ReMix: Wild Arms 'Return to Dust'
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Stephen Kennedy officially sets the site record for longest hiatus between mixposts on this collab w/ Stevo!! Way back in the year 2000, before we even had electricity or running water, we posted his funky Batman (NES) ReMix, and now, more than a decade later, he's back! He had a LOT to say, but we're making up for 10+ years, here, so let's hear the man out:
"I am thankful to have been asked to come up with something for this project. One of my initial goals was to find the most lean track that I could, in order to challenge myself to come up with something with what little the original track offered. Not only was Wild Arms one of my favorite games as a kid, but it had a track that fit the bill in terms of sparseness. The original track, "Return to Ashes," presents an emphatic-sounding choir... in a track that's just over a minute long.
In the end game, we have a moment where a giant earth golem makes a great sacrifice for the good of others. My version of the track starts with the same choir as the original and adds with it the nuances of machinery and soft energy to draw us towards a reflection of this moment. It's a moment of tenderness and sacrifice from an otherwise hard/mechanical character. Quickly ramping up, it devolves into a somewhat chaotic enmeshing/entwining of the chaos that takes place before bringing our golem to its final resting place.
A key element with all things Wild Arms for me was always that wonderful acoustic guitar. After the track was "finished," Jade came back to me with the suggestion of redoing the guitars. At this point, I had had a several month hiatus from the piece and was in a good position to spend some much needed time reflecting on and reworking it. Enter Stevo.
I wrote two guitar parts for this piece (acoustic and electric). I liked them, but that nice acoustic wasn't "human" enough. It needed the real thing. After some introductions, I sent both parts to Stevo and asked him to feel free to emulate or elaborate/change any of it he felt inspired to. I'm grateful to have had Stevo work on this piece with me. Although I used only his acoustic recordings in the end (I wanted the electric to stay more "mechanical"), he had some really great ideas and skill to contribute, which, in turn, led me to a better direction for mixing, arranging, and getting the piece where it is now. He was a great help to me creatively, and I am glad to have his acoustical arrangement part of my own. Thanks, Stevo!
I realize my track imagines and elaborates quite a lot on the original's uncomplicated melody, but I really wanted to branch out and contribute something that was proportionally more my own work than the fundamental tune or a simple arrangement or even remix... all this while still paying homage to the original and its roots. The end result, I feel, pays homage to the original track, captures the essence of the in-game story unfolding, features some great collab between me and Stevo, and says Wild Arms! I hope you enjoy it."
Definitely one of the most liberal arrangements on the album, Stephen has fortunately still colored in the lines enough; much connectivity relies on an extended choral sample, but the transmogrification really is quite stellar. He's come a long way since 2000 from a pure production/technique perspective, but this mix is also big on concept, and the way everything's been repurposed, tweaked, modified, and unexpectedly humanized with Stevo's acoustic guitar performance feels very fresh, texturally - and more importantly, it works. Jade alludes to Stephen's pivotal role in the early days of fan VGM arrangements w/ PMM in her comments:
"I discovered Stephen Kennedy in 2002 through OC ReMix. He was the founder of the fanmade album series Project Majestic Mix. I was extremely nervous to ask Stephen to join the project, but thanks to Jordan's help and support, he signed up for this epic track. The source is one of the highlights of the game, so I knew he would be perfect for the part. This has got to be his best track yet. I am honored that he is on ARMed and DANGerous, and at last officially a part of OC ReMix after 11 years of inactivity. Stevo Bortz (Level 99) also assisted with amazing guitars last minute to complete the track, despite his busy schedule. I thank the 3 marvelous artists for making a track come true. We've made HIStory."
I'd definitely like to echo that sentiment - it's really cool to see Stephen contributing to this album after all these years, it's clear that his musical vision remains distinct & acute, and this track shows tons of development and hopefully the potential for more mixes in 2012 and beyond. I love the story the mix tells, but I also love the story behind how it was made, Stevo definitely added a lot to the emotional payload, and the resulting arrangement fits into the larger picture of ARMed and DANGerous perfectly.
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