I’m a huge fan of DataDiscs and their video game soundtrack releases. I have bought many of their vinyl OSTs including Okami, Golden Axe, Panzer Dragoon and all three Streets of Rages. When they announced that they would be releasing the Thunder Force 4 soundtrack I was beyond excited. The game is one of my all time favourites and the soundtrack is amazing, one of the best on the Megadrive in my opinion. I pre-ordered it when the link went up a couple of weeks ago and it arrived today. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet but will write a review once I have. In the meantime, here are some pictures I’ve taken of this impressive looking 3 disc vinyl collection.
I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent classic 80s animation vinyl soundtrack release, the exhibition at the Southbank Centre or when I mentioned visiting Moomin World in Finland.
With the new Moominvalley show premiering on Sky One on Good Friday this Easter I am super excited and today, I received the new vinyl soundtrack. I’ve only listened to it a couple of times and love it. I’ll write a review once I’ve listened to it more.
Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin were giants of British animation, creating Bagpuss, Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine and, of course, The Clangers. With their stop motion animation studio, Smallfilms, they have delighted legions of fans young and old over the last 50 or so years. Part of the charm of Smallfilms was the craftsy handmade products they made, and that could also be reflected in the magical music. I've already discussed that the Bagpuss Soundtrack had recently been released on vinyl but far more exciting for me is the recent re-release of the out of print Clangers Original Television Music by Vernon Elliot.
The music is from the original 26 episode run of the series from 1969, which was recorded in a local Kentish village hall. 50 years after their initial recording, these pieces of music have lost none of their wonder and charm. The Clangers soundtrack remains a seminal work piece of work, not just of children’s television, but of music as a whole. Composer Elliot's contribution to The Clangers was great as he created a warm and recognisable soundscape in an alien world. Listening to the music away from the show you can appreciate the craftsmanship that went onto the compositions; it is all beautifully minimalist performed mostly on a bassoon (in which Elliot was an expert) and a clarinet, harp, glockenspiel and flute. Highlights for me include Music, Cloud and Music of the Spheres as they are all very unique soundscape pieces that stand on their own.
The Clangers Soundtrack is a wonderful album that can be appreciated for its music in isolation from the show and is highly recommended.
Okami is one of gamings most beautiful examples for the argument of video games as art. The imagery from the game is stunningly presented in a traditional Japanese brushstroke form and the music is a collection of traditional instruments and modern synthesizer sounds, recalling a dreamily imagined Japan that has never truly existed.
Data Discs recently sent out the pre-orders of the 4 disc pressing of the remastered soundtrack for the game and I received my copy a couple of days ago. Over the next few days I’ll have a listen and post my opinions here but in the meantime check out the pictures I’ve taken below and underneath more vinyl reviews of classic video game soundtracks, cartoons and retro television shows.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a wonderfully atmospheric exploration adventure game, sometimes called in derogatory terms, 'walking simulators.' I am a huge fan of the genre as I find them a palette cleanser from the regular games I play and I would say that Edith Finch is the peak of the genre so far.
In the game the player controls Edith, a young woman exploring her ancestral home to uncover the mystery behind her family history and what happened to the various occupants there. The story is told through a series of immersive vignettes and each is powerful and emotional in different ways. The stunning yet understated music score is a huge part of why Edith Finch is so affecting. The album is one I've been listening to continuously over the last year or so on my mobile since the games release and with the recent vinyl release from iam8bit I have been listening to it in that format too.
Jeff Russo, who composes the music and has scored Altered Carbon, Star Trek: Discovery and much else, understands that silence and ambience is just as important as music to create a mood and it is this knowledge that lends the game an eerie and creepy atmosphere as you explore the strange house. Music is introduced when elements are interacted with or when certain narrative points are reached.
The whole score is peaceful and sombre with soft piano interweaving with yearning strings. The interplay creates a profound feeling of sadness yet has tinges of hope.
