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*NO* Sonic Adventure "Tikalkaline" *RESUB*

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Previous decisions: original, resub 1

Really appreciated the last round of feedback. Song gets to the point a lot faster, removed 2-3 minutes of trash. Heavily revised the second half: added a bridge and dovetailed some of the elements of the bridge into the final hook. Redid all of the reverb, I think it's at least an improvement. Added a xylophone and some strings. Thanks.

Games & Sources

Theme of Tikal

Edited by Liontamer
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i wrote a bunch in the resub version of this essentially saying to trim back a lot - the tail of the reverb, the extended sections of mostly repeated material, etc. the writeup details changes that hit all the things i said, so i'm excited to hear the result.

opens with some open fifths in a tight synth, the bass line, and some melodic references. beat is tight. there's a pad in the background that sounds a lot like reverb tail but isn't, and once i figured that out i think the melodic elements sound less out of place. beat gets spicier at 1:01 with the xylophone added alongside. melodic content is still focused on that first lick of the melody, but it works because there's a variety of ways you present it.

1:50 is a break, and this is a good time for it. the lead appears to be mostly in the right ear which is a little confusing, and it's pretty fuzzy so it took me a second to understand what it was saying. the ep in the background sounds like it's doing sustains which doesn't really add much other than pad noise - consider a sharper tone around that particular entry to make it clearer what it's doing.

2:31 is a downtempo section and i like the reduced instrumentation here. the 16th-note rhythmic element is nice too. would have been a good time to mix up the lead for the remainder of the track. this trucks through the melodic material a few more times until 3:26 when we get what's clearly an outro section. the pad tone at the end needs a fadeout as it just stops abruptly.

overall i have a lot of nitpicks about the track. i think that the arrangement's fine although i'd not have minded hearing more of the melodic material that wasn't the initial riff that is used so much in this track. from a mixing perspective i can hear everything pretty well, and my main complaint is that the panning is a little wide. overall though i think this is over the bar. the changes you've made are in keeping with what we suggested and overall you've got a fun punchy little track that has a nice groove.




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I'm new to this one, so I'm coming in fresh. Something about this mixing feels lossy-sounding, and the groove at :13 feels static, despite the energy of the other writing. The bassline's that opened the track is decent, but over time feels like a boring loop that could use further variations well before 1:49 (writing and/or sonic) to not sound so static. Around 1:13-1:15, 1:33-1:35, I feel like the timing of the groove is slightly warping somehow (like :05 of this Blanka theme), so it subtly feels like it's slowing down, then speeding up to catch up; it could just be the timing playing tricks on me.

Groove changed at 1:49 and the core drums that are on the beat sound tepid. The clap groove at 2:31 was underwhelming and undermining the energy, so I was glad that went away at 2:58.

Ending will have to be fixed, since the track just cuts out abruptly.

It'll come off like I hated the track and think it's hopeless; there's many positives with the overall treatment, Sekky, as it definitely stands apart from the original, and the effort's there to have the textures evolve, even if they still feel too vanilla to me. Something about the percussion at the foundation of this feels flat and plodding, that's the main hangup. If this passes as is, it's a case where there's some drawbacks but it's solid enough. To me, it feels like it's 65% of the way there; many of the sounds are fine, but the ones I pointed out could use more sophistication. Though I haven't listened to the previous versions, from reading the judges past votes, it seems like you're moving things along well and have made meaningful strides, so I hope you'll remain dedicated to improving this if it doesn't pass as is.

NO (resubmit)

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The amount of reverb continues to improve. Toms are still a little drier than I'd like, and to a lesser extent the rest of the percussion. The tails of the chimes mix with the pads to create a bit of a mess, but I'll live.

The arrangement is a little static, but I feel like the bridge arrives before it wears out its welcome, and the bridge is mostly quite good. There are a couple of slightly conflicting notes in it, but they're not too painful.

Ultimately I'm not hearing any glaring issues here. The percussion feeling out of place is the one thing that really grabs my attention, and it's not to a dealbreaking level. The cut-off ending does need to be fixed, though.

