• Sinfonia Drammatica - Konserthuset, Stockholm, Sweden (04.08.2009) :: REPORT

    14 août 2009, 17h49m par Mr_Elvis

    Video game music concerts have become a bit of a tradition in Sweden. Stockholm's Konserthuset venue has repeatedly hosted the PLAY! A Video Game Symphony and Distant Worlds - Music from Fantasy concerts, has witnessed the recording of the orchestral Distant Worlds CD, and has welcomed game music celebrities like Nobuo Uematsu, Akira Yamaoka, and Chris Hülsbeck.

    On August 4th, this legacy continued. Yoko Shimomura, whose visit to the Swedish capital was part of her first official trip to Europe, joined the ranks of legendary Konserthuset guests; Chris Hülsbeck, a composer who has made a huge impact on the Commodore 64 and Amiga music scene, also arrived in Stockholm the same day. Both composers had good reason to be in Sweden this evening — the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ensemblen & Stockholm Singers, and the famed conductor Arnie Roth joined forces, once again, to play a one-of-a-kind show. Entitled 'Sinfonia Drammatica', this event was created to connect Eastern and Western game music styles together, and promote both genres in a single show. The show's creators decided that presenting Shimomura's and Hülsbeck's creations was the best way to achieve this goal. This proved to be a good decision, as the composers' works play off of each other nicely, and their great fame in the game music world means a built-in audience of interested fans.

    Sinfonia Drammatica was an experiment built on the worldwide success of two orchestral game music albums: Drammatica - The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura and Symphonic Shades - Hülsbeck in Concert. Both CDs summed up the decades-long game music careers of Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts, Legend of Mana, Live a Live) and Hülsbeck (Great Giana Sisters, Turrican, Apidya). Their most beloved tracks were reimagined through full orchestral arrangements, recorded by top musicians, and released on these memorial albums. We probably wouldn't have received such high quality compilations if producer Thomas Böcker hadn't infected classically-trained Finnish arranger Jonne Valtonen with a strong passion for game music, and recruited Arnie Roth (aka Maestro Video Game Music), who's always ready for new challenges.

    As a result of this collaboration, a large amount of material was written. So when Konserthuset's director Stefan Forsberg suggested a new game music show this year in Sweden, the choice of repertoire was a formality. Open-minded about new arrangements and styles, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra agreed to take this challenge. Arnie Roth reprised his role as musical director, and the project began. Initial information about the concert was released to the media in March, and the concert programme was even published. This setlist was arranged to alternate catchy Western game melodies with atmospheric, magical Japanese game music tracks. Additionally, musicians prepared a surprise encore — a track that had never been performed live in Europe before. Which track was this? Don't worry — you'll find out soon enough!

    We (Kamil Rojek and Mariusz Borkowski) arrived in Stockholm as a two person squad, intent on representing the only Polish media outlet — GameMusic.pl. On the day of the concert, the Konserthuset Philharmonic was decorated by sponsors' banners and a big poster that promoted the impending event. Outside the venue's main doors, tracks from the Drammatica and Symphonic Shades albums played through a set of speakers. Inside the building, we found promo leaflets about the evening's special guests (prepared and edited by our colleague Johan Köhn, from spelmusik.net) and poster displays, the same designs as the ones that blanketed the city.

    We spent a few hours inside the venue before the concert began, where we conducted a few short interviews with the show's big names — Yoko Shimumora, Chris Hülsbeck, and Arnie Roth. To our pleasure, our subjects found our prepared questions interesting, and drew attention to their uniqueness. Because we had limited time, though, we had to skip many of our questions. However, the artists asked us to send the rest of the questions via email, so that we could create a more complete chat transcript for GameMusic.pl. After three interesting and congenial meetings, we joined the crowd that was forming in front of the Konserthuset. We then entered the lobby, where we gathered and waited for the concert hall's doors to open. Any fan waiting here had the opportunity to purchase Drammatica, Symphonic Shades, or Distant Worlds at a very affordable price of 150 SEK.

    Finally, the door to the concert hall was unlocked and opened, and the public — hungry for musical rapture — poured inside. The ravenous fans filled the venue, taking all of the seats, in only a couple of minutes. In the meantime, Yoko Shimomura, Chris Hülsbeck, Thomas Böcker, and Mrs. Böcker sneaked inside, unnoticed, and took their seats in the center of the room. The orchestra and choir then walked onto the stage. Stefan Forsberg followed, and announced maestro Arnie Roth. After this activity, the first part of the concert began. From time to time, between the suites, Arnie exhorted the audience for applause to honour the special guests.