The tracklist is:
01. Edith's Theme
02. The House
03. Molly's Room
04. Molly's Hunger - Owl
05. Molly's Hunger - Shark
06. Molly's Hunger - Monster
07. Calvin's Swingset
08. Walter's Bunker
09. Gus' Kite
10. Milton's Tower
11. Lewis' Coronation - Daydream
12. Lewis' Coronation - Marching Band
13. Lewis' Coronation - Sailing Ship
14. Lewis' Coronation - Palace
15. Lewis' Coronation - Crowning
16. The Finale
17. The End
The standout tracks are Edith's Theme, Lewis' Coronation- Marching Band and The End. Edith's Theme never fails to put a tear in my eye, it's gentle piano and sad strings create a powerful and moving piece that is touching and beautiful. Lewis' Coronation- Marching Band is an haunting piece as it is so upbeat and oompahpah yet is probably the most tragic story. The End carries the motif of Edith's Theme but adds some haunting ambient vocals that is a beautiful way to finish the soundtrack.
The whole soundtrack is stunning and works well as a tapestry of the Finch family's stories. The pieces complement the game but work just as well as musical compositions in their own right. The soundtrack is stunning and this pressing by iam8bit is marvellous!
The early to mid 90's were a great time for gaming but it was still seen as a childish past time by many. When the Playstation released it tapped into to the burgeoning dance market where House and Trance tracks were popular and consistently hitting the charts. It seemed like a perfect mix; edgy games and oh-so-zeitgeisty music. However before Sony's miracle machine we 16-bit gamers did have a saviour of coolness and that was the inimitable Yuzo Koshiro. The composer behind the first two Streets of Rage games was a pioneer when bringing the sounds of the clubs into games. The Streets of Rage soundtracks are amongst the most highly regarded of the 16-bit era and rightly so. Whilst The Orb, The Prodigy and Orbital were getting into the charts, Koshiro was applying the music styling of the genre into his soundtracks.
Streets of Rage 2 was a high watermark on the Megadrive/ Genesis for both gameplay and music, so it was with bated breath that people waited to see what Sega would produce with the highly anticipated Streets of Rage 3 which would be released on a 24 meg cartridge!
Upon release the Streets of Rage 3 game was made harder for the Western market, frustrating many with its butchered state and missing elements. The soundtrack was the same but tonally very different from what had come before and as a result quite divisive. The soundtrack was once more created by Koshiro but this time he was joined by Motohiro Kawashima, who had also worked on Streets of Rage 2 alongside Koshiro. The soundtrack was influenced more by the hardcore and minimal techno scene and so wasn't instantly as catchy as the original two soundtracks. The techno scene hadn't reached mainstream in the Western markets and so the grindy, repetitive discordant sounds didn't appeal to many.
At the time it was politely forgotten by the masses but as time has passed many have cited it as formative and an important video game soundtrack. So is the Streets of Rage 3 soundtrack worth your money and time?
Well, first of all, being a DataDisc product the vinyl is impeccably produced and the sound quality is second to none. The double disc set contains the remastered version of the soundtrack that you remember from years ago. It has a lot to follow in the undeniably stunning SOR 2 soundtrack but in terms of production it succeeds. The soundtrack itself however is more difficult to judge. I have been a fan of old skool trance and dance since the early 90's but the discordant sounds and constant thumping, often without a discernible pattern, makes it a difficult soundtrack to listen to in its entirety. There are some standout tracks like Disco, Boss, Shinobi Reversed and stunning The Poets I but these are few and far between. The rest of the soundtrack is fine but nothing that you would want to go back to and revisit in your down time.
So is the soundtrack worth buying? For a completist a definite yes but for someone looking for a soundtrack to listen to and love? No. I'd go for Streets of Rage 2 or 1 as these are more instantly likeable and listenable. However, this being a Koshiro joint, you can't go too far wrong... even when he experiments and goes a little too left-field.
Black Screen Records and composer David Housden have teamed up to release the original soundtrack to Mike Bithell’s meditative indie darling game Thomas Was Alone on 180g vinyl.
