Gario

OCR04021 - *YES* Final Fantasy 4 "Streets of Mysidia"

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The challenge here is that the source is only 44 seconds long, and 15 seconds of that is a loop.  Trying to make a 5-minute arrangement out of that without being repetitive or adding substantial original content is tough.

This is a noble effort, to be sure.  The orchestration is solid, and each repetition is approached in a different way.  The choir versions are especially engaging.  Unfortunately I don't think it's enough.  It still comes across as repetitive, partly due to how many of the repetitions use woodwinds in general and flutes in particular, but even with different instrumentation it would still feel same-y.  The pacing and depth are similar throughout.  The ending is also pretty inconclusive, which adds to the feel.

There's a lot of really good stuff here, I just think that as a whole, it doesn't do enough to hold interest.

NO (borderline)

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Volume's extremely low, so I had to bump it way up.

MindWanderer right that the track can feel repetitive in the delivery, even though you're varying the instrumentation. The verses at :14, 1:12, 1:31, 2:24, 2:49, 3:43 (though not 4:02), and 4:55 and the choruses at :56, 1:51, 3:28 & 4:21 all present in a similar enough way that you could argue the track does feel too samey. I'd argue that the textures around those leads is different enough to present substantial variation, but I understand where he's coming from with the pacing dragging on. Even with something subtle like the tambourine rhythms, those were almost always the same as well. Cutting this down a few minutes wouldn't have hurt it.

Production-wise, the track sounds good overall, but had some notable issues. The choir first used at 1:51 sounds like mud; maybe you can make a case for them in the background not being a big deal, but when they're more exposed from 2:03-2:20, it just makes the lack of clarity (and robotic timing) much more apparent. Not sure the choir fit from 3:09-3:14 either, and once I heard that, it crystallized that much of this track was static with the timing. That stilted feeling including some of the string parts that anchor this, e.g. the bowed strings in the back at :08, the theremin at 2:18.

Minor thing, but the ending was also flatter than a pancake.

Since the track opened by starting off extra slow and gradually speeding up, I'm surprised you didn't play around with tempo more often.

To me, the variations come in the textures, and the production's serviceable, so I don't want to make my personal preferences on the pacing affect my call. It's not my cup of tea, but I believe Rebecca's iterations have enough textural difference to them, and the soundscape evolves enough that I can go with this. It IS overlong and could use more dynamic contrast, but the positives outweigh the negatives enough that I'll give this a borderline YES. I can be persuaded otherwise, but let's see how this fares.

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I felt that repetition too.  While technically the theme was handled in four different ways with varying degrees of lead instruments and countermelodies, the textures involved felt samey otherwise.  Even the combination of the cello, harpsichord and hand percussion making the same patterns underneath the other layers weren't doing any favors. As they were least able of carrying the theme, I would've preferred to have heard them getting played around just as much as the rest of the instrumentation.

The choice of instrumentation and balancing is as lovely and pleasant as ever.  For the most part, the choir sounded okay as there weren't many other instruments in the low-mids otherwise.  But I don't get why there is this stiff sounding solo at 3:09.  This choir's harmonies were all fighting for lead melody, and those timings felt so painfully robotic there.  You've previously demonstrated your capabilities to humanize orchestrated parts and fit live vocals into a mix, so it made no sense for this orchestra part to be like this.

Despite all this, it placed me in a problematic dilemma.  On the one hand, the production isn't up there with your best and the arrangement quite frankly almost put me to sleep with how long it dragged on.  But on the other hand, it is an interpreted arrangement with passable production values despite the choir mishap.  I can see this on the front page, but please be careful with the arrangement framework for similarly longer tracks in the future.

YES (borderline)

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The volume is very low here, and this is a recurring issue with Rebecca's tracks, so I'm going to have to go on a bit of a rant here for a while:

  I understand the need to keep the dynamics intact and wide for an orchestral track like this, so the instruments remain as expressive as possible, but there's soooo much headroom here, it's just wasted.  Please consider compressing your tracks just a little to bump up the overall volume, if you don't want to limit your master and keep it safe from clipping.  Compression doesn't mean it will automatically lose all dynamics or sound like the latest EDM banger; it will make it easier for your listeners to appreciate your track.  You have a delicate touch for arrangement and mixing so I think you'll be able to properly handle a bit of compression for your master.