YES/CONDITIONAL (on extending cut-off ending)

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I really admire your persistence with this arrangement, and the strides you've made between versions are definitely yielding promising results. The core vibe is still intact, it doesn't seem like your sounds have drastically been altered since the first version, but you're steadily improving the quality of your processing and what you do with those sounds with each iteration.

The arrangement is really strong and the additional bridges and writing are fantastic. 1:50 is a highlight for me and showcases some really great writing on your part. There's a clear dynamic curve and each section feels like it brings something new to the table.

The question now is, is this over the bar in terms of production quality yet? I think this is a marked improvement, but there's still a very static quality to many of the elements in the track that doesn't align with what you seem to be trying to accomplish with your arrangement. My assessment is that the song structure is more of a brooding slow-burn that relies on subtle changes to ramp up the energy over time, rather than major jumps in dynamics. On a macro scale, you've got this down well, so I'm not suggesting changing anything about the overall arrangement, but what I'm hearing is a lack of fluidity and progression within individual segments. For example, the first minute or so feels very stagnant - once the loops come in, they stay pretty much consistent until you move onto the next section. This feeling persists across the entirety of the track.

All this to say, I think this would be much more successful if there was more development and dynamics within your sections. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but where I'd look first is with filter sweeps and subtle volume automation on your instruments or instrument busses. For the first minute of the track, for example, instead of starting off with all of your instruments at full volume, you could apply a low-pass filter to your instruments and gradually automate the frequency cutoff higher over time so that the track unfolds more gradually and keeps the listener's interest better. You can also invert this and filter out certain instruments later on in the arrangement when you're trying to wind down the energy. Or, you can find parameters within your synth patches that you can subtly adjust over a certain stretch of time. I'd especially suggest applying some of these techniques to your bassline, which simply doesn't hold my interest because the writing is so simple. Focusing on your microdynamics within smaller chunks of the song will help overcome some of the simplistic sounds you're using, and align the overall experience with what you were able to accomplish with the arrangement as a whole.

On a separate note, I still find some of the drum sounds to be lacking. The clap around the 2:30 mark, for example, feels very stock and unprocessed, and I just don't think it fits what you're going for. The rest of the track is very atmospheric, but the drum sounds don't feel like they live in the same space and actually break the immersion. The hi-hat shares a similar problem, though it's masked better when you have rhythmic arpeggios going, such as 2:58. Through creative reverb (in addition to your room reverb), subtle delay, or any number of other creative effects that should be available with nearly any DAW, you can take stock drum sounds and transform them into something more interesting and suited for your track. Additionally, using unconventional percussion sounds from foley libraries or other sound sources, or layering in percussion loops that are going to have more of a groove, can also help make your drums feel more organic.

I know I've suggested a lot here and don't want to be overly prescriptive with what you have to do with the arrangement, but at the same time, I ultimately feel like the combination of pretty basic sounds and the lack of movement/evolution within those parts is keeping this from reaching its full potential. You can get away with using basic, "vanilla" drum and synth sounds, but you've got to do a bit of extra work to make them sound engaging and I don't think this quite reaches that goal yet. There's a million ways to tackle this problem, and I just threw out a few possible solutions that I would personally explore, but I do feel like it is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Great arrangement that's absolutely worth the work you're putting into it though, I hope to see this yet another time if this doesn't pass as-is!

NO (resubmit!)

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Coming in as a fresh judge on this, let's see what we've got here. Interesting source, and the arrangement changes the pace of it to sound more energetic, which is pretty cool. The arrangement is interesting for the first thirty seconds, but the arrangement repeats the sections while layering more items on top of it about three times before moving on, and returns to this same section at 3:02 to close the track out. The issue this creates is a sense of repetition that while not *exactly* repeating it *feels* like it because the same instruments are doing the same thing over and over again while adding items on top, so the textures are repeating and causing the arrangement to feel dull (it's what the judges and I call a track being "too static"). If you insist on doing something like this, at the very least be willing to drop textures out and/or have different instruments fulfill the textures that are playing, that helps keep the track interesting for longer periods of time. The section at 1:50 does a lot to revitalize the arrangement, though, so an alternative is to simply have fewer iterations of the original idea, have the layering happen faster so that there isn't as much overall repetition in the arrangement.