For those not in the know, Thomas Was Alone is a minimalist 2D platformer about friendship, teamwork and sacrifice. In the game you take control of Thomas, who is initially alone, but along the way you meet and control many other characters all who have special individual powers and differing personalities. Over the course of the game you guide your group of quadrilaterals through a series of obstacles, using their different skills together to get to the end of each environment. So far, so video game 101. However what elevates this game to multi-award winning heights is the stunning soundtrack which accompanies the beautifully wistful yet soulful narration read by comedian Danny Wallace. The story that's told is more complex than many AAA games I have played and the music accompanying it adds to this drama; I have cared more for these quadrilaterals than many other protagonists in other games, heck I even bought the 'action figures' when they were released a few years ago. Yup I bought a collection of 3D quadrilaterals because this game and its music connected with me on some profound level.
The soundtrack features minimalist pianos and ambiences fused with lush strings and ethereal synths. Although this album only has 13 tracks, which feature a lot of repeating motifs, the consistency and effective re-use of simple chord progressions and melodic phrases make each track seem different but complementary to what has gone before. As a whole the soundtrack feels like a tapestry, each track is part of a bigger whole with familiar themes and motifs.
My favourite track off the album is 'A Time For Change,' a powerful emotive track that is triumphant yet tinged with sadness. It is played at a key point in the game and so carries with it a lot of weight and power. I listen to this album daily, which at the point of writing is over 5 years old.
Sometimes in your life you find that you connect with something, it could be a book, a film or a track or album. It gets under your skin and becomes something more than the sum of its parts and I think this game and especially the soundtrack is that something for me. It's not something I can explain but this album and the majesty of some of the tracks gets me every time I listen to it.
The vinyl is a stunning release and I am extremely pleased with it. This album is a must have for any fans of shoegazing etherealness.
Sonic Mania has recently released and has garnered rave reviews, with many complementing its throwback style and a return to the classic game play which made the series so popular during the 16-bit generation.
Classic Sonic the Hedgehog games always had great music and Sonic Mania, which has a mix of new and remixed songs, carries this tradition forward proudly.
Data Discs announced the Sonic Mania LP a few months ago and whilst I was conscious of the many missteps in the series along the way I took the plunge and pre-ordered the record as the music has, on the whole, been pretty solid.
So what of this new album? Well the record features 16 new tracks selected by composer Tee Lopes, which provides an overall flavour of the diverse music in the game.
The cover is suitably 90s with classic Sonic front and centre and random colourful shapes thrown around, reminiscent of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Saved by the Bell introduction credits. The record comes as a single 180 g LP which is available in 3 colours; blue, black or red, orange, white and blue splatter. I ordered the splattered vinyl and was pleased with how it looked, it does look very smart indeed.
On the vinyl the tracks are:
- Discovery (Title Screen Theme)
- Lights, Camera, Action! (Studiopolis Act 1)
- Wildstyle Pistolero (Mirage Saloon Act 1 K Mix)
- Tabloid Jargon (Press Garden Act 1)
- Danger on the Dance Floor (Mini Boss Theme)
- Built to Rule (Titanic Monarch Act 1)
- Dimension Heist (Special Stage)
- Ruby Delusions (Eggman Boss Theme 1)
- Comfort Zone (Main Menu)
- Prime Time (Studiopolis Act 2)
- Blossom Haze (Press Garden Act 2)
- Rogues Gallery (Mirage Saloon Act 2)
- Hi-Spec Robo Go! (Hard Boiled Heavies Theme)
- Skyway Octane (Mirage Saloon Act 1 St Mix)
- Steel Cortex (Titanic Monarch Act 2)
- Ruby Illusions (Final Boss Theme)
The tracks are very good with a tinge of nostalgia but also are uniquely modern. They just fit right in the world of classic Sonic with upbeat chiptune music but with added trumpets, drums, epic electric guitar solos and super fast boogie woogie piano. For fan of the original series this record is a must have as it feels like a natural progression musically to what had gone before in Sonic and Knuckles. Current standout tracks for me include Studiopolis Act 1: Lights, Camera, Action! and Mirage Saloon Act 2: Rogues Gallery, which sounds like a modern rendition of Morricone's Spaghetti Westerns mixed with an upbeat chiptune. Other tracks may come to the fore but these two are the ones that appeal to me out of the 16 at the moment.
