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*NO* Golden Sun: The Lost Age 'Madra Catacombs'


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Contact Information:

Remixer name: Adnarel
Website: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiEcODvDGbXW7rd93SpPQMg
OCR Forums UserID: https://ocremix.org/community/profile/23418-adnarel/

Submission Information:

Game and system: Golden Sun: The Lost Age, Game Boy Advance (2002)
Name of arrangement: Madra Catacombs
Name of songs arranged: Beneath the Surface
Link to original material: Linky

Comments: I have typically been a reflexive dissident to the larger trend within video game remixes to make 4/4 dance music (my last submission to OCR was rejected for being "too avante-garde").  But after listening to Benjamin Diamond on repeat for about 2 weeks straight, I simply had to do something house-inspired for my large body of work on Golden Sun remixes.  It very much fits my usual pattern of a slower introduction followed by an energetic finish.  I thought this website might find it good enough to use.  Hope you enjoy. =)


Edited by prophetik music
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  • Liontamer changed the title to 2018/11/19 - Golden Sun: The Lost Age 'Madra Catacombs'
  • 2 weeks later...

Can I say first of all that I enjoyed your choice of SID-inspired synths in the disco section?  The arpeggio adds a nice unexpected texture, and the lead itself has good use of legato and a flanger effect to get it to stand out.  I also appreciated how the first and second variations of the source's B section (1:56-2:12 and 2:20-2:35 respectively) have their subtle differences in how it's performed, with the second going as far as having a harmony along with it.  I also saw in the workshop that you made the bass groove entirely by hand - and it's tight and full of fun, so be proud of that.

However, this track does have some problems - most importantly, the little amount of source presence.  Here's what I heard:

0:44-1:15 - Strings going through the source's A section.
1:48-2:12 - C64 arpeggio going through half of the source's A section, followed by the lead going into the first variation of B.
2:20-2:35 - The lead's second variation of B, complete with the mentioned new harmony.
2:44-2:52 - The C64 arpeggio repeating what it did at 1:48.
3:08-3:24 - The lead's third variation of B - almost the same as the second, but the C64 arpeggio appears in the background doing its own thing.

That's 94 seconds of source, meaning 42% presence.  If it's not dominant, I can't pass the track as it is.  It's still possible to salvage the structure and find other places to fit parts of the source that had gone unused.  You have the entire C section, the bassline, and the marimba parts - and it's a good idea to go over the uncovered areas of the track and see how you can adapt them.  Even other Golden Sun BGM could get squeezed in as well, depending on your overall vision.

[EDIT 18/09/2019: In light of MindWanderer's source findings, I re-listened to the harp at 0:12 and compared it with the xylophone in the source.  Unfortunately, I can't hear a connection between either of them and I can't count it towards source quota.]

As for the production, there's a significant amount of flaws in the second half that all add up.

  • The drums are as dull as dishwater.  For most of the song, it's a basic four-on-the-floor beat with just the kick and a snare, with a ride cymbal popping up only occasionally.  I know you wanted to avoid doing dance beats in your work, but it helps to study dance grooves and see what you can add beyond just the kick-and-snare foundation.
  • The lead synth's timing feels sloppy.  It's fine to go off the beat if you're using organic instrumentation, but a synthetic soundscape requires all synth parts to be as tight as possible.  There's no shame in quantizing synth leads here.
  • There's no presence at all in the high frequencies.  Usually, with dance grooves, it's felt through higher-pitched percussion (like hi-hats), but with no hi-hat at all, this part of the soundscape fell flat.  The only instrument trying to push for any presence up there is your lead synth's buzz, and amplifying that will only make it sound worse.  It rolls back into spicing up your drum groove and the potential of adding other parts of the source, so remedying those can go hand-in-hand.
  • The drums themselves get buried whenever pads appear alongside them.  Consider putting a high-pass onto your pads, effectively cutting out the lows and some of the low-mids.  It'll give your percussion (and even your bass) more room to breathe in the mix.
  • The track as a whole also sounds over-compressed.  If your master chain has a limiter, try weakening it to reduce the unintended pumping.

As it stands, there's a foundation that can lead to a nice-sounding mix, and I do indeed like your synth palette choices - but the track itself is both rough-sounding and source-light.  I'd be happy if you take a look into my production-related bullet points and integrate more source material.  Whether you decide to continue working on this track or doing something anew, I'm excited to see where your musical development goes next.


Edited by Rexy
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  • Rexy changed the title to 2018/11/19 - (1N) Golden Sun: The Lost Age 'Madra Catacombs'
  • 3 weeks later...

For reference, your earlier rejection (9 years ago!) wasn't because it was too avant-garde (we accept lots of avant-garde remixes), it was because there wasn't enough identifiable use of the source material, and what was used wasn't transformative enough for what we look for.

This time, I actually disagree with Rexy about source usage: the main synth harp backing refrain is a slight transformation and simplification of the xylophone part of the source, and it's more than enough to add up to over 50%. (Edit: to clarify, I'm talking about the harp that starts at 0:12 in the remix and the xylophone that starts at 0:17 in the video.)

Structurally I think it's misleading to describe this as "slower introduction followed by an energetic finish".  The entire first half is slow, and the entire second half is energetic.  Cut the first half down so that it really is an intro (maybe end it at 1:16, and cut down some of the repetition before that) and I think this would work better.  As it is, it sounds like two arrangements stapled together.

Making the structural issue more severe is the fact that production between the two halves is completely different.  In the first half, I only have one major concern, which is that the bass is huge and booming compared to the rest of the acoustic space.  Also 0:52-0:58 sounds off-key.

As for the second half, I largely agree with Rexy.  The compression is the major issue; the whole thing is squashed to hell.  It doesn't just pump, it sounds muffled.  I wouldn't say there's "no" presence in the highs, but a hat and/or clap would have been welcome.  There's a snare, but it's quiet and mushy.  The timing on the lead doesn't bother me; I can hear that it's loose but I don't think it's problematic.

Fortunately, most of your issues can be solved with changes to just one area: percussion.  Add some high-end percussion parts, use snappier snare and kick samples, and vary the pattern.  That will address three of Rexy's list of five crits right there.  Then look at the compression, the bass in the first half, and the overall structure of the two different styles, and you'll be pretty much there.  I think you can do it, and it's less work than it sounds.  Best of luck!

NO (resubmit)

Edited by MindWanderer
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  • 3 weeks later...

i agree with rexy's edit that the xylophone part MW is describing does not correlate to the chords in the opening section. in the OST, the chords go between open fifths (C/G) with a fourth thrown in for color, another open fifth (C/G), another C chord of some kind, and then the V in that key (G/D, with more G major in the run). the initial chord progression in the opening sequence is reminiscent in style and articulation, but is a wholly different set of chords (at least at first), initially based in Bb major - Cm (ii), Gm (vi), F (V), Eb (IV). key aside, this went from a minor i-V progression to a standard ii-vi-V-VI progression, so, no, i don't think it counts as OST usage. it's just a harp part. there's not enough correlation.

so, this one's DOA unfortunately for not enough source.

in terms of song analysis, i agree with MW that the 'intro' goes on for way too long, to the point it's essentially a (really pretty boring) A part to the more upbeat B section. i also agree with the other judges that the last part is turbo-compressed and it really hurts the product as a result. reinforce the source usage, take out some of the compression, dress up the percussion, and give us something else to listen to besides the bass and lead, and there's going to be a much more solid track here.




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