ReMix: Final Fantasy IV "The Still Land"
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6,781,235 bytes, 4:04, 220kbps
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.
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