The soundtrack is a triumph and I would recommend it highly to anyone with even a passing interest in the original 4 games from the days of the Megadrive.
To kick off the first of hopefully many retro soundtrack reviews I've got a spectacular starter, the vinyl of the 1980s Moomins series. I've spoken previously about how as a child the jerky, awkward animation style and the creepy title music spooked me but with time I've come to respect the art choices and direction taken with this work and have come to appreciate similar works by the Bolex Brothers and Jan Svankmajer.
Getting the vinyl itself was an interesting story worthy of Tove Jansson herself; Drift Records had procured a sizable chunk of the initial 600 vinyl shipment but on the day of their arrival into the UK the box was mislabeled and the vinyls were taken elsewhere to another warehouse with over 1000 other containers. It took over a month for the box to be found and the Moomins to be rediscovered... truly a wonderful tale for such whimsical characters, but what of the record itself?
The record is beautifully presented within a large image from the 80s show and on the back is the track list with the blurb which reads:
Imagine, if you will, a foreboding homemade electro-acoustic, new age, synth driven, proto-techno, imaginary world music Portastudio soundtrack for a Polish-made animated fantasy based on a modern Finnish folk tale, created for German and Austrian TV, composed in 1982 by two politically driven post-punk theatre perfomers from a shared house in Leeds!
Yeesh! Maybe I should have chosen a simpler, more straightforward album to review but this album was too good to pass up on so on we go!
This blurb is a good indicator of the musical journey you take over the course of the 30 minute or so it takes to finish the record.
It kicks off with the Moomin Theme and it is wonderful to hear the completed piece with an elongates ending. The whole piece sounds a bit like a broken Victorian carousel mixed with a calliope falling down the stairs.
The Travelling Theme suits the title well and is a measured gentle plodding piece, almost metronome-like in its style. It has a simple beat which plays under a wonderful ethereal flute sound. This is an early highlight of the album.
Hobgoblins Hat is suitably mysterious and atmospheric with an arabesque woodwind sound and a throbbing synthesizer pulse underneath it.
Leaving Moomin Valley is grand and sweeping with gentle strings adding a sense of longing.
Moomins Partytime sounds almost calypso in its rhythm and beat but is punctuated with whoops of joy and guttural throaty sounds which almost give it a tribal feel.
Hattyfatteners Row is a frenetically paced track with deep throaty shouts of 'row' whilst a drum beat persistently beats. It is a driving track and almost sounds like an early garage or jungle track.
Woodland Band is a whimsical piece which brings together the sounds of various woodwind instruments and forest sounds together. The piece is quite sweet and has a 'regular' musical sound. This is another beautiful highlight of the album.
Most Unusual is exactly that; unusual. It sounds almost like a theremin mixed with a metallophone and is quite muted and moody but pleasing to the ear.
Midwinter Rites is a spooky piece which starts off with a deep percussive drum beat and strange guttural voices which growl and moan to the driving beat whilst in the background other higher screams are heard. An Indian sounding pungi piped instrument slits in and adds to the peculiarity. A strange piece indeed but an unusual highlight.
Piano Waltz is an elegant waltz piece and one of the more conventional pieces on the album but no less wonderful for that fact.
Creepers sounds like a gamalan piece with lots of gentle rhythmic thumping and beeps flitting in and out. A melodic relaxing piece.
Woodland Band (Far Away) is a reprise of sorts of Piano Waltz but done in woodwind, it sounds so gentle and calming.
Comet Shadow is a haunting piece with howling wind and echoing whistles and a reverberating low synthesizer sound, this piece sounds moody and sinister.
Comet Theme is a piano based theme with the same few notes played in different keys, getting faster and faster as the comet approaches I guess!
The Moomins Theme (Ending Titles) are the same as the beginning it shorter and by my reckoning faster but I could be wrong.
