Posted 2021-03-09, evaluated by Rexy
How many times have you said to yourself, "All these VGM arrangements are great and what not, but I wish there was a reggae take on Boulder Dash (C64)!!"? If the answer is even just the once, you can start rejoicing, as the ever-talented & fearlessly creative Makke (Marcus Lagré) has delivered just that:
"I was messing around in PreSonus Studio One, trying to get a good reggae vibe going, with a natural-sounding organ jam. I was struggling to come up with ideas, when I came to think of Boulder Dash. I've always heard that as a dueling organs kind of track in my head, and ended up with this. Credits to Chris Abbott. I used his old MIDI file as basis for a lot of the organ arrangement.
So, I made an arrangement, but felt it needed either an electric guitar jam or some vocals. Being a better vocalist than a guitarist, I tried some vocals out and it worked pretty well. Maybe I should've spent some more time on the lyrics and vocals, but couldn't finding time to do it. I was strapped for time. The vocals were recorded during a 15-20 minute break between work meetings. An unexpected advantage of working from home. ;)
I found it turned out to be a pretty good reggae pastiche. I hope you enjoy it!"
It's 2021, and I'm sure someone out there could manage to be offended by the faux Jamaican accent & stylized syntax, but I happen to fall squarely in the "intent DOES matter" camp - this is plain old fun, rather goofy, and as Marcus writes, a pastiche. I found myself singing the "Boulder Dash" refrain in my head hours after first listening, and to be honest I was too busy appreciating the organ harmony layering and crisp, clean beat to overly dwell on the vocal affect. Rexy evaluated:
"The BGM of the early 80s look intimidating to arrange, usually because they sound too simple to make something cohesive out of it - but looking around OCR, I'm thrilled to see some strong examples of those early arcade and home console titles getting a spotlight. Marcus's take on the Boulder Dash theme is no different - a 20-second loop with stagnant rhythms, which got developed further into a lesser-heard reggae take. That is a strong indicator of the contents in his imagination!
I did get a little concerned at the start as it took 27 seconds for the source to kick in on the organ, which serves as the primary basis, along with the low piano 8th note pattern alongside it. The source material had been treated safely in terms of chord structure - but there are deviations when swapping emphasis with the vocals. The loop had a different starting point on each use to add some variety to the backing - and in the second half, in particular, new harmonies also got brought in to keep the textures engaging. The reggae elements written alongside them are also appropriate for the genre, with fitting riffs and percussion licks to ride alongside the source writing. Even the production techniques fit - with careful attention to reverb and delay on the vocal to add interest within the mid-highs, a clean mixdown with bass emphasis, and a natural and pristine performance from Marcus himself channeling his inner Bob Marley throughout.
Any further that I'd write about it would turn more into a sea of gush at this point - a creative and interpretive take of a minimal source, treading into a lesser-explored genre with sturdy execution. Fun stuff!"
Well said from Bev, as always :) Reggae has some compositional/arrangement staples that are relatively straightforward to implement, but the vibe has generally got to be loose, and the individual components discernible - almost a Zen simplicity, where everything is "just so" and feels simultaneously both deliberate & relaxed. Marcus checks a lot of those boxes here - bass is deep & dubby, piano is clean and gets a lot of repeated hits, you've got that great dub delay on certain elements while others stay clean, muted guitars fill in some of the gaps, and vocal processing sounds legit. The highlight for me is the organ, which has a neat progression, almost dipping into prog/jazz territory as it descends & ascends between vocal passages. You never know what to expect with Makke, as his collection of distinct & singular mixes illustrates, and while I still wouldn't have guessed that a vocal reggae take on Boulder Dash was in the cards, now that it's here, I'm glad. Enjoy!
Sources Arranged (1 Song)
- Chill, Goofy, Mellow
- Electric Guitar, Organ, Piano, Singing, Vocals: Male
- Lyrics > Lyrics: Original
- 4,312,497 bytes
We no do the rat race
We be diggin' for gems
Rockford no do the rat race
He no play no games
We go down in tunnels
We go after them
Rockford head for the tunnels
We go after gems
- Size: 4,312,497 bytes
- MD5 Checksum: 7ca25eefbf3d1f401be94f8961050d92
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