Concerning the production values, there's mud created by the pad, the long cutoff with the lead, and the oversaturation of reverb on many of the instruments. It creates a good deal of mud throughout the arrangement. As far as the simpler instruments are concerned (like the fake guitar-ish instrument used at the beginning), while they don't sink the arrangement I would consider asking yourself if they were being used as filler while you found an instrument that best complimented the overall arrangement, as often an artist might use any instrument to fill a role so they can get the music down quicker without returning to see if other instruments might sound better in the role. Something to consider, but if that's the sound you choose at the end I won't hold it against the arrangement.

The static nature of the arrangement does sink this below our standards, though; it was difficult to listen to all the way through since I was getting tired by the minute mark. The bridging material in the middle provides a fantastic breath of fresh air that I enjoyed, so either make the material getting there more interesting or perhaps trim the material approaching that section so we can get to the other good stuff faster.


Edited by Gario
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This is the third time I am evaluating this track.  Re-reading my two previous votes, and listening now, I have to say WOW you have come a LONG way in your production skills, and as Emunator said, I admire your persistence with this, that is how a producer can get good, just keep doing and learning and trying.  This really sounds loads better than the first two submissions.  Give yourself credit for the progress you've made, it shows.

My complaint however is still the same as in the last version, the arrangement is leaving me flat in terms of how it develops.  There isn't a lot of motif going on and so the arrangement lacks structure and ends up sounding nebulous and repetitive as the same bass, pads, plucks and drums play the same patterns again and again and again.  My suggestion is to vary things at different intervals: change instruments, change drum groove, vary the bassline writing, or add more lead motif over the top of it, something that is a memorable hook.  What you are using as lead motif (which is the lead motif in the source) is so repetitive in this arrangement that it doesn't sound like a lead but more like a countermelody or backing element, making the track sound leadless, if that makes sense. 

At 1:48-2:30, that section would benefit from having some original lead motif written right over what you have here.  It feels like a great soundscape to really say something with a motif, but nothing is being said there, it's a lush backdrop but nothing in front.

If this one still doesn't end up passing our panel, and especially if you are frustrated, I suggest starting something new to work on, keeping all of our critiques in mind.  Sometimes it is easier to start something new, doing things right from the get-go, rather than continuing to hack away at something you have worked with long enough that it haunts your dreams!  It sucks to ditch an arrangement you've invested time into, but we have all done that (multiple times, most of us here), we have taken the lessons-learned from it and moved forward with more skill under our belts.


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I don't get the pleasure of hearing where this came from to see the growth that everyone talked about.  I trust them all and believe them when they say it.  So with that in mind I'd also like to reiterate what some have said about being proud of the progress you have had.  It's very important as an artist to occasionally reflect on that, see/hear the gains :)

I like your interpretation of the source melody.  By taking it and shortening it down it brings a different energy that the original does not have, that's a great way to inject yourself into this track.  Unfortunately the repetition of the melody and drums causes the track to be static.  A couple suggestions on how to improve that could be changing up or pass around the lead instrument to another or move it up or down and octave.  Or you can also cut a repetition or two.  The drums are fairly repetitive and change up between sections.  They would definitely benefit with small variations within each sections to help keep them progressing. Overall, there is enough interpretation of the source for me, but what holds it back is the static-nature of the development.

Another thing of note is the drums and the synths have very different reverbs going on.  The drums have a shorter reverb and the synths have a longer tail.  This is making them feel like they are occupying different spaces.  I would recommend reducing the reverb tail on the synths as the reverb on the drums feels ok where they are.

To summarize, the interpretation of the source in the melody is not bad and brings a different and unique energy than the original.  What needs to be improved upon is the static feeling the overall arrangement has and the reverb amount on the synths.


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