--Rant Over--

Now, this arrangement is very repetitive, but Rebecca tries to counter that with the swapping of instruments and added layers and harmonies.  I think it sort of works, but it doesn't help with the overall static nature of the arrangement.  I really didn't feel the track got anywhere over time and the repetition made it feel like the arrangement was standing motionless for me.  I honestly had to fight my impulses of checking out after a few listens.

The production otherwise is ok, some of the fuller sections when the track crescendos for a climax, it can sound a bit muddy, but in general I didn't catch major issues with the sequencing or mix.  

Overall I feel this track is too static and at times it can feel stilted.  Adding to that the issue with the low volume and it feels like it's starting to tip the scales.  Maybe I'm being too harsh on this one, because it's not as bad as it sounds, but I can't help but feel that this needs to be shorter and more dynamic in its arrangement and pacing to make it good.  It's a very close decision, and I'm going to have to decline.


NO 

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you took what is essentially a 30-second loop and made a 5:15 arrangement without changing tonality, tempo, style, or significantly changing your chosen instrumentation throughout, and it isn't terribly boring. bravo. this is a stellar attempt that only falls a little short.

from the arrangement side, as others have noted, there's just too many times that you say the same thing. your attempts to mix up the instruments carrying the melody are notable, but there's only so many instruments that can carry it, and you exhausted them by halfway through. so, my suggestion is to explore other historical forms of variations. your arrangement uses some standard theme and variation forms - it's not quite a passacaglia since the bassline never really changes, but you use some of the concepts. my suggestions here are to explore some of the other historical techniques - things like changing or modifying the tonality of a section (Ive's "Variations on America"), dynamic variation (Ron Nelson's "Passacaglia on B-A-C-H" is essentially a 9-minute crescendo), or significant and systemic rhythmic variation (Mozart's "Twelve Variations on 'Ah vous dirai-je, Maman'" - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!) really can help with taking something that feels samey and turning it on its head. as an example only and not a suggestion, i guarantee that exploring some modal harmonies - even the relative minor! - would really quickly spice up and allow a return to major (and a recap of the initial theme) to hold more water without feeling repetitious.

from a mastering side, i echo nuts in that it's simply too quiet. now, yes, i did just say that significant dynamic contrast can be good - but, this track screams for compression. well-sampled instruments that are properly velocitized can be slammed with compression and still sound like they have dynamic contrast due to the natural changes to the instrument's timbre that occurs when it's played louder. i'm not asking for some huge punchy compressor to bang the crap out of your bassline, but proper compression can really breath some life into the opening and middle sections that are quieter without altering the delicate balance you're trying to create.

this is a real good effort, as i said before. it needs a mastering pass badly, and some more attention on the arrangement side to prevent feeling like it's two minutes of content scraped over five minutes of bread. another look will really help bring this up to your more recent standards.

 

NO

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Very creative use of instrumentation and weaving in counter points along with the melodic lines, while keeping the connections to the original quite clear.

Maybe it's my listening setup, but while this is somewhat the quiet side, what bothered me more is it feels imbalanced.  Some of the backing sustained instruments and choir (even some percussion) tend to be on the louder side compared to the instruments carrying the melody.  See places like 1:40, 1:55 where the track gets more crowded and the various elements start competing for space.  In the last minute or so, the Timpani(?) gets overly loud (or just too boomy in the low end), which is especially apparent near the very end as it dies down.

I'll echo Larry that the choir sounded fakey with the rigid sequencing.in some places, like 3:11.  It kind of comes out of nowhere there and sounds like the notes are clashing with the rest of the orchestra.  Fortunately it was pretty short as it was pretty jarring to me as a listener.  Additional possible wrong notes :55-1:08, 1:18, 3:49, & 4:06, though I may be able to be persuaded at least some of these are intentional.

I can see the points mentioned about repetition.  I felt like there was enough dynamic and instrumental contrast to prevent it from being too egregious for me, though there's room to vary up some of the core elements further for a 5+ minute track.

I think some tightening up on the mastering and balance as well as some sequencing improvements could give this a nice boost over the bar for me.

NO resubmit, please

 

 

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I'm not sure what y'all are going on about on the repetition; it uses the same themes throughout, but the textures and orchestration gives it quite a bit of variety. For a five minute track it does quite a bit; at worst it feels like it drags past the 4 minute mark a bit by about 30 seconds, but that's not enough to earn a NO from me. It's quiet, but it does use the space when it needs to feel big; I'd chalk that up more to stylistic choice than actually being a mistake. Compressing a track like this by about 2-3dBs would go a long way in making it sound more full without hurting the quality much, though, so keep that in mind.

