Arranging the music of one song...


Primary Game: Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (CSG Imagesoft , 1990, NES), music by Tim Follin

Posted 2005-09-21, evaluated by djpretzel

Shnabubula asks:

"A quick note about the game Solstice. Whenever I play it I feel like an idiot because I can never beat it in less than 16 minutes but I've heard there are people who can do it in 7. HOW THE HELL IS THAT DONE??? Someone tell me!"

I'm certainly not the person to answer such a question, since fortune frowned upon my few attempts to play the game. I always dug the isometric graphics anyways, though, regardless of my skillz (or lack thereof) - anybody remember Treasure Trap on the Amiga? It's worth mentioning at this juncture that both Sam and Danny B. recently left the judges panel; Dan primarily wanted to spend more time on other priorities, and for better or worse the panel decided Sam wasn't the best fit. No hard feelings on either side, from my understanding, so it's not reality-tv dramarama or anything of the sort, just part of an ongoing process of trial and error, with hopefully more of the former and less of the latter. Both ReMixers + Former Judges will hopefully continue contributing to the community via their music, knowledge, and presence, as time allows. Both have brought inarguably distinct voices to the panel, albeit Sam for a shorter period of time. Nevertheless, these were two fellas who weren't afraid to state their opinions strongly and in their own style, and who penned numerous majority and dissent opinions that were laden with technical and theoretical knowledge. Like their music, their judgments represent a legacy of adamancy and fresh analytical perspectives - not always to the benefit of panel cohesion or harmony, perhaps, but singular nonetheless. No one on the panel to date has been anything remotely resembling a wallflower or "yes-man", but Sam and Dan were both salient in regularly having something different to contribute to any given decision, some angle that no one had touched on yet... like RAD TIMBALE LICKS, for example. Memorable quotes abound from either ex-panelist, as both judges had a knack for language, with Sam sometimes giving Wingless a run for his money and drifting all the way into free verse poetry. At any rate, I personally thank both for making OCR a brighter and (sometimes literally) more colorful place, hope that that effect will continue via other avenues, and wish both the best, as I hope will all listeners.

On to the mix, which due to time constraints of my own I'll compress my musings regarding. Sam accomplishes his goal of having the first Solstice mix on OCR in his usual unorthodox style, coupling a clean saxophone ensemble with mono percussion that sounds like it's being run through some sort of amp modeling/simulation effect. Dirty, growling, filtered synth, also seemingly distorted via modeled fx, at times even resembling electric guitar, is further added onto the already eclectic juxtaposition. This reminds me of some of Laurie Anderson's earlier, edgier stuff off Big Science, particularly From the Air, though more for the sax than anything else. Does Sam write music that only other music makers or those with theory backgrounds can truly appreciate? Well, I'd have to think it helps, but I've also seen listeners who are just as into more traditional and accessible pieces take a liking to his stuff. This work melds some very pleasing ensemble sax harmonies with intentionally aggressive electric synth grunge, employing complex, intertwined melodies that twirl around one another at blinding speeds (see 3'47" for reference) and have a definite jazz influence - not mellower, tourist-friendly jazz, but really more the unapologetic, intricate variety. I feel a little lame for my favorite sections being the simpler, more traditional passages like 4'10", where there's a more unified melodic thread, but I can appreciate the thicker stuff as well. There's a fantastic scene in Amadeus , one of my favorite films: Mozart has just debuted an unusually lengthy and elaborate piece to Austrian Emperor Joseph II, who criticizes it quite flatly as having "too many notes" (Peter Shaffer drew upon history here, as this is an actual quote); well, there's nothing wrong with being a Joseph II when it comes to listening to music - a lot of people know what they like and aren't afraid to say it, and don't yearn for sophistication as much as they do enjoyment. I don't look down on that, personally, so long as it's not entirely vapid, packaged nonsense; my tastes oscillate between ABBA and Miles Davis, and I love being able to appreciate both. Sam's definitely on the further end of the spectrum more often than most mixers, and this piece is no exception. Nevertheless, it's creative, playful, challenging, strikingly original, and even has one or two moments (0'57") where there's a straightforward, hip-shakin' rock/funk mojo at play. So while white men may not be able to jump (highly debatable), theory men can definitely funk, when they see fit. A fond farewell (solely in judge capacity) to Sam and Dan, and a warm welcome to our first Solstice mix, which is as distinct as its source's isometric gameplay.



Latest 15 comments/reviews; view the complete thread or post your own.
Red Shadow
on 2012-12-07 13:09:37

after all these years that segment from 3:09 - 3:15 remains the most satisfying collection of sounds to ever grace my ears

on 2011-12-19 18:25:07

So I didn't even know about this until I went looking for "Dirge for the Follin" (where is that?). This remix is fucking awesome, and you can quote me on that. And I don't even like sax in the normal course of life, but damn if it doesn't sound great here. I'm far too lazy to host niceworkguy.jpg, so imagine it in this space:

on 2011-06-27 08:06:05

I think this could totally fit the bill as the soundtrack to a film noir involving spies. The co-op saxophones take the source lead for a sexy slitherfest, i.e. they work sneakily while at the same time emitting a laid-back aura. Many of the other players, with their raw, distant, and gritty quality to them, help develop the darkly intelligent character of this mix. There's dust-scattering thumps, throaty synths that don't need cough medicine to sufficiently carry the source's primary/secondary melodies, and some DEEP bass lurkers (at 2:28, one of my favorite parts), to name a few examples. Also, the saxes seem like able contenders to guide the listener through the 7/4 time signature section (1:44 - 2:16), the "I wanna try something different" foray at 3:29, and the unexplored Solstice rooms at 3:38+ (which, amusingly, has a few moments of feeling like it needs to find its way back [3:56 and 4:05] before it does so successfully).

