ReMix: Final Fantasy IV "The Still Land"

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Final Fantasy IV

HIDEKI MATSUI!! How bout them Yankees? Great stuff all around, good series, and a fitting end to an excellent season. Speaking of excellent seasons, I really feel like 2009 has been a fantastic year for the site - Summoning of Spirits, Echoes, Humans + Gears, and (for a great Halloween surprise) Sonata of the Damned, all in one year, along with the "usual" posting of amazing individual mixes along the way, extending the submission size to 8MiB, and finally going live with our redesign. And the year's not over yet, either! From the FFIV album, James George actually resubmitted this 'Lunarians' arrangement after the panel rejected the first incarnation, and the changes he made were all definite improvements. The artist writes:

"Never thought I'd ever see my 4GB RAM at 96%, but today was a first. I layered in more instruments to play more source as the piece progresses. It actually was there most of the song, but slowly got covered up. I was already on the fence with the voice, and decided to try another direction rather than continue experimenting with elements that really aren't my style... Kinda had a feeling I'd get rejected after I submitted the first time cuz once my ear fatigue subsided I really started to hear lots of problems, so I had time to come up with new ideas. I'll just let the new changes speak for themselves. Crossing my fingers now cuz at 97% I think my computer explodes or something."

I sorta feel guilty with my 12GB rig, but it's cool to know James is maxing out his hardware and getting the most out of it, and you can hear the results. Judges were actually split on this one, largely because of issues with the drums/percussion (samples + implementation) but also due to the last minute involving a pretty liberal extrapolation. The source material is very elemental, so it's hard to see how a full arrangement could do anything other than add some structure on top; nevertheless, it's clear that this piece was hit & miss with some folks. I had to come with a rare tiebreaking vote myself, and while I see legitimacy in much of the criticism, I still feel like taking on source material like this requires a little leeway, and that James did a good job converting a very static, hypnotic piece into something more narrative, that does actually go somewhere. There's a bit of dissonance thrown in that raised some eyebrows, but I personally was fine with it; actually, in the interest of expediency, I think I'll just quote my OWN "judge's decision," since I rarely get to vote:

"The dissonance being referred to is most noticeable with the brass cluster at 3'38" - but it comes back down. It resolves before the end of the bar... I'm no theory expert, but I do feel like I've heard this done countless times in film scores. Generally speaking, it'd be reiterated somewhere else in a piece, to let listeners KNOW it was intentional and to make us all more, uh... tonically comfortable? At any rate, rather than question why individual elements are there, whether they add anything, etc. I'll agree that the conclusion gets a bit cluttered, AND that stronger percussion would have helped... these Lunarians have a somewhat anemic rhythm section - in the words of Leeloo, I wanted Big Badda Boom, and I did not get it.

I think rejecting this mix based on development or being too liberal is essentially cutting arrangers off at the feet for source material like this, which requires more patience and extrapolation to work with. So, clean bill of health on arrangement for me. That leaves production and instrumentation. There are definitely issues, and they've all been pointed out. Some are more subjective than others, but I don't think anyone's standing up and shouting "I Am Spartacus" for the drum samples. Nevertheless, nothing here is problematic enough for me to reject, and the first two minutes have some really atmospheric textures that do seem intangibly "lunar"."

Well said, me! Creative stuff from the man with two first names, who fleshes out the bare-bones atmosphere of the original with a solid, imaginative arrangement.


Discussion: Latest 15 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
on 2015-12-05 19:22:11

Brings the moon dungeon to mind in an interesting way. Expands on the source in a really nice way. The calm section before the buildup was great and the following material feels right too. The ending however, comes too soon IMO. Very good mix.

on 2010-09-24 07:01:49

This is a hard one to give a solid opinion of because it's something that will mean a different thing everytime you hear it. It has that ambiguous sound that might suggest science fiction or it might just suggest relaxation. It definitely succeeds in being ambient, and has a solid array of samples to back it up. But I could very much tell that this was based on a short-and-simple, difficult to remix tune.