Overall the album is unlike anything I've heard before, apart from this show which I occasionally caught in my youth. It is unique, both beautiful and strange and so it is a difficult one to recommend to everyone. For people with niche tastes and quirky sensibilities this might be your bag but for most this is an uncomfortable and strange listen. I love this album and even though I know I won't listen to it very much, it's just not that sort of album, I'm glad I've got it to listen to on occasion when the need to be terrified/ whimsified takes me. If you'd like to listen to a sample of the album follow the link here.
Nostalgia normally works in 30 year cycles. In the 70's and 80's Happy Days was huge, looking back through rose tinted eyes at the 50's. Well now, having reached the ripe old age of 34 I guess I'm the demographic companies are trying to target by appealing for my nostalgia. To that end Data-Discs is releasing video game soundtracks of classic games Streets of Rage and Shenmue on vinyl. Both are the work of legendary Yuzo Koshiro, the influential composer who was particularly renown in the 80's and 90's for creating thumping rhythmic electronic and chiptune music on 8 and 16-bit machines.
In the words of Data-Discs:
We carefully remaster game soundtracks and present them as officially licensed, high quality packages. Our intention is to promote the work of game composers, which is all too often overlooked, and introduce people to an area of music that, despite being culturally significant in many ways, has seldom been available on any format, let alone on vinyl. We aim to release soundtracks that work as standalone pieces; albums that can be enjoyed by casual listeners as well as game fans, and showcase the creativity and ingenuity of the people behind them.
I have spoken about my love of vinyl before but this is something different. The thought of hearing the tunes of my formative years on my record player is so exciting; this couldn't more hipster if it tried but I'm so in! My wife is buying me the Streets of Rage on vinyl as an Eid present and I can't wait. I have a couple of other video game soundtrack vinyls I hope to be getting soon including the Journey soundtrack by Austin Wintory,
These soundtracks being released got me thinking about other albums I'd like to see on vinyl and so I've compiled a video playlist below. Click away and enjoy. What video game soundtrack would you like to hear on vinyl?
I've had a record player for a while now and in that time have built up a small but solid collection of vinyl records. I initially went to record shops I knew, like Rough Trade in Brick Lane but they were really expensive with albums typically costing from £25 upwards. I found that a far more manageable and fun way is to crate surf at market stalls and charity shops. Some charity shops know that there is a demand for vinyl so do specialist music only shops. I've collected a lot from Oxfam for a great price including some of the Jean Michel Jarre albums from the 70's and 80's Mike Oldfield in his prime. All for a princely £2.99 each, bargain!
I've also recently splurged a little and bought the Three Colours Soundtracks for Kieslowski's masterpeices for £15 each on Amazon. These came with CD recordings included (which I already had but it's a nice touch). My prize is an old pressing of the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album. This only coat me £4.99 and is in pristine condition. All in all I have about 20 records which is not bad by my reckoning. Long live crate surfing and charity shops
I've been hearing for a while in the newspapers and popular media that vinyl is back from the dead. Sales of the 66-year-old format have been steadily rising over the past nine years, but last year saw an explosion in which vinyl sales doubled what they were in 2012. The 780,000 LPs shifted in 2013 meant that sales were the greatest since 1997.
Recently I got a record player for Christmas, it is a Verdi record player and I love it! My wife and I were walking around Totnes, Devon on Christmas Eve and were walking past a retro shop called 'Narnia' and there it was, playing some old jazz record... it was love at first sight. My wife bought it for me there and then as she knew I'd wanted one for a little while. We then spent the next couple of hours scouring the charity shops for old records and came back with quite a haul for next to no money, we bought 'Tubular Bells' by Mike Oldfield and 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' by Rick Wakeman amongst others.
As the weeks have gone by I've been thinking about my interest in getting a record player. I'd always wanted one as my father had an all-in-one music system, the kind that was popular in the 90's. It played CDs, cassettes and records but I had never seen the record player used. I didn't know how they worked. Of course I knew the general principle of the record spinning and the arm going across and the needle dropping but that was the extent of my knowledge. My local library, Barking library, had an impressive number of vinyls but I had never really ventured there, it was an alien world to me.
