I was just minding my own business, sifting though the batch of new music in an attempt to cobble together the next episode of Japanator Radio. I usually put it off until the last minute on Sunday night, then brew up some coffee and leisurely make my way through the list.
One of the first things I jumped into was the new album Final Fantasy Remix
from Square Enix
featuring newly remixed songs from the Final Fantasy series. All 12 tracks are remixed by a single entity known as Ante, which is actually the duo are Ian Hartley
If there's one thing you can count on after death and taxes, it's Final Fantasy remixes. Check out any listing of video games remixes and it is sure to contain at least one FF remix, if not millions. This is surely do to the franchises popularity, but also to Nobuo Uematsu's brilliant original compositions. They are at time both very simple and very deep, making them rife with gems just waiting to be mined and polished up.
So, in and of itself, the idea of yet another collection of FF remixes isn't news. What makes this one special is that it is official sanctioned by SE and Uematsu himself. You know you're getting the good stuff when the grand master has at least waved his hands over the project at some point, and that was why I was really looking forward to firing it up.
Obviously, by the title of this post, you know where this is going. What I'm trying to do here is make sure that you know how much I love not only the FF series, but, frankly, that I love the music far more. I'm willing to suspend a great deal of my usual elitist bastardism when it comes to FF music and instead just enjoy its greatness. I'm also willing to see how other people interpret it, adding and taking away different sections, morphing sometimes obscure bits into something new.
Anyway, back to reality. Let's just start at the beginning.
The comp starts of as any good FF music comp should, with the "Prelude" theme. This track is also a perfect example of the disaster that follows. All this track does is jaggedly mix the original arpeggio melody in and out underneath some really wooden and lethargic dance beats. Nothing is developed or expanded. It's just a quick look at what is actually a really complex piece of music.
This same "technique" is used on "Eternal Wind." The original short melody is played under a few factory pre-set synth sounds. All that's added are a few tabla and shakers and an uninspired bassline. Nothing to see here. Move along.
"Terra's Theme" is a jazzed up version of the Piano Collection track. This one has just a bit of originality to it, adding a nice upright bassline, but again, the other drum and synth pad sounds are nothing to write home about. It's almost as if the Ante guys were writing for an actual PSone release. MIDI sounds abound, and it leaves everything absolutely flat and lifeless.
"Opening Bombing Mission" tries to inject some life into the quickly dieing album with a dose of drum n bass. Again, the almost amateurish sonic treatment of the drums negates any chance for real down and dirty bassbin explosions. Again, like the previous tracks, that actual source material is used in a very spotty fashion, simply punching the melody in and out, running it though some dub-style delay and reverb, then going back to the yawn inducing drum and bass tracks. Snore.
Now, it's got to be almost impossible to go wrong with "JENOVA." Am I right? It's a brilliant song, full of beautiful melody and soaring progressions, tons of movement and life. Well, these dudes prove that they can killing anything, turning one of the best FFVII moments into a lumbering oaf. I can't even go into detail on this one. It's just too sad.
Speaking of best tracks, "Liberi Fatali" certainly rides very high on my list of greats. Again, there just doesn't seem to be any way to miss. In a way, they don't, because they don't really do anything with it. On the other hand, once again they simply use the original samples, but in an extremely anemic way, verbing them out and riding them extremely low in the mix. They are simply faint echos. The wimpy break-beat is bland and overly repetitive. Even the chosen samples get overused and, gasp!, become boring. Way to go guys!
Why anyone would want to remix FFVIII's "Blue Fields" is beyond me. Sure, everyone has their own favorites, but "Blue Fields?" I don't know. Anyway, the pattern is now firmly in place. Bland beats over a few bits of the original music. Absolutely nothing new added. Nothing developed, no artistic re-interpretation. Seriously, did these guys just get paid to run a few pre-set Casio drum loops over the original tracks? Really? While we're at it, let's just copy paste that last paragraph for "The Final Battle" too. Hey, if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
"Zanarkand" is up next, and this one actually manages to add a little something to the equation. Sure, it's still just the original piano melody run though some reverb and delay, but the added drums manage to add some nice groove, and the atmospherics add some appropriately soothing swirl. The out of time drum ticks in the middle, while probably intentional, totally ruin the mood. Almost got it guys. Almost. Again, the same goes for "Ronfaure."
Now we get to some sensitive territory. Up next is what is essentially a remix of a remix. For those of you unfortunate enough not to know, The Black Mages are a band fronted by Mr. Uematsu himself. They do somewhat heavy rock, almost metal versions of the more aggressive FF tunes, usually the battle themes. Oh, and they are 100% awesome
. Again, it would seem nigh impossible to ruin that, and I suppose Ante don't go quite that far. The just totally mangle and destroy the great song "Maybe I'm a Lion." All they do is cut it up into weird little bits and re-arrange a few things. I wouldn't call it a remix so much as a train wreck.
, this whole mess ends with "Mambo de Chocobo," another no-brainer. They do an OK job here, though again it seems like they would rather just listen to their own drum machine run than let any melody get into the mix. In fact, if you don't pay attention, you'll miss the actual Chocobo theme entirely.
I honestly have no idea how this auditory abortion ever saw the light of day. It's flat, boring, uninspiring in the extreme and practically an insult to the original Final Fantasy spirit. It is awful. Plain and simple. There are dozens of better (and free) remixes available all over the web on sites like OCRemix
. Nothing about Final Fantasy Remix
show quality work or talent. It's almost as if the people working on it were expressly forbidden to re-interpret a single note of the original songs and instead could only add a few effects and some crappy drums. I'd be stunned if it took more than a couple days to record the entire album from start to finish. There is no love here, my friends. Stay far, far away from this one.