Having said that, all the right decisions were made with it. The first half embraces the simplicity whilst the second half builds on it, giving us all the best of both worlds. It's a slow and patient mix, and I still can't figure out what I get from it. But hopefully more listening will help that.

on 2010-07-09 12:58:50

I truly enjoy the atmospheric sound of this song. Really, it's one of those peaceful songs that I can use to lay back and relax with. A very satisfying take on this tune.

on 2009-12-11 19:04:11

I like how you took a very simple source and started off with a similar minimalist soundscape for quite a while before expanding it. I think fans of the original will like how you stayed true to the original but also be able to appreciate all of the tasteful embellishments. Very good rendition, I couldn't think of a better way to do this song! :-D

on 2009-12-08 01:00:13

It took me a while to get over the first minute, because the sounds... don't really know what to call them, woodblocks? but they're distorted just enough for me to mistake it for clipping. Fault of my own ears.

The introduction of the the instruments at 3:02 is such a great climax point. It's so rich and satisfying, and it's so short that it's extremely memorable. I don't notice the dissonance at all, personally.

on 2009-12-01 22:11:19

I like this mix - it's very atmospheric and lush, it really does give the feeling of being in space.

ella guro
on 2009-12-01 06:09:16

1GB ram FTW!

I had to go listen to the source since I'm a butthead and never played FFIV.

Interesting choice of a source, it's a really simple tune.

Nice sounds. I actually kinda like this, especially right before the 3 minute mark with things all kinda sad and pianoy. RIGHT after that it feels like it deviates from the source a bit (basically keeping the progression but adding a melody that wasn't there before). That section is a bit too tentative for the big buildup that it was supposed to be and the samples show some of their weakness. I think it might be better if this section pushed farther, but then the mix just ends. So I agree that this is kind of undeveloped. But there are some really cool parts in the first 3 minutes, especially 2:00-3:00, so keep at it.

on 2009-12-01 01:21:19

I like how this mix is drawn out and is constantly building up.

Everything feels so deliberate, nothing gone to waste or misused.

While this mix is fancifully atmospheric, it isn't passive like other ambient tracks, and I like that in this mix.

on 2009-11-20 07:08:28

A very interesting song that has plenty of great things going on.

Good work.

Martin Penwald
on 2009-11-14 13:02:04
definitely a great atmospheric track, i'm very glad this made it onto OCR. :-)

Agreed on all accounts. Unlike Bahamut, though, I don't think of space when I hear this; the images that come to my mind are deep forests and stuff. Or maybe a landscape full of ruins.

on 2009-11-09 17:04:02

Get outta here with your overpaid team, djp. :P

Good mix though, I likey. Definitely good for ambience.

on 2009-11-08 04:49:02

Thanks everyone. It was an enjoyable project for sure. I'm surprised the dissonance (yes, it was deliberate) towards the end was heavily criticized. Djp was right: that progression is practically a cliche in film. But que sera sera, it's all good. The uber sparse source and 5/4 time (which I'm also surprised nobody really brought up) was definitely a challenge that made the transitions awkward and the beats weak, and I think that's the cause of the intangible "weirdness" this one has on some, but I think something positive came from the experiment. ^^

I remember I had to push this out fast before my daughter was born, or face the likelihood of not finishing it at all on time. I definitely wished I'd had more time, but all your help was better than all the time in the world, so thanks again.

Did I ever tell you guys I thought this piece was ready when I played this on my monitors and my wife came in complaining our daughter was going nuts in her tummy? We thought she was either dancing, or pounding on the wall to demand we keep that racket down. Either way it was a good stopping point. ;) I think for that reason alone, even though this probably wasn't the most popular track, this will be some of the most memorable stuff I've done.

on 2009-11-08 01:39:15

I like this - it stays fairly true to the original source in its mystique and exotic sound that makes one think of the moon, or space at the least.

Nobbynob Littlun
on 2009-11-07 04:49:51

Sounds very much like the Metroid Prime series soundtrack, especially in the latter half. If you wanted to take this song through a third incarnation and give it more energy, you've got a seamless FF4/Metroid dual remix in the making already.

Not that I don't enjoy this second incarnation you have up here ;)

on 2009-11-06 11:11:27
Despite the complaints presented in the judges evaluation, I think tht the track is doing what it sets out to do. It adds a new flavor onto the original source, while retaining most of the original emotion. The track achieves what it sets out to do. I don' think you can ask more of it. It's got some pretty moments which I definately enjoy. Nice work.

Agreed. Kudos to James for taking some chances with this mix. This is/was one of my most listened to tracks off of the project.