    During the first half of the show, Roth conducted eight arrangements. These performances, due to the vibrancy of the instruments, invoked a full array of colors, spreading throughout the sumptuous hall of the Swedish Philharmony. The orchestra put a great deal of effort into performing the X-Out and Gem'X suites as similarly to the Symphonic Shades recordings as possible. X-Out featured the familiar ambient sounds inspired by submarines, while Gem'X's minimalist arrangement was truly captivating. "The Other Promise," from Kingdom Hearts, was another remarkable arrangement, as Stefan Lindrgen's subtle grand piano melodies skillfully built a nostalgic fantasy vibe. However, the strongest point of the concert's first half was definitely the dynamic "Colored Earth," from the Legend of Mana soundtrack. The whole orchestra, especially Joakim Svenheden — who played the first violin — did all they could do to make this theme memorable, especially for Yoko Shimomura fans. Even Yoko herself seemed to be satisfied with such an expressive and rousing performance of her work.

    After the 15 minute intermission, it was time for the second part of the concert. The show's last half was packed with the evening's most famous melodies. It's hard to find the right words to express the feelings that The Great Giana Sisters evokes in a Commodore 64 player. 16 years ago, I played this title constantly, even mastering it to the point where I could finish the entire game without losing a single 'life'. Back then, I never would've imagined that I would someday listen to its music at a professional concert, and hear the tunes played by a full orchestra. The game itself was unremarkable — just another Super Mario Bros clone — but the soundtrack was the game's true attraction. Today, not only was I able to witness the revival of this great melody, but I had been able to speak with its creator Chris Hülsbeck before the show.

    Another strong point of the concert, the regal "Destati", was full of spectacular choral renditions by the Ensemblen & Stockholm Singers. After this track, the first notes of "Hometown Domina" resounded. The pieces composed as background music for J-RPG game locations are usually relaxing tunes, and those meant to accompany the exploration of a character's homeland often have particularly soothing undertones. The performance of "Hometown Domina" painted a colorful picture of the Legend of Mana homeworld in listeners' minds, and the feeling of carefreeness and safety seemed to hang in the air. Suddenly, I realized there was only one track left in the concert. It was the renderings of the main theme for Turrican II The Final Fight, a piano concertino spanning almost 10 minutes. Stefan Lindrgen fully demonstrated his virtuosity, faultlessly performing the track's numerous piano segments. But the final showdown was yet to come...

    The standing ovations seemed to be endless. After a few minutes of applause, Arnie Roth came back on the stage and announced an encore, stressing that it would definitely be the last theme of the evening. He then said he had always wanted to conduct an orchestra in performing "Fantasia alla Marcia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra," a piece known simply as "Fantasia". This medley, which combines the most significant tracks from Kingdom Hearts series, fit into the Sinfonia Drammatica's musical frame well, and its strong melodic character summed up the entire video game music evening in Konserthuset Hall. Soon after this last track ended, Yoko Shimomura and Chris Hülsbeck appeared onstage and received a bouquet of flowers, while the audience continued applauding. They left the stage, but a couple of minutes later, they were forced to reemerge — this large group of video game music fans were not going to leave the building without seeing more than a fleeting glimpse of the composers!

    When both composers finally disappeared behind curtains, and the lights switched off, some concert attendees purchased tickets for the post-show meet and greet event, while the rest left the venue in a sparkling mood. It was well after 10 PM, so we headed toward the exit as well. While leaving the venue, we received leaflets inviting us to the upcoming Symphonic Fantasies show, scheduled for September 12th in Cologne. This show is slated to be the biggest video game music fest in Europe ever. We'll definitely attend and review the event, simultaneously at SEMO and GameMusic.pl.

    Videos and images published with the permission of Thomas Böcker. Special thanks to Ronnie Schmidt for all his priceless help that led to our trip to Stockholm.

    The intro to this article can be found here while the text itself has been published here.

    Additional links:植松伸夫, 山岡晃, 下村陽子, Tue 4 Aug – Sinfonia Drammatica.
  • This Is The One track-by-track review

    13 mars 2009, 22h03m par Ganny

    This Is The One is the 2nd english album by Utada. The 26-year-old JPop princess decided to bring out another after that horrible bombshell of an album called EXODUS.

    This album does prove, however, that we are finally a part of the internet generation, with references to BlackBerries and PhotoShop among others.

    So, here goes my track-by-track.

    1. On And On
    2. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawerence - FYI
    3. Apple And Cinnamon
    4. Taking My Money Back
    5. This One (Crying Like A Child)
    6. Automatic Part II
    7. Dirty Desire
    8. Poppin'
    9. Come Back To Me
    10. Me Muero
    11. Come Back To Me (Seamus Haji & Paul Emanuel Radio Edit)
    12. Come Back To Me (Quentin Harris Radio Edit)

    1. On And On

    A nice way to start off the album but it has it's flaws. A nice beat which reminds me a bit of CBTM. I don't really like the guy going 'Argh!' in the background though. The vocals sound kinda forced at the beginning. which kinda disapoints me, 'cuz it's not something I'm used to hearing from Hikki. Still the lyrics aren't bad and the beat is catchy (I was dancing to it in the shower lol XD)

    Rating: 6/10

    2. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawerence - FYI

    I LOVE THIS SONG! Sorry, I had to get that off my chest :) The vocals are perfect for this song, the beat is really catchy and lyrics are awesome! Not my favourite song from the album but it comes close. The violin and piano beginning are quite decietful for the tone of the lyrics.

