new wind-like instrument retains its mysterious quality and the track quickly shifts again to the first structure.
December 14

Dust: Aurora
Dust originally released via Xbox Live Arcade in 2012, later on PC, OSX, PS4, and has recently seen release on the Nintendo Switch. Praised for its art style, soundtrack, metroidvania progression, and combat mechanics that combine swordplay and magic, the game features anthropomorphic characters and a story where the titular character tries to remember their past. The soundtrack was produced by the combination of Hyperduck Soundworks (whose YT channel has the OST) and Alexander Brandon.
With slow-moving string pads underneath a plucked string instrument, the piece opens with a peaceful and historic feeling. Once the rhythm and tempo increases with some additional percussive elements and other quick sounds like bells, piano, and other short-sustain instruments we commence a cycle of ebb and flow, occasionally getting instruments like a flute that sustain a brief melody during a respite in percussive movement.
December 21

the Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks: Anouki Village
Released in 2009 as the second of the DS Zelda pair (Phantom Hourglass being the first), the Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks was composed by Toru Minegishi along with Manaka Tominaga, Asuka Ohta, and Koji Kondo. Minegishi would also compose much music for both Splatoon and Splatoon 2, a series I like the sound of but have not yet covered.
We can hear two of the track’s staples immediately with the tambourine-like percussion and the wooden flute esque off-beat echoes. Another wind instrument plays the melody at first, alternating with bells for a counter melody before the bassoon that has been end of phrase demarcations handles its own counter melody before the whole thing loops again.
December 28

Runescape: Scape Santa
The game originally debuted in 2001, though this track was not released until 2004. Part of the game in March, the track was first played in the Christmas event that year, and has seen revisions over time. I have yet to cover any of Runescape’s music–and there is a lot, so this felt like a fitting start.
Frequent but not consistent rhythms of sleigh bells add to the wintry feel of the track, along with a glockenspiel and orchestral chimes that trade off as part of a melody/counter melody in alternating sections to a more lyrical melody that is played by strings. While it does not quote any Earth holiday music, it does augment Runescape’s traditional rhythm section and background instrumentation, and it is surprising how much heavy use of sleigh bells and metallic percussion can invoke a holiday/winter feeling.

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