ReMix: Wild Arms 'Return to Dust'

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Wild Arms: ARMed and DANGerousWild Arms

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.

djpretzel

Discussion: Latest 11 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
ryankeeton
on 2011-12-26 21:32:56
Gorgeous intro and nice guitar playing. Very pretty and epic with the choir coming in and the added electronic elements around 2:00. The beat drop at 2:33 feels a little sudden and awkward to me. That said, awesome touches like at 2:45. All the guitar sections later continue sounding great, and I like the violin(?) at 6:50. Nice track
SuperiorX
on 2011-12-24 11:39:55
Another completely amazing track. Again, I was pretty curious what could be done with such a minimalist source in an 8 minute song, but damn these guys made it work. The opening choir and vocal samples throughout were very well done. That was one of the things I loved about the OST and was curious as to how prevalent they'd be on this album. Very nice acoustic guitar work throughout too! The electronica transition around 2:30 caught me off guard a bit, but I loved it. It really helped keep the track fresh and proved to be an interesting combination with the acoustic guitar. Overall I love this song!
Mustin
on 2011-12-24 00:14:40
I did the biggest movie-style double take on this one. I listened to every track today without looking at track names or artist names to get an unbiased opinion. When I was digging this and looked down I didn't even process it. Hence the massive double take. So awesome to see Stephen come back. This is one of the three tracks I loved from this project. Great work and hope there will be more from Stephen Kennedy!
Kennedy
on 2011-12-22 13:12:29
Ego stroked? (Check)
Thank you all for the comments. I always enjoy getting feedback, even if it is negative. It's so interesting to see how people have different taste in music, much like food. Even if I think I've made a chocolate milk shake, there is always someone out there who won't like chocolate...as hard as that may be to imagine. *chuckle* (this analogy is not directed to anyone particular)
That's what I love about music. Taking out the technical aspect of things, One mans trash is another mans treasure.
Should I submit some of my unreleased stuff I made during my hiatus? It's not quite as good, but maybe someone can enjoy it.
Thankyou Jade for your encouragement.
E-Bison
on 2011-12-22 01:12:09
Epic Choirs? (Check)
Robot Voice? (Check)
Fat Saws? (Check)
Sick Drops? (Check)
Flashy Glitch Cuts? (Check)
Awesome (Check)
JaDE ARaN HaRuNo
on 2011-12-21 12:54:03
One of my dreams come true that this is up at OCR after 11 years. The Batman song doesn't even count to be completely honest. Stephen is far from that now. If you guys can find the PMM albums online, get it and take a listen! I also have all the official copies. I can always share it.
I e-mailed Stephen about his post so hopefully he drops in to say hi.
Crulex
on 2011-12-21 10:33:12
What an intriguing way to start off, with a loud choir followed by some mechanical whirring as acoustic guitar plays. The guitar with the mechanical sounds showed a great contrast of human and inhuman, and then adding some tense elements along with the choir was great. Good hook for getting things started before it opens up and gets that beat going. The arrangement and production was nice and it didn't really feel like it was more than seven minutes. That's how enjoyable it is. The way all those different facets joined together made this one of the best tracks on the album (that I've heard so far. I'm not even half-way through this massive thing!) Awesome return by Stephan Kennedy and once again, Stevo delivers. Great job to both men.
Rexy
on 2011-12-21 07:21:06
11MB? Wait a sec; what's the new cap on file submissions? I would've assumed it was 10 after bLiNd's submission earlier, but now you've got me intrigued.
So admittedly, I hadn't heard Stephen's Batman track. But I have a vague familiarity with his work for Majestic Mix, so I shouldn't be considered completely out of the blue.
It starts out pretty creepy with some nice gate and ambient processing over the original choir, before shifting the soundscape over Stevo's guitar playing with the melody, gradually shifting in more electronic sounds within this soundscape. This build soon culminates into a late-80s-euphoria groove at around 2:30, wasn't too keen on the transition into it, but the enhancing of the soundscape since has managed to make it worthwhile for me, whether it be Stevo's acoustic guitar solos (that one to close the track was similarly pretty), further shifting with the soundscape with some tasteful polysynth attacking and some sweet sweeping strings later on. It may have taken more of a liberal direction with the choir's melodies as the track drew on, but the vague similarities taken on throughout still make it shine through.
I know that Stephen may have wanted the electric guitar part to sound more mechanical, but I personally believe it comes down to the strength of the sample. And to be fair, I don't think it has the right kind of expression to give towards the track, so I'm not sure if it was a wise move. Luckily its presence is sparse at best, so it may be seen as a passing blur.
Regardless, it's a very surprising track to close out the album's initial mixflood with, and with the 10 year gap between posts, it's a sign of saying that one should never officially call it quits with the OCRemix community if their heart is still there. A neatly interpreted track from the Two Steves™ :)
Jewbei
on 2011-12-20 22:21:24
This track right here is one of my personal favorites from the project ..im a trancehead and i must say i was amazed how everything jus gelled/flowed in the track everything stays fresh and the soundscape is baller as well this goes in my top vg remix trance folder.
Bahamut
on 2011-12-20 22:13:14
This is a pretty unique mix - it uses the guitar to help achieve the spacey distant feel in the song, but uses it in a less prominent way. The vocals are used to great effect here, and the soundscape really provides an understated role. The beats dropping into the song about a third of the way through morphs the song into a progressive electronic song that goes wild. It's a great return of Stephen Kennedy, and it's surprising how much he has progressed from those KFSS days. A great job by him here and special one at that!
djpretzel
on 2011-12-20 22:00:23
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