    Raiting: 8.5/10

    3. Apple And Cinnamon

    The song that everyone heard about before. Repetitive, which is a shame. The lyrics are good but it sounds a little computer generated, espically the lyrics sometimes. I don't mind it, but it's just a tad too much computer sounding.

    Raiting: 7.5/10

    4. Taking My Money Back

    I don't really like this song. The vocals, lyrics and instrumentation just don't click with me.

    Raiting: 5/10

    5. This One (Crying Like A Child)

    Wooooooo! A ballad, R&B style. My fave song from the album. My only higgle with it is the 'ay-ay-ay' part. Why? Not necessary. I love the lyrics and vocals, and the instrumentation is perfect!

    Raiting: 9.5/10

    6. Automatic Part II

    I really, really hate this song. It doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Automatic. In fact, I've listened to it twice, then deleted it off my iPod.

    Raiting: 3/10

    7. Dirty Desire

    The backing vocals sound quite cheap and the song could do with a better ending. However, the lyrics aren't bad and the instrumentation is good. I like Hikki's vocals and the way she stresses the words a lot. Her vocals in this reminds me of Devil Inside.

    Raiting: 7/10

    8. Poppin'

    The start reminds me a bit of Mission Impossible I. I don't really love the song, but I don't hate it either. Too repetitive for my taste and the talking part doesn't really add much more.

    Raiting: 6/10

    9. Come Back To Me

    It's probably becuase I've heard it soooooo many times (According to iTunes, 677 times actually) that I've not actually listened to it since I got the album. It's the same as before and probably the most generic song on the whole album. The MV disappointed me though.

    Raiting: 8/10

    10. Me Muero

    This just doesn't fit in with the style of the album, with it's South American/Latino style. Reminds me of something I hear when I'm eating out at Nandos XO

    Raiting: 6/10

    I won't rate the 2 radio mixes.


    I think this an album aimed at breaking her into the American market, which is probably why some of the songs don't really fit well with me. However, it probably is going to fit in well and I hope it does well. As a album, it's solid but it's not really my style.

    Overall raiting: 8/10
  • The revival of Hello! Project

    14 oct. 2008, 16h42m par Ganny

    The general consensus is that Hello! Project losing it's touch. Super crazy-pop went off the menu ages ago, with morning musume not reachng no.1 on ORICON, even with their cover of popular classic, Pepper Keibu. Buono, Gatas, C-ute and berryz koubou are also going the same way for me. Nothing has really caught my eye in terms of astonshing singles/albums. In fact, most of my listening of any Hello! Project group has been purely out of loyalty.

    But now, it may actually have a chance of survival. With Goto Maki's switch to the AVEX label, H!P has been looking for a new solo/group face other than morning musume.

    And now they have it.

    HANGRY & ANGRY isn't the type I'm used to listening, but I was willing to give it a try. And to my surprise, I rather liked it. Of course, it's only a preview of their single, Kill Me Kiss Me, but already, I'm hopeful. It's a new style of popish-rock and gothic clothing (
    Hangry & Angry is a collaboration with a Harajuku fashion store which goes by the same name.)

    And the members? Yoshizawa Hitomi and Ishikawa Rika. The last people I'd expected to dress up like this: But actually, if it means that I have such an interesting song to listen to, I don't care who the members are.

    With the egdy lyrics and new gothic styled look, it seems that UFA has finally seen that the crap which has been coming out since Yossie left MM is no longer good enough. Hangry & Angry, I'm sure, will atrract both old and new fans.

    Hangry & Angry's main site can be found here:http://www.s-inc.com/hangry-angry/main.php
  • Tenniscoats & Secai

    4 août 2008, 5h33m par jonniewilks

    Reinvention is an essential part of being a forward-thinking band, especially one that is held in high regard the world over. It can't be easy to keep coming up with new guises to drape yourself in, especially when you're working to a record company schedule. One way around this problem is to become a member of Tenniscoats, set your own schedule, collaborate with whoever you like, and release 5 or 6 albums in the space of half a year.

    This year, Saya and Takashi have already given us Sui-Gin and Moere, as well as the Harmonies DVD released with Kazumi Nikaidoh. The first 2 were as experimental as Tenniscoats are likely to get. Sui-Gin found Takashi performing solo on 12 string guitar, fed through a ring modulator (thus rendering his melodies absolutely alien to anyone expecting to hear a 12 string guitar) - not exactly easy-listening, but great stuff for anyone who despairs that music as an art-form may have been taken to its limit.

    Similar stuff can be found on Moere, a collaboration between Saya, Takashi, Tetsuya Umeda and Ikuro Takahashi that came out towards the beginning of the summer. The album is in 3 parts, and was recorded live utilizing a mixture of conventional instruments and the natural sounds of the warehouse space they found themselves in. Conventional instruments, but by no means conventional music. It reminds this listener of the collaborative work done by Tape & Minamo, specifically the album Birds of a Feather - no bad thing, and a considerable leap away from Tan Tan Therapy or totemo aimashou.

