Xenogears Light Audio Digest
The following is a track-by-track opinion piece on the album Xenogears Light from OneUp Studios. This "review" is not comprehensive nor is it definitive in any sense. It is just one man's deep appreciation for a beautiful album.
The artist listed in the following tracks is the primary person behind the arrangement. Others are credited as in the album insert. All songs were originally composed by the well-known Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda.
Christian Pacaud (violin: Greg Kennedy) - Premonition (original song: Omen)
The opening track is of one of the more well-known themes from Xenogears, and while neither rendition is complex, the lovely violin performance layers nicely with the piano and serves wonderfully to introduce the listener to the style of the album.
Mazedude (flute: Nastassja Riley, violin: Greg Kennedy, piano: Mustin) - Grahf, Conqueror of Darkness (original song: Grahf, Emperor of Darkness)
One of the primary antagonists in Xenogears, Grahf is well-served with this song, a dark, almost sick-feeling combination of flute and violin over piano. A large contrast from the previous song and perhaps the rest of the album, it fits Grahf's character perfectly. Every listen for me brings back memories of Grahf silhouetted by the moon. Sometimes, I can almost see him accompanied by a mad violinist, haunting Fei with his theme.
Josh Barron - Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the People (original song: Tears of the Stars, Hearts of the People)
One of the more emotional, melancholy songs from Xenogears is transformed into something greater by Josh Barron, a moving solo piano piece that draws out much emotion. The original shows up at various difficult points in the game, and this arrangement plays on that fact, swelling with melancholy and loss.
Erik Xian (add. arr. & perf.: C. Pacaud & Mustin, flute: Jessica Perkins) - Far Away Promise (original song: Far Away Promise)
The "music box" theme that invites players to recall fond memories of Chrono Trigger while Citan Uzuki reminds us that music is a "mysterious thing… sometimes, it makes people remember things that they do not expect… things almost forgotten…" becomes a simple piano piece with powerful flute phrases to bring the listener back to those far away times. It is perfectly short, at barely two and a half minutes, just enough to brush the listener with its theme before moving on.
Will Buck - My Village Is Number One (original song: My Village is Number One)
This is a wonderful piano arrangement of Lahan's town theme, and the theme is done well by this arrangement. The breezy standard fare town theme is nearly a different song compared to this jazzy, near-rag rendition which better captures the exuberance of the village. I was never a fan of the original song, but Will Buck's rendition is so well done, I find myself humming this walking to classes, while making dinner, and whenever else its fancy strikes me. One of my favorite piano songs of all time.
Christian Pacaud (flute: Nastassja Riley) - Shevat, the Wind is Calling (original song: Shevat, The Wind is Calling)
The flute work done in this piece is perfect for a nation floating in the sky, uninterested in the surface world below. Nastassja Riley's performance is appropriately airy and full of wistful energy.
Tim Sheehy (arr. & perf.) - Singing of the Gentle Wind (original song: Singing of the Gentle Wind)
One of the game's more soothing pieces is beautifully translated to a solo piano, which draws out the calming effect spoken of in the title. It is slow, pleasant, and a fine example of the feeling resident in Yasunori Mitsuda's work.
Blak_Omen (add. arr.: Christian Pacaud, violin: Greg Kennedy) - Shattering the Egg of Dreams (original song: Shattering Egg of Dreams)
There could not be a more beautiful violin performance for this song than the one delivered by Greg Kennedy. Piano and violin combine for this romance theme, resulting in perhaps the best song on the album. The violin's re-entrance in the last thirty seconds of the song bring swells of nostalgia that nearly reduce me to tears. Beautiful to the point of pain.
Kunal Majmudar (arr. and perf.) (violin: Greg Kennedy, flute: Jessica Perkins, guitar (& arr.): William Reyes, bass: Mustin, bongos: Jared Dunn) - One Who Bares Fangs At God (original song: One Who Bares Fangs At God)
Perhaps the most unique song of the album, it nevertheless improves on the spirit of the original. Much like the original, it focuses on a rhythmic theme and layers on instruments as the song progresses. An enjoyable piece because of how simply cool it is. A great rendition of one of my favorites from the original soundtrack.
Christian Pacaud - Bonds of Sea and Fire (original song: Bonds of Sea and Fire)
Piano upon piano defines this song, a forceful and energetic translation of the original, which served both as Bart's theme and the song to play during the introduction to the story. Surprisingly for the album, Christian Pacaud's rendition removes the wind instruments and lets the life of the piano do the work, changing the more mystic feel of the original song to one of energy. The rolls and crescendos make it nearly impossible to not sway one's head along with the music.
Luke Nickel (guitar: William Reyes) - Ship of Sleep and Remorse (original song: Ship of Regret and Sleep)
Luke Nickel writes of a devout and simple sorrow in the liner notes, and certainly, the guitar playing adds much to his focus. The original's spiritual theme is modified slightly to become one of solitude, with a lone piano and lonely-sounding guitar trading the melody throughout. Classical guitar done right is beautiful, and this song is the perfect place to showcase it.
