Friday, April 30, 2010

Video Game Music

I guess the same can be said about music as a whole, but the last 10 years for video game music have been pretty terrible.

I was a big gamer in the 90's and early 00's, so I obviously heard my fair share of video game music. Back then, limited disc/cartridge space meant that the only feasible way to make music was through the use of MIDI, which basically consisted of just a keyboard. And you know what? The music was awesome.

The music was memorable, appropriate to the situation/game genre and most importantly added to the game. Tunes like the Super Mario theme song and the Tetris theme song are what most people will remember, but the 90's was the golden era for video game music in my opinion.

A good example of this was Streets of Rage, a side-scrolling fighting game on Sega Genesis/Megadrive. Not only was the game ridiculously fun, the music was brilliant. Who could forget the evil siren that announced that you were about to get your ass handed to you by the end of the level boss?

Pretty sure this is it

And that is one reason why I don't think modern games are as good as old ones. I know a lot of it is nostalgia, but the lack of music in modern games is a killer for me. I understand that realism is a big factor in games nowadays, which is why I don't like them as much. Why do I want to play realistic game? I find war games for the most part boring, so....

But back to my point, even realistic games could use good actual non-background noise music. Game soundtracks used to be released onto CD. Where are they now?

Rounding it out with a best 5 video games for music:

  • GoldenEye 007 - Nintendo 64 - Shouldn't even need to explain this one. Facility theme
  • Streets of Rage - Sega Genesis/MegaDrive - Great game with a great soundtrack. Moon Beach theme
  • Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Nintendo 64 - Probably the best game ever made, and this is its best song. Gerudo Valley theme
  • Chrono Trigger - SNES - Another one of the best games of all time. Hmm, seems to be a link between outstanding games and good soundtracks... Memories of Green theme
  • Sonic and Knuckles - Sega Genesis/MegaDrive - Stands out less then the others, but the music fit the levels so well, and the sound effects were great. Flying Battery Zone theme

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ambient Music

Out of all of the different musical genres, the one I think I've been listening to the most in the last few months is ambient. I enjoyed ambient before then, but recently I've developed a deeper understanding and passion for the genre as a whole. It really is one of the more immersive and profound genres of music, once you can appreciate the lack of readily accessible melodies and the free-flowing nature.

As strange as this may sound to some, ambient, whilst being incredibly easy to make, is actually one of the hardest styles of music to make well. Most ambient is either mellow but completely boring to listen to if you don't wish to immediately go to sleep, or it's far too busy and you can't drone out/go to sleep to it. It's a delicate balancing act, and like in every genres, only the masters can achieve it. The best ambient also has what I call the 'transport factor', which basically means it is extremely evocative and paints a picture in your mind...

So, my top 5 ambient songs!
A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld - The Orb

A brilliant 18 minute track that centres around an ethereal synth line, with random samples as diverse and tribal drumming to Minnie Ripperton's "Loving You", without being overly obtrusive.

Either Poa Alpina or Kobresia - Biosphere

Couldn't separate these two. Poa Alpina is almost dark ambient, without being cheesy, whilst Kobresia is filled with emotive string arrangements and lonely piano. Both conjure images of the Arctic Circle (which is where Biosphere is from).

School of Fish - Dreamfish (Mixmaster Morris & Pete Namlook)

This heads to the less ambient side, but it's still very relaxing. It has a very floating aquatic feel from one of the more prolific ambient gurus.

The Mysterious Fish Named Kun - Aglaia

Any of the three songs on this album are good, but I stuck with Kun. Aglaia's style is very traditional, very 'noisy' for lack of a better term, like something you'd hear at a massage parlor, which is ironic considering Aglaia is a masseuse.

1/1 - Brian Eno

The pioneer and one of the main founding fathers of the modern ambient era. A sparse piano track with floating synths played by Robert Wyatt, it almost invented what we consider ambient today.

I'd just like to add that all of these albums are brilliant as well, and there were some unfortunate omissions, which I might post later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Welcome to Magnus Sonitus!

Welcome to Magnus Sonitus!

What will this blog be about? Well, it will mainly deal with my thoughts, ideas and especially rants about music, in general. There will be a lot of randoms bits and pieces about bands, artists, the music industry, and whatever other weird musical perceptions float into my mind.

Why do I feel the need to use this blog? The answer is threefold. Firstly, I hope to eventually get a career in music in some form, whether it being on the radio, as an actual musician or of course in the field of music journalism, and the skill of being able to write down ideas and musings into some kind of format is a useful one. Secondly, in all honesty, while I can respect others musical opinions for the most part, 99% of people's musical tastes are completely terrible, so I wish to potentially expose others to the type of music I enjoy so hopefully they can enjoy it or at least appreciate it also. Lastly, I anticipate that other musical nerds like myself will read this blog, and expose me to some brilliant music that I may not have heard otherwise.

What gives me the right to talk about music? You know how you get those people that say they listen to 'everything', and you find that means only classic rock and hip hop? I am the opposite. I truly do listen to everything, and if I don't, it's because I haven't either discovered it yet or haven't heard enough of it. Even genres I really dislike, like indie *shudders*, I'll still find some albums I'll like. Also, while 300+ albums is not much compared to some, I still think it gives me a nice background in different varieties of music.

Lastly, what does "Magnus Sonitus" mean? It's a very grandiose and overly egotistical Latin term meaning "important noise", which I think is self explanatory.

Now, random thoughts!:

  • I know it's old news, but why do people still look down on the Darkness with contempt? Their first album is very entertaining, and I personally enjoy Justin's voice.
  • I still feel he's overrated, but David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is kinda growing on me. It's just so easy to listen to and inoffensive.
  • I only just realised how absolutely brilliant the drumming on Black Sabbath's Paranoid is. Seriously, just listen to Iron Man and ignore the guitar and bass and you'll see what I mean.