    On August 8th the pair will release the first collection of the year to actually bare the Tenniscoats name. This time the collaborators are Secai, 2 friends who are associated with the 'Coats via their Majikick label. The album was created through a series of sessions that stretched over a couple of years, fleshed out with songwriting and production along the way. The overall first impression is of a much darker creation than anything else in the Tenniscoats cannon. It's certainly not as accessible as the two avant-pops classics from last year, though that's not to say it's any the less rewarding. Given time, these songs will seep through, and you'll find them tantalizing your frontal lobe at the most inconvenient times.

    "Melt Horn" introduces the album in a deceptive way, sounding for all the world as though this might be a Tenniscoats album, remixed by SECAI. The tune will delight fans of Saya's plaintive, melancholy side. It's a heartbreaking little melody, built around the kind of chord structure that Johnny Marr used to specialize in back in his Smiths heyday. While the remix effect quickly gives way to less obvious techniques, Saya's way with a musical phrase continues to hypnotize throughout the album, backed up with some wonderful ideas from the other musicians - Takashi has never sounded better on his old sax, and let it be noted here and now that he is a massively underrated guitarist. The lush depth and atmosphere he creates is fast becoming Tenniscoats' signature sound - ironic, considering how much of a Ray Davies fan he is.

    Other highlights include "Turn" (check the link at the bottom of this article for a listen), which dropped into our inbox mid-July, "Tengu" and "Touch On", all of which are inspired gems from the world of Saya and Ueno. However, the highlights are the utterly mesmerizing "Nanatsuno" and "Dasbon", which feature some great group harmonizing from the other musicians, as well as the kind of broken beats not usually associated with Tenniscoats, revealing exactly what Secai brought to this party.

    Tenniscoats & Secai is a much more difficult album to enjoy from the off, but with repeated listens, you'll be glad you gave it the effort. Be quick, though! By the time you "get it", the next release will be upon us.

    Turn can be downloaded from the bottom of the following page:

  • I Got a New Girl, No Kissing Yet

    15 mai 2008, 3h16m par jonniewilks

    In the years I've been hitting the Fukuoka live houses, a band that has consistently impressed me has been Roi Schaider. Totally unassuming, barely gifted when it comes to playing their instruments, something very groovy happens when the three of them come together.

    With lyrics that are as innocent as an eikaiwa lesson, the song that's got me moving most these days is Nice to Meet You (Na Na Na). It's an essential crowd-pleaser during their short but frenetic sets, and it's guaranteed to stick in your head for days to come.

    Worth a listen also is the massively perverted New Girl, though I don't believe the band have caught the perfect performance yet. The version linked above is a solo performance from enigmatic frontman, Sakura, recorded in his kitchen on a broken laptop. It's got the requisite Robert Johnson-isms. I think that's all he was really after.

    Not the most far-out band in my record collection, but one that I look forward to hearing more from. Spread the word!

    Free from TADA Music, this artists ought to appeal to anyone keen on the following:

    Paul Weller
    John Martyn
    The Rolling Stones
    The Charlatans
    Bob Dylan
    The Stray Cats
    The Polecats
    G-Love and Special Sauce
    The Routes
    Muddy Waters
    Joe Strummer
    The Smiths

  • L'Arc~en~Ciel TOUR 2008 L'7~Trans ASIA via PARIS~

    12 mai 2008, 9h21m par chenka

    L'Arc~en~Ciel TOUR 2008 L'7~Trans ASIA via PARIS~ May 9th

    On May 9th, the day of the concert, we arrived at Le Zenith around 11:00, and thankfully were able to line up with Din, Caroline, Zel and the others who had been there since the morning. After a looooong wait, sometime after 18:00 if I remember correctly, the doors finally opened and we ran inside. Went right for merch and seats, and we got us great spots in the center, around stage-height. Got us some more merch, waited some more, did 'the wave' a couple of times with the whole audience which was very amusing, then a little after 20:00 the show finally started!

    01. get out from the shell -asia version-
    02. Driver's High
    03. Killing Me
    06. winter fall
    07. 花葬
    08. My Dear
    09. forbbiden lover
    11. Caress of Venus
    14. Pretty girl
    15. STAY AWAY -member change version-
    18. HONEY
    19. Link
    20. あなた

    They opened with get out from the shell, and we could only see their silhouettes for the first bit of the song. And I cried my eyes out, which didn't happen at either of the Japanese lives I went to, it was a big explosion of emotions from the past months. But this live just felt like the first time I saw them, it was just so amazing. Describing it in words doesn't do it justice at all. The audience was also many sorts of awesome (although I don't know what the pit was like and the photographing sucked pretty badly :/) and was jumping and cheering and singing along during the whole concert. I've never seen such an enthusiastic (and varied) audience ever before.

    During Driver's High everyone was jumping and shouting along the "clash!" and "flash!" bits.

    DRINK IT DOWN was awesome to hear live and the light effects were cool. After DRINK IT DOWN Hyde did an MC in French. When he started talking, nobody quite understood what he was saying and most of the audience stayed quiet. Hyde's puzzled look at that was sort of endearing, haha. He continued in French, something about how he loved to meet French girls XD; And how the show was broadcasted in Japan (in 5 cinemas).

