APZX (Austin Simons) returns to OCR with a downright glamorous bit of nu-disco/trance, taking FF4's "Theme of Love" into a future-retro land of lasers, robots, 8-track tape, hopes, dreams, & glitterballs. It's fabulous, it's anime, it's space opera, and it even closes on a melodramatic, unresolved solo piano... synthwavey, with a hint of trance, or vice versa if you prefer. It takes the idea of love very developmentally, mapping out different parts of a relationship's lifecycle, though dwelling longest on euphoria. Austin's comments here are 100x more valuable than my own, as are his responses to initial judge feedback:
"So, actually this started off with the idea of listening to the original not in the context of how wonderful it was, but what could I do to it. For some reason, the one thing that immediately popped into my head was supersaws. I have no idea why, nor did I question it, but it did give me the chance to explore the notion of taking this beautiful theme which, for the SNES, wonderfully conveys the idea behind it. So, at first, I really dabbled with trying to come up with some basic lines with the supersaw to compliment the melody. No real idea behind where it was going to go. Shortly, after playing with these supersaw riffs, I found that they really complimented the main lead so wonderfully, and by I guess luck, the main melody line worked so well in, at this point, basic context that I just started to run with it. Now, I ultimately decided that I'd try structuring the song in such a way that there was purpose behind it besides just moving from beginning to end, but it does that too.
The core idea here was to try and put structure to the idea of finding someone and finding that it starts to work out. This is where the intro lies. There is uncertainty in the idea of the relationship. The entire selection of sounds here echo that. They're more distant, subdued, and sort of ethereal as there is nothing concrete. However, as time progress and things start to gel together, the whole thing just bursts into reality. No worries of what could go wrong or the like. Enjoying everything to fullest. The entire next section is that. The transition from uncertainty to certainty to fulfillment. Nothing can go wrong. However, in the original melody line it can be heard that there is an almost darkness to it. Something lurking in the depths, something ominous. From this, I tried to imbue the notion that, regardless, nothing lasts forever. It will come to end eventually. Though before that moment, there is that last push of all will forever be well. But as many say, "What goes up, must come down." The track had to come to end in some fashion. The entire outro is meant to be of mourning and remembrance, and not caring that it ended. It references the beginning as to show that what once was is now just a memory. Simply, accepting that fact and moving on, but never forgetting. So, in a nutshell, that was kind of the inherent conceptual thoughts behind the remix.
With all that said, the primary focus was to create something that stood on its own, draws tons of inspiration from the source, and really makes you want to listen and turn it up, yet wanting another listen."
In a word: yes. Austin's debut featured ReMix from 2015 might have slipped under some radars since The Lawnmower Man (SNES), like Baby Fish Mouth, didn't exactly sweep the nation. But those radars *failed*, because it was a well-executed, creative, & enjoyable arrangement. He returns armed with a more recognizable game & source, and polished the initially strong concept he first submitted to us by incorporating key bits of panel feedback.:
"So, I'd like to address some things directly because if you're anything like me then you're a curious one.
Sorry, Gario, but you basically said everything first that needed to be addressed. Not trying to single you out or anything:=
Gario: "Some of the instruments sound rather low quality, though (primarily the slow strings used to carry the theme in the opening and closing section)." And I'm gonna add djp's and Liontamer's comment with this one:
djp: "The dynamic panning helps the strings, and it's a unique lead sound you don't hear much... by the same token, it kinda sits in uncanny valley for me, sounding more realistic than most classic string synths (Solina, etc.) but not as realistic as actual strings... something more committed to either a classic analog string synth or realistic strings would probably work better, and an entirely different approach to the lead might also be more effective."
Liontamer: "I completely agreed with djp on the strings being in uncanny valley territory."
Ohhhhhhhhkkkkkkkkkkkaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. So, the sound I had used, if anyone is interested in the slightest, is actually a fairly lo-fi violin preset from a wonderful little VST, SQ8L, in fact called "VIOLINS." I rather like the sound and it does have a very soft attack. Though, even then, decreasing the attack in the VST really didn't yield much improvement. Instead, I opted to go djp's suggested route of trying a more "classic analog string synth." While I actually don't have a VST dedicated to this task, I do have a wonderful Oberheim OB-Xa VST that has some fantastic analog string sounds, do some tweaking, apply some ensemble chorus, and the last bit of fairy dust is a phaser set to Smallstone. Easy enough to resolve that issue, hopefully.
Back to more Gario because I'm not going to try and quote everything that was said about these pitch bends, though a special mention to djp with the comment about the Blade Runner link, which is important for what I ended up doing:
Gario: "One final criticism I have is the extreme nature of the lead pitch bending. While for the meat of the track it causes no issue, at 3:06-3:10 the bending clashes hard against the rest of the track when the delay carries it past where it should've been. Decreasing the size of the bends, decreasing the delay, or a combination of both of these things would alleviate this issue considerably."
Well, wasn't this just a wonderful appreciation for how wonderful synths are? Sarcasm aside, as I said, djp's comment about the link to Blade Runner got me thinking a bit, and I removed every single pitch bend except the last drop on the final phrase, which, IIRC, occurs 3 times. And for the record, the warble on the very last pitch bend is intentional."
Full quotes of judge comments & his reactions are available on the judges' thread, and I was truly impressed at how comprehensive and analytical they were... and more importantly, the changes he made worked, catapulting this from something fun to something rather splendid, which has moments of uncertainty or reflection but mostly channels elation & unbridled joy. The lead change to synth carried with it some synthwave/retrowave resonance, among other tweaks, which I think helped the net impact. Shariq's take on the final, approved version came closest to my own reaction, I think:
"I absolutely LOVE the timeshifting of the melody. A fantastic and effective way of recontextualizing the melodic line without really altering it all that much. Plus during the chorus when things line back up with how they are in the original, you really feel like you've arrived. This is great. Great textures, fun ideas."
What he said; I love the title, too, with layered meaning. Some judges still had reservations, but I think this will really click for a lot of people the way it does for Shariq & I; superb work & a paragon of successful revision/iteration!
on 2019-02-13 12:43:08
I have a solid connection to Final Fantasy 4, and the original is one of many favourites from the soundtrack. I've got to say, I got a ridiculous amount of joy hearing it interpreted in this way! Well done!
on 2019-02-02 11:56:08
A clever reinvention of a classic!
on 2019-01-30 15:07:25
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Sources Arranged (1 Song)
- Disco, EDM, Pop, Trance
- Energetic, Funky, Happy
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