Donkey Kong Country, for me, is surrounded by an aura of mystery and nostalgia. Way back in 1994 (has it been 11 years?) I first played it at my babysitter's house, and soon thereafter I asked my parents to get it for me. I was captivated by its beautiful visuals, its clean, inviting gameplay, and, though I didn't think much about it at the time, its fascinating music. The many moods of "Cave Dweller's Concert," the lovely coos of "Aquatic Ambience," and the measured yet energetic romp of "DK Island Swing," among the other songs, were an integral part of a rather delightfully otherworldly game experience.
Thus, the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack is special to me. When I returned to OCR a few months after a friend introduced it to me, I found not only game song remixes (an enticing new idea at the time), but an entire soundtrack remix (I hadn't heard of Relics of the Chozo yet). And, almost of course, it was based on none other than the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack. I knew in the back of my mind that I was in for a treat. That was back in September.
Well, I had no idea what, in fact, I was in for. "Treat" doesn't even get near what this wonderful work is. I have waited months to write this review because of the weight of its subject. Kong in Concert is nearly beyond description of its quality. However, the following is an attempt at such.
This is quite literally some of the best music that I have ever heard. I daresay that this is the best music on OverClocked ReMix. Every song on this album is thoughtful, skillfully crafted, sophisticated, and fun to listen to. Of course, this has a lot to do with original composers Dave Wise, Eveline Fischer, Robin Beanland, and the fabulous OST that they created. However, it has as much to do with the remixers on this project, and their musical talent and creative ingenuity. Kong in Concert (in addition to standing alone as a truly great musical accomplishment) has not only paid tribute to a great game and a memorable part of my childhood, but it has built upon what those things are for me.
Godiva in the Desert: Wow. Way to kick off an album. This defies classification, and it does well for this. A variety of styles coming in from all sides make for fun, interesting listening. Its massive variance from the original sets well the idea of rearrangement for the rest of the album; and good job of changing the mood of the original. This is totally fresh. I'm also a fan of the vocals part.
Swing, Monkey, Swing: This is smooth, just like the original song, but it's a little more excited at the same time. I particularly like the bass and drum parts, as well as the organ cameos. Some great sax solos, too, as well as the quiet little piano denouement. A swingin' rendition of Simian Segue.
West Coast DK Island: Marvelous. This song has more sides to it than my ears can listen to at one time. I have listened to this song many times now, and I am still picking up new things from it. It is challenging, original, and, as I find more and more with each time I hear it, quite closely related to the original song while simultaneously taking the original ideas a long way in new directions. And as far as jazz is concerned, this one is just hot. JigginJonT, you done pretty damn good.
Rest and (Re)spite on a Soft Summer Night: What a sweet song. First, I love the title; I can hear Cranky hiding in this. I like the even rhythm that Unknown used; it seems to accentuate the chords at the end of each phrase. The tone of the guitar is beautiful, and the drum line works well for this melody.
Cry of the Chasmal Critter Chain: Ho ho ho, this is fabulous. Dark, but full of thoughtful illumination. You added a lot of great music to the somewhat sparse original, and it fills up the original melody like maple syrup on a waffle: thick, dark, and tasty-sweet. This is some memorable stuff.
One Zero One: Ha! This is so happy. This song pays a lot of tribute to the game; I can tell you had some good memories with this game (or at least it sounds like it ), since the feel of it is just so fondly reminiscent. Nice synth patches all the way through: leads, basses, pads are all warm and pleasant.
Beneath the Surface: I can see why Dave Wise complimented this song. Complex throughout, this seems to have many ideas developed in it. It definitely does "Aquatic Ambience" justice in mood and composition, and yet it is different from not only other remixes of the same song, but different from a lot of other music in general. This is a joy to listen to.
Funky Monkey Love: I laughed out loud the first time I heard this. It reminded me that all of this music, which is great on its own, is actually video game music arrangement. Yet even as I was thinking this, this song was doing some pretty sweet stuff on its own as well. Funky, jammin', and a bit wicked in places with that distorted guitar. There are some nice plays on rhythm in here too.