    I loved hearing songs like winter fall, 花葬 and forbidden lover. Those are the songs I used to listen to on repeat a few years ago, and they are still some of my favourites to hear. Especially forbidden lover sounded great live, the drums were awesome!

    My Dear was just overall sort of cute. Ken was playing keyboard for most of the song and the whole sounded really beautiful.

    I was happy to hear MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM since it had been stuck in my head during most of Paris, haha. The song started out with a long and awesome Ken solo, it was amazing!

    Caress of Venus was awesome as ever! Everybody was jumping during the song.

    Same for REVELATION, everybody was shouting along and jumping. This song is always so amazing live! After REVELATION Ken was doing an MC, also in French. I don't remember exactly what he said, but there was some stuff about French food and they showed pictures of the French food, him with the French food and him at one of those tacky souvenir stalls XD

    SEVENTH HEAVEN started with a lot of power and they were shooting the silver stuff into the air again. Unfortunately a little bit into the song Ken got hurt and they stopped the song, Hyde said "sorry" and they went off-stage. I'm still not sure what happened exactly and I didn't see it happen until he was sitting on the ground. Some say he tripped over something, some say he hurt his arm or his finger..... After about 10 minutes they got back on stage, the audience had waited patiently. Ken apologised: "I had to go to the toilet. A big one and a small one. Three times!" HILARIOUS. Thank you Ken! After that they started playing SEVENTH HEAVEN from the start. I think both the band and the audience had some problem getting back into the concert atmosphere but everyone did a good job and the song turned out awesome and energetic anyway.

    Then... Pretty Girl. Couldn't stop laughing. The band was really cheerful and everyone was jumping and shouting along. Ken was teasing the audience.

    After Pretty Girl they played STAY AWAY and all of the members were singing. Tetsu's part was good, then Ken started and halfway he simply dumped his guitar and was being an awesome yet funny vocalist. Then it was Yukihiro's turn, Ken took over the drums and Yukihiro seemed a bit shy as always but he did an awesome job.

    READY STEADY GO got the reaction I had expected of the audience, everybody turned super active (even more than during most of the concert), shouting along, jumping.

    Then NEO UNIVERSE, which is one of my and Suuziej's "special songs", so we were reeeaaally happy! The intro was a bit different but the performance was awesome. They used one of those disco balls to create light effects. When I saw the disco ball coming down I initially thought they would play Jojoushi, but it suited NEO UNIVERSE really well.

    HONEY and Link followed, both awesome songs but I don't have too much to say about it. Tetsu did a short MC, saying "Do you want to eat my banana?" in French, then threw two banana's into the audience. Ken got his hands on a camera and filmed the audience.

    The last song was あなた, Hyde asked the audience to sing along. As soon as the song started I got sad because the concert was almost over. But the song was really beautiful and although it was difficult most people tried to sing along. It was a beautiful end of the concert, but I was a bit surprised to see the band leave the stage quite quickly.

    Some other things that happened but I can't remember when: Hyde (tried to) licked Tetsu's bass. Yukihiro did a very short but adorable MC in French. His pronunciation is quite good! During one song, Hyde suddenly disappeared from the stage... turned out he jumped into the audience.

    Overall, Ken was definitely the star of the show. He was interacting with the audience a lot (all of them were, btw), his MC's were funny and he had a huge smile on his face basically all the time. Tetsu looked really tired, and he only seemed more active near the end of the concert. Yukihiro was a bit shy as always. And Hyde gave off this huge Johnny Depp vibe, especially during MCs. The style of the concert gave me a pirate-y feeling, with Hyde's outfit and the decor and everything.

    This concert was definitely the best I ever went to ♥ I can't wait for the DVD (they said there will be one)!

    Picture of the stage (taken after the concert):

    The merch I got:
  • PLAY! A Video Game Symphony Concert in Prague

    28 avr. 2008, 0h56m par CloudyMemory

    Wed 23 Apr – PLAY! A Video Game Symphony "Recording Concert"

    Wednesday April 23, 2008 - the day that will go down in history as the day PLAY! A Video Game Symphony blessed this little backwater country in the heart of Europe with it's presence. It took a few days for the whole experience to soak in but here I am with my random thoughts on this fantastic evening.

    Two weeks prior to the concert one of my friends stumbled upon an annoucement on a game site saying PLAY! would be performing in the famous Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum here in my hometown and that they'd be recording the whole thing for a CD / DVD release for the first time. The concert was to be performed by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and Kuehn's mixed choir and conducted by Grammy Award-winning artist Arnie Roth. I knew immediately that I had to be there.

    OBLIVION 2007 Suite tab sheets.

    After all, video game music has had a huge impact on me from early on, as I grew up on all kinds of consoles like the Game Boy, SNES, Sega Game Gear / Mega Drive and PS / PS2. I was never a big fan of PC gaming obviously (though a lot of PC games, like the Fallout series are among my top favorites of all time).

