ReMix: Aquaria 'Minibadass'
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It's been awhile, Mr. Baranowsky! On hiatus since 2007, Danny B. recently made time in his busy schedule to sit down with us for an awesome interview where he caught us up on all the cool indie games he's been scoring, including Meat Boy and Canabalt. Also, the soundtrack to the stunning Aquaria was just released, dB's got a remix on it, and composer Alec Holowka was groovy with Danny submitting it here! I'm digging that OCR's getting a mix from a more indie title like Aquaria, since this market has really entered a renaissance lately and is producing some absolutely stellar games, not to mention soundtracks. Aquaria's score is all sorts of awesome, and Danny applied his own unique style to it with this mix. Speaking of his style, in the couple years since his last mix, he's really gone in more of a chiptune/electronica direction, so those familiar with his mixes or earlier originals might be surprised to stop by www.dbsoundworks.com and hear the retro beats he's been cooking up. The artist writes:
"It was all Reason 4, was done in about 4 days, and is a remix of the miniboss music from Aquaria. Alec Holowka, the game's co-creator, asked me to master the game OST, and in doing so I was really feeling the miniboss track so and offered to make a remix for him. It still drives me insane that I can't physically play my own lead lines, especially because this one seemed like one that would be superfun to jam out on my keytar! Also, I think it's really awesome that OCR continues to highlight even new game music, along with the classic stuff. I deal with the prejudice against video game music every day, and I think it's awesome you guys are still carrying the torch!"
Gracias, sir; you are a man among men! Alec's really cool and approachable, so we thought we'd get his thoughts on the overall Aquaria score, the specific source tune in question, AND this remix of it - after all, you don't always get the chance to go full circle and get inside the heads of both mixer and composer! In our little mini-interview of sorts, Alec writes:
"Since Aquaria was made mainly by two people (myself and Derek Yu) we had to share a lot of responsibilities. We both worked on design together, but he did the art and level design and I did the programming, music and animation. That kind of setup means you don't get a lot of time off, but it also means that you become way more immersed in the game. You're going to look at a game score quite differently if you're the one designing it rather than if you were hired to write music for someone else's idea.
Some advantages of this are that I could add in unique music cues for story ideas if we came up with them late, or I could even come up with ways to resolve story points using music. Those who have played through the game probably recognize a melody woven through all of the tracks that ends up proving to be quite significant by the end of the game. I really wanted the game to sound consistent and to express the emotions in the world and characters.
"Boss Fraught" is a track mostly written by my brother. He has a really good ear for catchy action music. He wrote one version of this track, and then I did a pass over it. I added in the main Aquaria traveling theme at 0:25, changed up the melody a tiny bit and played with the arrangement. I didn't really change too much, just integrated it into the "Aquaria sound" a bit more. Collaborations like that can work out really well in some cases. :)
The soundtrack is available here. It includes a brand new 9 minute track that features Jenna Sharpe. (the voice actress from Aquaria) In addition to being a great voice actress, she's actually a talented singer. It was fun to work with her again, because its been a while. (Aquaria was first released Dec. 2007)
Brandon McCartin, another talented indie composer, has two remixes on the CD - and they're really neat. Funky, very stylistically different and fun. The package also includes a lot of sexy print stuff. And the other neat thing about it is that each set is hand shipped with love by myself and my girlfriend. (and sometimes my sister!)
Mr. Baranowsky, as he is known (?) is just kind of a rad dude. I met him through Adam Saltsman (Paper Moon, Canabalt) down in Arizona and we hit it off. I first went to Danny about mastering, because it was something I was very nervous about doing. Danny did all the mastering for the CD and then decided he'd also like to throw in a remix! He really helped get this project off the ground at last, and I'm very grateful for his involvement."
Pretty extensive amount of information, there - if you haven't played Aquaria or listened to its soundtrack, hopefully this mix will prompt you to take a look at both. I remember hearing about it briefly back when it made a splash (<< IT'S A PUN), but after listening to this mix I explored some more, and the overall visual and audio aesthetic is really cohesive and otherworldly. The source track here is frenetic, suspenseful boss music, and danny b's taken that and turned it into a funkier, chippish breakdown/jam sorta joint, with exquisite synth lead sequencing and two full scoops of groove. It's wild to hear how his musical direction changed so much, but his skill & soul remain self-evident in all of his music. I'm thrilled that he's doing so well, and also that OCR can showcase his new style and also the soundtrack for an indie game, specifically. Major props to Danny and Alec for some innovative, inspiring work, and thanks to both for taking the time to share the process & thought behind it. Great ReMix, great interview, great game.
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