When I went to France with friends in 1998 I bought a couple of Jean Michel Jarre albums, 'Oxygene' and 'Revolutions'. I already had them on CD but liked the big covers so bought them as an art piece for my already busy room. When I got home all excited about playing these records my dad told me that the needle on the record player was broken and so I couldn't play the records, disappointed the records sat near my bed gathering dust, Jarre's face looking out at me from the cover of his 'Revolutions' album for years. My interest in records was fleeting and I forgot about the whole thing, until recently.
On Christmas dad my wife looked through her parents old record and a wave of nostalgia overtook her as she found 'The Wombles- Remember You're A Womble' record. She remembered listening to the record incessantly in her childhood. Putting the record on felt special, like a ritual- it's was an emotional connection which pressing play on a digital device didn't have. That special connection of holding a record, carefully pulling out the vinyl, blowing off the dust and putting the arm across. We put the record on and the living room was filled with music of such fullness and richness, we danced and laughed and her sister came along and danced with us.
Henry Rollins (an American musician, writer, journalist, publisher, actor, radio host, spoken word artist, and activist) said,
Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting in a room alone with an LP crackling away... is enjoying the sublime state of solitude
When I read this I didn't understand what he meant but as time has gone by it all makes much more sense. The pull of vinyl is obvious: a fuller, more raw and warmer sound compared to the inferior compressed quality of most MP3s (higher bitrates improve the sound immensely); the physical nature of the product as a collector’s piece, with its sleeve notes and large cover art, in opposition to an impersonal click on the computer.
Contrary to popular belief vinyl is not the preserve of stuffy middle class audiophiles, rather it is a wide demographic. Many young fans are buying vinyl not for the sound quality but rather the vinyl’s artistic value. Many young fans do not own a turntable but since most vinyl releases also come with a code to download the album digitally, there is the option to collect them as artworks, which shows commitment to supporting music and connecting more closely with an artist or bands work, while listening to the music digitally. There are two parallel markets for the format. Crate diggers are music enthusiasts, first and foremost, seeking out rarities and limited editions. First-hand vinyl is now the preserve of well-to-do audiophiles (it is they who are pushing the value of the market up) and hardcore fans who want everything a band puts out, including a vinyl version of their bands latest album.
The reason vinyl appeals to me and especially at the moment is that as an early adopter of new technology, I feel record collections are very personal. Cicero said,
''A room without books is like a body without a soul,''
and I feel the same could be said for music. With vinyl I find myself actually listening rather than just hearing, I have to dedicate time to sit down and listen rather than just pop on my mp3 player and letting the music wash over me. I have over 10,000 albums in mp3 format (I went traveling through Asia a few years ago and went to the numerous outlets which give you albums, movies and e-books at next to no price) but there are only a few that I actually listen to, mostly it's just muzak, background noise to keep me occupied on my commute.
I don't want to sound like a hi-fi bore, but I just wanted to share my new experience of sitting down and actively listening to music. I love the different sounds I can hear from the records compared to the CD. There are notes I notice in vinyl that I don't hear in CDs that I have heard hundred of times. Vinyl is here to stay not because they sounds better (they might but the jury is still out on that one), but because they serve a purpose; a tangible way to connect with the music in an increasingly digital age.
BPI and BRIT Awards Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said,
“The LP is back in the groove. We’re witnessing a renaissance for records – they’re no longer retromania and are becoming the format of choice for more and more music fans. This year has been a treat for vinyl aficionados with releases from Daft Punk, David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys and Black Sabbath.
“Whilst sales only account for a small percentage of the overall market, vinyl sales are growing fast as a new generation discovers the magic of 12 inch artwork, liner notes and the unique sound of analogue records, often accompanied by a download code for mp3s...the vinyl revival looks set to continue."
I for one am glad that this once endangered format is still here, and with Record Store Day held across the world long may it continue.
What do you think about vinyl? Share your thoughts below!