    To my surprise obtaining tickets was absolutely no problem even as late as a week prior to the concert. The tickets for the Stockholm gig were gone within two weeks, so I thought we were very lucky. But when I read a post from what obviously was one of the orchestra members on a public forum, about the promoters being unable to sell the needed amount of tickets, I started to worry. "This can't be," I kept telling myself. Well, as we found out on Wednesday, it was true. Dvořák Hall with it's capacity of more than 1000 seats was not even half full. There even was no one to check our tickets, meaning you could walk in for free!

    If you ask me, the reason for this must have been a bad advertising campaign (I haven't seen any posters in the streets or anything...) and of course the fact that the majority of people here still won't recognize today's video games as something almost on par with movies, something that could feature a story, characters and musical score of a similar scope and complexity. Another reason may be the traditional disregard for consoles in these lands (I still can't believe Chrono Cross never got released in Europe...)

    Almost ready to rock.

    My first impression was that this concert of PLAY! had to be probably the most low scale / budget of all the shows so far (which still isn't a bad thing) with only one large screen above the stage and all. Anyway, they've asked us to move into the first few rows so that they could shoot only those, probably to make the place look crowded. No problem. The concert started 30 minutes later than planned. Sure, why not. The cameras were in place, the orchestra and choir started filling up the front and finally maestro Arnie Roth appeared.

    After a short introduction the concert opened with the PLAY! Fanfare composed by the one and only 植松伸夫 and quickly moved on to the early periods of gaming history with the Commodore 64 and Amiga Medleys, featuring pieces of The Great Giana Sisters, International Karate, The Last Ninja, Forbidden Forest, Alienbreed, Lionheart, Lemmings and Turrican. Some real retro stuff to be sure, but I was really surprised by the huge sound the orchestra and choir were able to produce. A lot of that stuff also had a bit of a nostalgic impact on me, because I could remember many of the tunes from the time when I was about 6 and I'd visit my friend after school and occupy his Commodore for hours.

    I'm really not sure about the order, but later in the first half came Battlefield 1942, probably the first piece where guest star percussionist Rony Barrak would beat the crap out of his darbouka (He's regarded as one of the greatest darbouka players in the world). The theme itself, composed by Joel Eriksson, is a solid piece of action writing but Barrak really nailed it by giving it a strong middle-eastern flavor. He'd be called out by Mr. Roth for many more occasions during the evening, including my personal highlight, TAPPY's original version of the METAL GEAR SOLID Theme. By the time the mixed choir kicked in towards the end, I really thought they were going to tear the place down. Wow.

    Cameraman at work...

    No VGM concert would be complete without the Super Mario Bros. theme by 近藤浩治 and we got it. And not just that, they even performed a brand new suite of Super Mario Galaxy (music composed by 近藤浩治 and 横田真人) for the fist time for us. Beautiful stuff.

    Later we were presented with another piece I was really looking forward to, the KINGDOM HEARTS Suite. The PLAY! version featured an arrangement of themes both by 下村陽子 as well as the orchestral version of 「光」 by 宇多田ヒカル. I was a little startled by the fact that the performance was an almost 1:1 copy of the sound as heard on the original soundtrack CDs, which is probably a good sign.

    I used the short break to sniff around the souvenir shop and I bought the More Friends music from FINAL FANTASY album from the huge FINAL FANTASY concert that took place in Los Angeles in 2005 and was also conducted by Roth. A real bargain.

    Anyway, the second part of the concert featured music from Castlevania by 山根ミチル, Morrowind and Oblivion by Jeremy Soule, Halo by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, Lost Odyssey by 植松伸夫, Sonic the Hedgehog by 中村正人, The Revenge of Shinobi by 古代祐三, Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger by 光田康典, Silent Hill 2 by 山岡晃, World of Warcraft by Jason Hayes and Guild Wars by Jeremy Soule. It's hard for me to give a detailed breakdown of all the pieces, because all of them were absolutely fantastic. Castlevania probably stood out, because it featured some incredible choir work intertwined with a pipe organ and frenetic drums. Oblivion with its beautiful main theme of course was gorgeous, as was the hugely epic World of Warcraft Suite. Silent Hill 2 was interesting given the fact that the main theme (Theme of Laura) is mainly a piece for guitar. Another interesting moment was Arnie Roth interrupting the piece after just a few seconds because of a bad start the guitarist had made and explaining to us that he really wanted the recording to be perfect, thus a second take.

    A little bit of Mario never hurt anyone.

    A similar thing happened during the Lost Odyssey Suite, where Mr. Roth asked the orchestra and mainly the choir to replay the middle section of the piece to adress a minor fault the female section of the choir had made. That being said, he really made the impression of a nice guy and I really enjoyed his being a conductor and sort of a show host at the same time.

    So what's the verdict? An excellent concert, with great performances by both the orchestra and the choir and of course the soloists, escpecially Rony Barrak. I couldn't think of a better way to spend an evening and if I ever get the chance to see PLAY! again, I'll do so without thinking twice. The only downside for me was the complete lack of any FINAL FANTASY music (yes, it's probably getting over-performed by now) and of course the understandable absence of any special guest composers as opposed to the shows that took place in bigger cities like Stockholm, Sydney or anyplace in the US for that matter.