I'll echo the issue with the choir samples sounding unnatural in this context, though, especially when they're mixed so close to the front of the mix. They don't sound terrible, per se, and when they're backing the rest of the track they blend well enough (like at 3:31 - 3:46), but when they're front and center they have an uncanny valley effect when compared to the other instruments. It could be that the other instrument just sound that much better, but it's an issue all the same.

Honestly, the track overall is greater than the sum of it's parts. While I can see issues with the mixing of the choral samples and the unused headroom, these don't detract from the overall experience for this track. It honestly sounds like something from an Aladin movie soundtrack, and it sounds solid for what it is.

YES

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Track is certainly on the quiet side. Arrangement wise, I thought things were ok. The transition from one section to another is done well, with a good amount of instrument variety between sections which helped to compensate for a lack of drastic departures from the main theme. I didn't quite have the same issues some had regarding sequencing, and while I agree some parts felt too tight, things felt convincing enough to me overall. If the volume could be increased without affecting the dynamics of the piece I’m all for that, otherwise, nothing stuck as being a major issue for me.

YES (would appreciate a volume bump though...)

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I'm surprised that the only person who mentioned some wrong notes was Nutritious, as that was the first thing I noticed on my first listen through. Specifically the :57 section though there's a couple of other areas that has me questioning if there were intentional dissonance or not. The other areas I wasn't super bothered with but I'd really like to see the :57 section addressed; it definitely made me raise an eyebrow. 

Aside from that I noticed that there is a lot of instruments occupying the same space, which definitely comes up as an issue when the sections start to get busier. I don't know if it might be worth exploring octaves to see if you can separate the space a little more or to consider what the others have suggested. 

The choir has already been mentioned but I'll echo that it sounds both stiff at times and also muddy when it is more active. It also feels strange that there's one section where they have the front line specially but only are they're for maybe 5 seconds (3:08). Felt strange that they never return, though that is also where they are least clear.

The ending also just kinda dribbles off, which can work in the right context. I'd maybe consider using the ~4:10 section as an ending for that purpose; slow down and use the oboe/glock/drums/choir to fade to a stopping point.

Some good ideas as always but this one isn't where it needs to be yet.

NO (resubmit)

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Overall this is a nice arrangement of a short source tune. The repetition doesn't bother me too much, but around halfway through I feel the itch for some variety.

Deia's right about instruments sitting in the same space; playing with octaves might help.

There's a lot of reverb in this track; I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Might want to adjust the wet/dry on individual instruments. The percussion feels a little boomy.

I personally really like the ending.

A good effort but I think this one needs a little more attention.

NO (resub)

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Rebecca I love your arrangements because they always take me to that special mystical place in my mind.  I like this track quite a bit, although I agree with the criticisms about overall mastering volume being low.  I do hear a few wrong notes, or are they purposeful?  The big issue for me is the static nature of the arrangement, combined with the same soundscape used throughout the piece and the same basic beat/pulse.  The track outstays its welcome due to the static feel and will probably lose some listeners' attention around the halfway point.  What's here is too good to pass on imo, but please take these criticisms to heart for future arrangements.  And you know I will master any and all of your tracks for you, it is my pleasure to do that!

YES (borderline)

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Agree with criticisms, namely:

  1. Volume a bit low (though choir at times is overpowering)
  2. Choir not always well-integrated with overall palette (see above)
  3. Repeats melodically/harmonically/structurally; first half not distinguishable from second half by much other than instrumentation...

The most nagging thing, to me, is that every note of the neat, slightly sinister trade-off melodic exchange that you could call the "chorus" remains static, and is quite close to the source. There's a missed opportunity here to establish variation by altering the melodic line, ending an octave up or down, or somewhere in between.... it's a playful, chromatic motif, so modifications should be all the easier to incorporate, but... no. It stays the same. This does eat at me, and rather a lot. Every time I hear the phrase play out the same exact way, I deflate a bit. It's arrangement potential that is repeatedly squandered, in my opinion. Not every source/arrangement calls out for altering the melodic line - it's not a mandatory thing - but I feel that this one really did.

However, w/ regards to the judging process, I have to force myself to think of this as a random mix by a random artist. Evaluated next to Rebecca's other work, I think the concerns above would tend to push me to rejection. Anonymously, however, there are a bunch of cool textures going on, the atmosphere is spot-on, and I like the tempo variation as well. In the vacuum in which we aspire to evaluate submissions, I'd this give it a:

YES (borderline)

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