Rexy

*NO* Hollow Knight "Blue City"

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Ah, Hollow Knight.  Such an evocative soundtrack for a game about talking bugs.  I missed out a little playing it on the Switch in portable mode.

Rebecca's arrangement here is no less so.  It uses a very similar sound palette: a flute added, the strings taken away, the solo vocalist swapped for a (fake-sounding) choir, but otherwise still driven by the same piano parts.  The general pacing and tone are the same as well.

My main question is whether it does enough.  The changes aren't tremendously subtle, but they aren't transformative either.  Play them for me side-by-side in 2 years and I might not be able to say which one was the original and which one was the remix (although the quality of the choir, especially the men's part, is a giveaway).  So I'm leaning towards

NO

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the opening is simple but pretty. there's some clearly non-idiomatic usage of instruments in a few places (the choir synth at 0:45 for example, repeats a few times). another example is the piano at 1:19 that just keeps hammering the same chords without varying velocity. keeping the melody in the flute for over a minute at the beginning is kind of tiring after a while too. the men's choir at 1:55 and 1:56 has some false attacks that sound like mistakes rather than intentional fuzz, as well, and it didn't sound great to begin with.

in general, the flute lead's vibrato is exactly the same as the tempo of the piece, which for me at least is really distracting and emphasizes how robotic it was 'performed'. this may be personal though so i'm not counting it against the track.

this is a weird one. i agree with MW that it's definitely different from the original while simultaneously being really similar. the realization execution of it is fairly straightforward and won't blow anyone away with the humanization (if anything, it's under-humanized in the leads and keys). i found the arrangement to be quite conservative in that the piece is driven by the same rhythmic concepts and that it really doesn't introduce anything new. the mechanical execution is fairly lacking in that the only dynamics come from adding layers vs. via scoring, and the work's levels reflect this by staying at about -5db until the big swell from 1:15 through 1:40ish, and then dropping down to there again for most of the rest of the piece. a better job of compression would add a lot more verve to the sections that didn't have many instruments playing simultaneously without sacrificing the nice texture that those elements present with right now.

one of my standard ways to measure a track is if it's saying something different than the original. it doesn't necessarily need to be 'better', but it has to say something. i don't feel like this track is saying anything new. it's a restatement, but i'd argue the work is less as a result of that restatement rather than more. this needs...anything, really, to make it be it's own track and not the original with some glock and a new lead. a personalized look at the melodic content, some chording alterations to say it in a new way, a significant change to the original's scoring, time or tempo alterations...anything to make it something new, to demonstrate some compositional technique being applied. if this was flawless from a mechanical and realization standpoint, i'd consider it as a borderline, because there are changes here, technically speaking, and the track is a nice listen. i don't think that this is near that yet though.

 

 

NO

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After listening to this, I don't understand the reasoning for the prior 'no' votes at all.  Yes, the backing is in a similar style to the original, the 6/8 time signature stayed, plus it went through one loop and the return of the middle breakdown at the end.  But there's plenty of subtractive arranging to be had - flourishes on the melody line, the melodic deviation on the flute at 2:36-2:45, new bells/piano chords, and added choral parts where the original didn't have any. I feel you've done plenty to make the track your own.

I did have to think more about the production values, though.  It's a clean mix, and I can detect all the necessary instrumentation.  The piano and bells, while locked to the fast-moving tempo, have been articulated well and shared their lushness well with the strings and choral parts.  The one issue I had more than anything else is with the legato on your wind and choirs, as for some reason, there's no attention to breathing room during the second half.  The first half, while not being clear on pauses either, had volume shaping on the flute lead to give the impression of brief drawing of air before continuing.  In the larger picture, I don't see it as a dealbreaker, but a cautionary message on something to improve in the future.

To me, the overall package is satisfactory.  Rebecca, your transformation with the arrangement is minimal, but you've done more than enough to get it over the bar.  Match it with a similar process on the production, and I feel it's good to go.  Good luck with the rest of the vote!

YES

Edited by Rexy

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I think Rexy has this right. There's definitely personalization here, though at times it is pretty subtle. I think the expansion of the chords and flourishes do add a lot of life, and the swell in the middle gives the track some good life.

The production does overall feel stiff and a bit unrealistic, but I think overall I'm good with the level it is at currently.

YES

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I think I have to agree with MW here, entirely.  This arrangement doesn't feel transformative enough; the writing, arrangement and instrumentation sound very close to the original.  The piano arp sounds stiff and robotic.  The choir is what is pushing me over the edge the most though, towards a NO.  It just sounds so fake, the midrange is hyped, and it starts and stops so abruptly.  This one isn't quite OCR worthy.

NO

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Beautiful source tune choice. The piano lacks realism, but I've heard this style before in plenty of Japanese soundtracks, and I'm not put off by it because the piano sound has body to it that mitigates the realism issue.

I'm surprised no one else expressly pointed this out, but once the choir came in at 1:18, the soundscape became cluttered and the choir vox & padding were lightly distorting and also eating up the rest of the instrumentation. Weird note fade on the vox at 1:54 that sounded unnatural, and I agreed with prophetik on the male choir vox sounding more unrealistic, although I would say that as long as the mud wasn't there, it could sound serviceable. Yeah, pretty much any time this vox is louder, it's just resulting in a lot of mud (e.g. 1:18-1:48, 2:00-2:28, 2:45-3:00).

Arrangement-wise, this definitely was more conservative, but there's enough change in the instrumentation choices that I think this wasn't a huge deal. More of the issues for me are on production. If you're willing to revisit this, take the other Js criticisms of the piano and vox in mind, and do see if there are some additional ideas that can be sprinkled in to create further personalization of the arrangement.

NO (resubmit)

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This source tune is one of my favorite from any game in recent memory, so I can see why your gut instinct would be to hew closely to the original source material. Unfortunately, without live performers and the highest-quality instruments, this falls flat in some areas compared to the original, and the arrangement isn't substantially different enough for most of the duration to discourage those kinds of direct comparisons.

The choir and flute are both very exposed in the mix and, as Larry pointed out, gets particularly muddy and dominant when they hit their loudest peaks. The piano does not feel properly humanized - although the original riff is also very staccato and played in a rather unconventional way, this piano sample simply doesn't seem as expressive and the timing is just a bit too rigid.

I like this in a bubble despite my mixing and instrument quality criticisms, but at the end of the day I don't find this to be substantially transformative when compared side-by-side with the original, and the production issues make it harder to justify passing in its current form. Sorry!

NO

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