    So, the next show is July 28, 2008 in Baltimore, MD at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall - if you're in the neighborhood, go for it.

    Also look out for the release of the Prague concert on CD and DVD in the future, it will be worth your (and my) money. Oh and you're welcome to comment of course!

  • Heart Station > Deep River?!?

    24 mars 2008, 21h29m par Ganny

    For many years, DEEP RIVER has been considered to be the best album ever released by Utada Hikaru. Nice, well balanced, it took a lot to beat it.

    Has it come now?

    HEART STATION has only just been released (And so cannot be found by Last.fm. Lol :P) yet it has, I believe, the makings of something special which haven't been seen since DEEP RIVER.

    Firstly, this is Utada Hikaru's 7th studio album in her 10th year of music making! That makes it special.

    Ok, ok, there's more than that. It also has 4 seperate singles (Or 7 A-sides) on the album. The tracklist:

    1. Fight The Blues
    3. Beautiful World
    4. Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version-
    5. Stay Gold
    6. Kiss & Cry
    7. Gentle Beast (Interlude)
    8. Celebrate
    9. Prisoner Of Love
    10. TAKE 5
    11. Boku wa Kuma
    12. Niji-iro BASU
    13. Flavor Of Life

    An impressive line up, with Flavor Of Life, Boku wa Kuma, HEART STATION / Stay Gold and Beautiful World / Kiss & Cry. Alright, Boku wa Kuma isn't my favourite song in the world, but it's cute, uplifting and in exactly the right place in the album :P

    So, we begin with a track-by-track.

    1. Fight The Blues

    This has been played on radio countless times. It has been blagged about and is called, 'The best track on the album.' I would say that's debatable, it's down to personal choice. But the song is nice, very similar to Keep Tryin in it's instrumentation and sound. The actual finished song on the CD is way too different to the radio rips, so prepared to be surprised!

    Rating: 8.5/10

    2. Heart Station

    I will say this now, Stay Gold > Heart Station. That is set in stone (At least, in my mind :P). But Heart Station also has it's pros, being slightly depressing yet somehow hopeful and inspiring hope to those who look for it. Some find it bland, but I find it quite emotional and it's just Hikki releasing a few hormones there.

    Raiting: 8/10

    3. Beautiful World

    This seems to me that Hikki just put in all the A-sides from her singles. I don't particulary like this track. In fact, I didn't really like the single, it got boring after a while, probably becuase I got introduced to morning musume at the time :P. It's the same plain old Beautiful World.

    Raiting: 7/10

    4. Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version-

    I love this. Better than all the other versions on the single. Plus, it was the insert for Hana Yori Dango 2, which is legendary :D The song is as you've heard it before, tuneful melodies and full big instrumentation.

    Raiting: 9/10

    5. Stay Gold

    Woo hoo! The better of the two A-sides in Hikki's latest single. Seems to have more of an echoey effect, which is nicer to listen to. Still, I say that it's hit the nerve right down the center, a perfect mix of love, sorrow and hope. I'm really a sucker for these types of songs :D

    Raiting: 9/10

    6. Kiss & Cry

    Better than Beautiful World, but still kinda boring. It's like Stay Gold's predecessor.

    Raiting: 7.5/10

    7. Gentle Beast (Interlude)

    I really don't get the point of these interludes but they are interesting to hear. Nice mix of vocal tones and parts of HEART STATION in there as well.

    Raiting: 7.5/10

    8. Celebrate

    When I first heard this, I couldn't believe that Hikki had actually sung this. It really didn't sound like her... Anyway, this For You style song is actually in a nice place here on the album, straight after the interlude. It just cuts in after the boring Kiss & Cry, as Gentle Beast (Interlude) doesn't really do much.

    Raiting: 8.5/10

    9. Prisoner Of Love

    This song has been a revelation. It is absolutely awesome, the best song on this album (In my opinion, anyway). I wanna watch the drama which it is the theme tune for, Last Friends. Wow, Hikki likes her real life dramas, dosen't she? :P The song's ercussion and instrumentation is absolutely key, but the lyrics are what drive it forward.

    Raiting: 9.9/10 (Because no song is perfect :P)

    10. Take 5

    This is actually a very airy song, with no sense of direction, which is nice after the storyline-heavy Prisoner Of Love. Much like Keep Tryin, this is a very upbeat song with a lot of synths and quite heavy bass.