It's a musical maze that, for me, is easier to navigate than the game itself. Maybe if I donned a fedora and a trench coat and had a dim street lamp above my head...

on 2009-12-27 07:11:34

This is just a thicket of ideas sporadically twisted into the shape of music, and I love every second of it. Seriously, Shnabubula has the perfect ear for possibility; what something could sound like and not necessarily what it should sound like by normal musical standards. And that is a precious thing for a listener to have access to.

I certianly don't take this for granted. It supercedes any misgivings about sample quality and superficial rubbish like that. That is deviating from the entire point. This is more than entertainment. It's expression. Some people might find this mix to be like a foreign film without subtitles, and I don't claim to 100% 'get' this mix, but it's one of those things that just the fact it got made fascinates me. That's common among Shnab's work, but a total rarity in life.

on 2009-11-30 15:07:31

This track is just fun to listen to. I love interwoven lines, and Sam's stuff is always packed with them. Structurally, the sections don't always tie strongly to each other, but there is always so much going on, you can just jam. Excellent stuff.

Less Ashamed Of Self
on 2009-07-07 00:17:14

I've been listening to this track on loop a lot lately. It's just such a neat piece. I don't know anything that sounds even remotely like it.

on 2007-12-04 17:41:25

I've never played Solstice, but this track was an instant hit for me. Some of it reminds me of the band Battles, which I've enjoyed recently.

The contrast between lo-fi drums and the brighter foreground instruments creates a lot of space in the mix, I think. Either way, the arrangement is/sounds deliciously sparse, even with all the many many notes played. I agree with other posters that the sax sounds a bit artificial, but after a few listens it has started to sound more like a "feature" than a flaw. (The most bothering thing about the sax to me is that sometimes there's a jarringly louder note in the middle of a run, it's a subtle effect but makes it sound like it was cut-and-pasted together from two takes or something.. well, to me at least.) But any way, that's a minor criticism on an otherwise fabulous track.

Yay, first post.


A Gang of Field Mice
on 2006-04-27 11:10:20

Current favorite remix.

on 2006-04-01 07:12:47
Shna's "abstractions" never come off as messy or to me. Lo fi, almost always. Experimental, for sure. Confusing, sometimes. Requiring of many, many listens? Always. Each time I listen to a Shnamix, I find new things that I like about it, new sections that sound very cool, experiments with sound that stimulate.

Meh, maybe I'm a fanboy for this sort of stuff.

My opinion to a tee. You hear a Shna mix and time and again a section crops up where you think "Whoa, never heard that bit before. Cool". There's just so many layers that songs like Pegasus Boots work on that makes them the ultimate in replayability. And that's even if you don't know the source.

Now imagine if Sam did anything along the lines of hip hop.. possibilities?

Less Ashamed Of Self
on 2006-04-01 06:58:59

Have I mentioned how much I want to choreograph something to this? Cause I TOTALLY do.

on 2006-03-04 01:49:00
n00bs like MrBogus


on 2006-02-23 01:09:45
You want to know how anyone can beat the game in under seven minutes? I want to know how to get more than seventy seven percent of the map. Find me a video of THAT and I WILL birth your children (even though China is keeping me from even birthing a healthy stool).

Check; it has a 100% room run in fifteen minutes.

Yeah, I just watched Lucid's speed run independent of this, and all I could think was "What the hell is going on with this game?" The gameplay never made any sense the whole way through.

But yeah, the mix is still good, but be sure to check out the source material. Personally, I was already open-minded to this without it. But for a lot of n00bs like MrBogus above it's just like EarthBound where, if you've never heard the source material, some of the weirder mixes apparently sound like dogshit.

on 2005-10-18 19:14:01

I've tried listening to this many times, and it just doesn't jive in my head. I'm sure there are boatloads of structural nuances I'm missing, but this is one of Shna's mixes that is too inaccessible for me.

on 2005-10-05 03:34:40
You want to know how anyone can beat the game in under seven minutes? I want to know how to get more than seventy seven percent of the map. Find me a video of THAT and I WILL birth your children (even though China is keeping me from even birthing a healthy stool).

Check; it has a 100% room run in fifteen minutes.

Jesus Fucking Christ.

on 2005-09-22 21:28:24

Your run is innapropriate. That is the best word for it.

Hours of my life dedicated to that game and all I managed to find was seventy some percent. Secret rooms under spikes? Insane-O leaps and credit collections? No death? FIFTEEN MINUTES?

Very nice, sir. I have finally seen every room in the game.

Sources Arranged (1 Song)

Primary Game:
Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (CSG Imagesoft , 1990, NES)
Music by Tim Follin

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