Jay Semerad (arr. & perf.) - Broken Mirror (original song: Small Two of Pieces)
What is, indeed, essentially a pop song becomes a pretty piano solo that still captures the reserved optimism of said pop song. It's not musically complicated, but it is touching all the same, and brings its share of nostalgia to this gamer's ears.
Kevin Stephens (flute: Nastassja Riley) - Dreams of the Strong (original song: Leftovers of the Dreams of the Strong)
Much akin to the variation on Bonds of Sea and Fire, Kevin Stephens transforms the march of the original to a lighter tone, incorporating the slightly mystic quality of Bonds (which appears both in the original version of this song and its arrangement). The flute is a fine addition, however it's the piano in this track that makes it a refined piece.
Christian Pacaud - The Blue Traveler (original: The Blue Traveler)
On my first listen of the album I paid no attention to track names, and this was one of the renditions that caught me by surprise. "What is this…? Is that… dude!" The original, one of the more energetic and upbeat songs of the original soundtrack, is also a bit overbearing, to its detraction. Christian Pacaud's arrangement, however, keeps the spirit of a rare positive song intact and mends its stylistic problems in the process.
Christian Pacaud - October Mermaid (original: June Mermaid)
June Mermaid is one of my favorite songs from Xenogears (especially the guitar/violin/flute arrangement on Xenogears Creid), and this song captures the melancholy aspect of Emeralda's theme solely on piano. It doesn't match the expressiveness of Xenogears Creid's version, but the theme is still served well by some haunting piano phrases.
Paul van de Geijn (arr. & perf.) (recorded at Gé Bijvoet) - The Treasure Which Cannot Be Stolen (original: The Treasure Which Cannot Be Stolen)
Another of the lighter, more calming themes, neither the original or this rendition offer large complexity, but Paul van de Geijn makes up for this with a beautiful performance on piano.
The Wingless (add. arr. & perf: C. Pacaud, K. Majmudar, Matthew Bridges, & Mustin, soprano saxophone (& arr.): Anthony Lofton, guitar: Tim Yarbrough, bass: Christian Pacaud) - Valley Where the Wind is Born (original: The Valley Where Wind is Born)
Always a fan of The Wingless, I looked forward to this piece, and was very pleased. In a style similar to my favorite Wingless mixes, the light, irreverent original becomes a calm, jazz-like feature with a soprano saxophone stealing the show.
Dale North (arr. & perf.) - Gathering Stars in the Night Sky (original song: Gathering Stars in the Night Sky)
Ah, simply beautiful. Dale North impresses again with a piano arrangement of Maria's theme, another of the character themes featured in Xenogears Light. No special tricks here, just powerful, emotive playing make the track what it is: one of the better piano solo pieces on an album full of greats.
Christian Pacaud - The Alpha and Omega (original song: The Beginning and the End)
The Bulgarian chants of the original are converted to a lone piano line in this arrangement, emphasizing the distant, mysterious feel found in the original, one of the last songs in the game. Yet another piano piece that is entirely moving.
David Hsu (arr. & perf.) - Into Eternal Sleep (original song: Stage of Death)
Another song whose origin was a suprise to me originally, it took almost an entire listen to realize this slow, gentle, and pretty piano work was in actuality the battle music of Xenogears. Despite the source song, which is what one would expect of battle music, David Hsu's arrangement is soft, yet it still captures some of the tension in the original piece. This tension becomes resolution as the track (and the album) come to a close. I would not have thought a battle theme would end an album such as this, but the song is an inspired rendition, and works very well in the context of the album's final phase.
There you have it. Quite simply, I love this album. I'd blogged about it before but it bears repeating, I adore this album completely. If my reviewing method didn't effectively capture my love of the album, none of the songs are duds; a couple are "merely" good, and overall the album sets a new standard for video game remix albums.
Mustin has, in promoting this album, presented the album not as a video game remix album, but instead a beautiful album of arrangements that anyone could enjoy, whether or not they ever played Xenogears, or any video games for that matter. Indeed, the OneUp Studios' tagline tells us that it is okay to listen to video game music, and this album makes an understatement of their assertion. With albums like Xenogears Light, it is foolish not to.
An excellent work that shines of Yasunori Mitsuda's composition brilliance, but adds arrangement improvements to an already outstanding original soundtrack, Xenogears Light should be heard by everyone. Over and over again, from the beginning to the end.
This quasi-review originally appeared on an ancient site of mine, published on 2005-02-19. It has been edited to remove some deep links within http://oneupstudios.com/, which now redirects to Mustin's site. Current Mustin properties such as https://mustinenterprises.bandcamp.com/ don't seem to offer Xenogears Light, meaning this album might be essentially unavailable to the internet.