    Raiting: 8/10

    11. Boku wa Kuma

    OK, not the best song in the world, but cute, which is something which has been lacking in Hikki since Flavor Of Life and her divorce. Plus, me and a few friends and cousins partied all night long to it becuase we were slightly drunk at a wedding party :P BOKU WA KUMA ALL NIGHT LONG!!! :D

    Raiting: 8/10

    12. Niji-iro Basu

    Rhythm piano, nice synths and a R&B type sound, this is the only song which could be called R&B in the whole album. Even then, it is more leaning to pop. Anyway, this is a nice song with a lot of riffs which I can't seem to get out of my head. Still, if m-flo did a remix on this, it'd be awesome :P

    Raiting: 8.5/10

    13. Flavor Of Life

    The orignal version. The worst version, in my opinion. Still, it's not a bad track overall and it certainly finishes the album off well. It also sounds better here in an album, since in the single, the only really good version was the Ballad version (Antidote mix is just if I want some R&B sounds :P)

    Raiting: 8/10

    Overall, the tracks themselves may not seem like much, even put together but, add together the stuff which Hikki has been through, along with how the album actually sounds if you play it through completely, it is a really, really good album with some outstanding tracks and some not-so-outstanding tracks. Definately better than DEEP RIVER if you ask me.

    Overall raiting: 9/10
  • *Live* Review Of Black Patterns From Saturn (Ken Club San Diego)

    12 déc. 2007, 7h55m par bpfsband

    Saturday, June 30, 2007

    less is more::more or less Category: Music

    black patterns from saturn: i kept telling davey, "i should have inerviewed them. damn." more on their set after a few sentences of rambling.<br><br>First, I am compiling a list of the current bands/musicians that Paloma has a crush on. (Davey rolls his eyes). I can't help myself; young male musicians are fucking adorable, especially the ones I have listed below. <br><br>1. Ryan Lindsey 2. Ben Kweller3. "Maurice" from the Pity Party 4. And...you guessed it...the adorable young men known as Black Patterns from Saturn Second, we had a weird encounter with a very drunk and obnoxious local TV news guy, Rod Luck, last night. He was completely plastered, told us a joke about being molested by a priest, gave me a neck massage, a hug, a kiss on the cheek and told me he loved me. He was with three other people; one of whom was presumably his wife. He told me to call his voice mail at the station and leave him a message. Two of them were just as drunk as he was and the third was like a shepherd, keeping them out of trouble. Third, there was this creepy drunk guy in the bar who heckled the band and would not leave Davey and I alone. I went to the mean place and insulted him, moved away when he sat next to me (he cozied up next to me. this was a mistake), ignored at the bar when I was getting a drink and he told me, "Gin and Tonic, Nice!", gave him dirty looks, made numerous rude comments to him and he would not go away. Finally, when we flat out ignored him, he got up and left. OK. Now for the show. Less is more. I am developing a preference for the minimalist approach to music. The Pity Party does it. Mates of State does it. And, Black Patterns from Saturn does it as well (and they are adorable and made my list for 2007). Nani on bass and Koba on drums. That was it. And, it worked. They found the zen spot. They are balanced. (See how these short sentences are working. It's like that.) I have a test for live music. I close my eyes and judge the sound on the amount of light that I see and the amount of sound I can tolerate. The sound is magnified for me in that way and I will hate it immediately if it turns into noise when the vision goes. If it passes the eyes closed test, then I will love it with my eyes open. Black Patterns passed my test. You all should know by now how much I like this moody stuff. Sometimes fuzzy, dark, a little feedback, then off to a bright moment. This is why I kept telling Davey that I should have interviewed these guys because of my affinity for shoegaze. Nani and Koba "get it" and I can't wait to hear what this duo has in store for us, because my gut is telling me it will be worth listening to with my eyes closed.


  • L'Arc~en~Ciel: why buying cd's is nice!

    25 nov. 2007, 11h46m par chenka

    My package from CDJapan arrived last Friday, containing 3 L'Arc~en~Ciel cd's: the singles Daybreak's Bell and Hurry Xmas, and their latest album KISS.

    Well let me tell you this: there's no thing better in life than opening freshly bought cd's. In fact, there's no thing better in life than opening freshly bought/received L'Arc~en~Ciel cd's! I felt like I was opening some early Christmas presents! Gotta love limited/special editions.

    First, Daybreak's Bell. Great single, absolutely great song, I really love it. The P'Unk c/w for Natsu no Yuutsu is excellent too. The packaging itself is not too special though... except for the member papercraft, of course! I also got the papercrafts with the previous 2 singles, Seventh Heaven and My Heart Draws a Dream. I've got 3 different papercrafts now, only Tetsu is missing.

    Then, KISS. I love this album, it's really great. I already heard most of the songs live during the concerts this summer and already loved them back then, but now... It's just a great album (I will be writing a review later probably). And then the packaging! I really love the packaging, different from what they've done before, and the booklet is really nice too.

    And then there's of course Hurry Xmas. HELLO NICE PACKAGING. I honestly am impressed! Really cute packaging, pink/red-ish with gold and the deer on the front. And then the Christmas ornament of the deer. And the 2 cd's. And the Christmas wishes. And it's just so nice overall. Seriously, even though Hurry Xmas is on the album, this packaging alone makes buying this single totally worth buying it!

    So there. Buy cd's. :D

    Oh and I went to Germany on Friday and finally got my hands on a Plastic Tree cd, What is "Plastic Tree"?. I like it, and it'll definitely keep me satisfied until I can get my hands on Nega to poji.