ReMix: Final Fantasy VII 'Deliverance of the Heart'
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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream. This is, quite simply, the largest single project OverClocked ReMix has undertaken, and when you hear the end result, I think you'll see what all the fuss is about. Start downloading the torrent now; it's a big one. Judge and ReMixer Andrew Aversa started this whole thing way back in January of 2006, and now, 45 mixes, forty-plus artists, 4 CDs, countless sleepless nights, and copious quantities of caffeine later, it's finally seeing the light of day. It's the first OC ReMix album covering any game from the Final Fantasy series, and coincides with the recent ten-year anniversary of its namesake, Final Fantasy VII. Today also marks the Japanese release date for Square Enix's Crisis Core for the PSP. When Andy first approached me with this project idea, my first thought was: why not FF6? Like many fans, I was more familiar with and preferred the classic SNES score, and only knew three or four pieces from the FF7 OST. That soon changed, however, as the numerous talented artists that joined up showed me just how much I was missing. I am literally floored by the final result of everyone's efforts - when I finally got the time to sit down and listen to the whole project, back to back (a three and a half hour endeavour, mind you!), it was... emotional. This album represents the quintessential dream that motivated me to start OC ReMix in the first place, way back in 1999. It honors a great and often underrated score, it covers both popular themes and more esoteric ones, it brings artists from all over the world together to create a cohesive whole, it spans multiple musical genres, and it honors the original composer, the art of arrangement, and video game music in general. Every ReMixer involved with this project came through with their best; as Jayson Napolitano of Music 4 Games wrote in his review, it really is simply a massive work.
Somehow Andy - one of the most laid-back, easygoing guys I know - was able to corral over forty artists to collaborate on this and, especially towards the end, consistently meet deadlines. I honestly don't know how he did it. I think he used lasers... or robots... or dark magics. Or perhaps all three, combined. Mind you, at the same time he was working on his own contributions AND continuing to judge for OC ReMix. Of course, he had help and support from the collaborator on this mix, Jillian Goldin, who helped track down mixer bios and photos, amongst other things. I chipped in myself on the site design, artwork, album title, and PR stuff, but this was definitely Andy's baby, through and through. I think he's probably lost half his hair and shaved at least five years off his lifespan in the process, so hopefully you'll dig the album on some level, if only to make him feel better about being bald and closer to death... seriously, though, I think FF7: VotL has something for everyone, and you won't have to try too hard or look too long to find a track (or ten) that you're into. As a testament to video game music as an art form that transcends musical genre and can appeal to anyone and everyone, Andy's accomplished something with Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream that is truly momentous.
Okay, album notes out of the way... I'll be talking more about the project in each of these writeups, but I also need to say something about the songs themselves. The first mix we're posting is also the first from the album, a collab between Judges zircon and pixietricks, OCR's power couple extraordinaire. Honestly, they did my job for me, summing up their opener collectively:
"Some of you may have already heard the full piece during our Game Music Radio interview with Brian and Becky of "The Next Level," or in the last moments of our final bout with VGDJ. Needless to say, it's been hard to keep this one a total secret, but we're both extremely excited to finally release Deliverance of the Heart for download. We were looking forward to arranging this particular source tune right off the bat, as we are both admirers of Sting's later releases - which combine New Age and electronic textures with poignant, "soaring" vocals. "Heart of Anxiety" lends itself well to this particular genre of music, achieving the perfect balance between dark atmosphere and a hopeful, uplifting melody.
The underlying production of the piece involved a ton of percussive layers (at least a dozen electronic + acoustic), along with numerous synth pads, strings, pianos, and many other instruments. The idea was to create a soft, but dynamic backdrop for Jill's original vocal melodies. The whole thing builds up to a powerful section featuring her lyric-less singing, along with ethnic instruments and a new chord progression right before the lush final chorus. Neither of us had any idea where the lyrics would be headed when Jill set off to write them, but she returned with the words of a love song - soothing and warm.
It was after much deliberation that we finally arrived on the "perfect" title, but it came to us both simultaneously... And if that isn't a telling sign, I don't know what is."
It's an expansive arrangement that introduces the entire album effectively, combining elements of electronica and new age with Jill's alternatively ethereal and soulful vocals. One of the details I love is how you can hear the very discrete, specific articulations on the ends of words when Jill's voice is more exposed - everything trails off very naturally. Andy's holding back the more aggressive beats we all know he can drop and playing it chill, with intricate, undulating patterns that do a great job of maintaining interest when they're in the foreground and not being obtrusive when they're not. I could easily write tomes more on this piece alone, but my work's cut out for me and I'm already reaching Tolstoy-esque length with this writeup. Suffice it to say that Andy and Jill complement each other beautifully, musically and otherwise, and that this track is singular, but shares its singular excellence with a plurality of other amazing tracks on the album. Visiting http://ff7.ocremix.org would be an excellent idea right about now; no money-back guarantees are possible since this is all free, but I wouldn't feel uneasy about making them if things weren't so. I love this album, and I love this community for making it possible.
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