Boiling Point: After the ethereal whispers of "Beneath the Surface" and the smooth wahs of "Funky Monkey Love," I'm rested up for some angry jams, and this song quenches this thirst. While it may not be the most sonically hardcore song I've ever heard, it definitely rocks on melody. In the same vein, the drums are a bit sputtery, but the melody makes up for this by being badass, especially on the solos you arranged.
Mine Cart Misadventure: Electrical victory, this is. This takes the original song and hurls it far down a new road paved with some sweet guitar and synthesizer sounds. Like "Cry of the Chasmal Critter Chain," this makes some awesome new music while still being a remix. Excellent reiteration at 2:20, and a badass ending.
Echoes: Listening to this song lets me know I'm in good hands. From 0:01, I can feel that the two fellows are going to throw some sweet sounds at me. And they do. A dancing piano line, ringed by familiar trance sounds and a not-so-familiar drum kit, has energy that would make Winky proud. Around 2:40, this really throws back to the heartfelt melody of "Life in the Mines." Jumpin'.
Idols of Hanuman: This is nice and eerie like the original, but it goes beyond. The percussion and the vocals in this piece are really cool. They make it more otherworldly than “Voices of the Temple.” Scary and good.
Faunaphonic: Great thumping beats and good eclectic instrumentation; drum machine, sitar, synth, flute…great! I like the mystery in which you set the melody and your own notes—good mood.
Arboreal Ascent: Wow, this rox. Slipping back and forth between chill and energetic, this one is like “West Coast DK Island’ in that at first, it sounds really new, but after a few more listens, I realize that the new stuff is more based in the original than I thought. Both moods are well served: the former by the xylophone, the latter by the excellent bass.
Aerofunknamics: This keeps pretty much to the original song, but it means business about doing so. Great synth instrumentation: full of energy. I like the voice clips; they really drive the song. Percussion is tops.
Clouded Mind and Ringing Ears: Wonderful. Synthesis is impeccable in this trip of a track. It’s a good unique addition to the other not-nearly-as-ambient tracks, breaking up the whole album with a chill-as-hell drift through a foreboding fog. This track is one of the most evocative of the game in Kong in Concert, and yet it still stands alone.
Chekan Winter: This follows the previous track well: before, I didn’t know where the ground was; in this, I’m standing, but I’m still dreaming. This was the part of the mood of the original, but you’ve given it something else. I can really see the Cheka lurking in the shadows of an old snowy street when I listen to this. Synthesizer skill holds this mood up; props.
dolilop do wop: Again, this retains an original idea in a new format: this sounds like coming in out of the cold, but it’s set in your very colorful instrumentation and great solo arrangements. I like the relaxed beat behind this. Ah…
Machina Anesthesia: At first, I don’t like the evening-out of the melody in this one, but at second, after I let the song do its own thing, I like it. Great sounds; you pretty much created a factory with timbre and rhythm (percussion is well-executed). The composition replaces some of the driving tension in the original “Fear Factory” with sadness and lament, and it comes out sounding really nice.
Pirate Prelude: This is a nice little number—I like the chord arrangement. Calm, especially with the expressive timing, then eagerly hiding something, like a small child who is bursting at the seams to reveal a secret…
Thrash the Plank: …this…is…absolutely…fucking…great. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I shall always know you by this song, SnappleMan.
Rare Reminiscence: This song is waking up the next day after an adventure in music. Synthesis is pleasant and the drum machining is intricate, and the guitar and bass work ain’t bad either. I’m fascinated with the very subtle change from the minor chord progression to the major at 3:45. You’ve also taken a fairly short melody and used repetition to get a good, long track that isn’t tiring or redundant. Therefore, good job on arrangement.
You all have put together something very great. Every track on this album is impressive and fabulous in a unique way. Thank you for making it. It is an achievement without peer. Listening to Kong in Concert is simply a marvelous experience.