Brain + Brawn (Original Game Soundtrack)

I’m happy to announce that my soundtrack to the game Brain + Brawn is finally out. Brain + Brawn is a space themed puzzle game by developer Spork Games that was released earlier this year for the iPhone and iPad. In addition to creating the sound effects for the game, I wrote a few pieces of music for the game.

 

Because there are only two backing tracks written for the game, a main menu theme and the main game theme, I wanted to add some extra music for anyone buying the album. As a result, the two main tracks each have a piano arrangement counterpart.

 

The Brain + Brawn OST has been released through Materia Collective, a game music label which I’ve worked with before on a number of game music arrangement albums. The label has been publishing original soundtracks in addition to their amazing arrange albums, so I’m delighted to have my original music included among their other releases. If you haven’t listened to the other albums they’ve published, you should definitely take time to look through their catalogue.

In addition to the album, there is digital sheet music available for the Brain + Brawn piano arrangements “Robot Lullaby” and “A Puzzling Ship” on Sheet Music Plus. A big thanks to Sebastian Wolff for the music engraving to help get the sheet music ready for publishing.

Working on and releasing this album was a lot of fun and I hope people enjoy listening to it. You can find the full Brain + Brawn OST on Bandcamp and Google Play. Versions of the album containing just the in-game tracks can also be found on Spotify and Amazon.

SPIRA: Music from Final Fantasy X

As has been a continuing tradition of Materia Collective, the group has released another arrangement album based around one of the Final Fantasy soundtracks. This time around the focus is on the music of Final Fantasy X, from composers Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano. This double album is titled SPIRA: Music from Final Fantasy X. The albums are organized as two mixes called Zanarkand Mix and Besaid Mix.

Like many of the previous Materia Collective releases, the albums consist of covers, remixes, and arrangements from a large group of artists and musicians. The Zanarkand Mix primarily features electronic, synth, and rock arrangements, while the Besaid Mix is mostly comprised of acoustic covers. There are a few exceptions to this rule, primarily to avoid too many iterations of the same theme showing up on either album. For this project I produced two arrangements and contributed my vocal talents to a number of other artists’ tracks.

 

The first track I took on for the project was “Besaid.” The original track and its remastered counterpart are both relaxing and tranquil pieces, so I decided to go in an ambient electronic direction with my arrangement. All of the instruments are either electronic in nature or are acoustic in origin with some type of processing applied. The wave sound effects that bookend the arrangement are from field recordings that I took last summer on the coast of Maine.

 

The second arrangement I produced was “Movement in Green.” The piece was a last minute entry from me, so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to work on it. Despite the limited time, I think the track came out well and I accomplished what I was aiming for overall. The track takes heavy influence from the work of Joe Hisaishi, particularly his work on the film score to Spirited Away. Like many composers, I’m a huge fan of his music, so it was a fun challenge to emulate his style in this piece.

As I mentioned, I also contributed backing vocals to other artists’ tracks for this project. This included John Robert Matz’s two tracks “Out of the Frying Pan (And Into the Spaghetti),” an arrangement done in the style of a spaghetti western score, and “Bemknesyka (The Trials),” a Red Army Choir-inspired version of “The Trials” sung in the Al Bhed language from the game.

I also participated in some backing vocals for Jordan Chin’s “This is Our Story” an arrangement of “This is Your Story.”

Last, but not least, I participated in a Bwak Choir arrangement by Bonnie Bogovich of “Bravely Forward” titled “Bravely Bwakking Forward.” The track features the largest ensemble for a Bwak Choir arrangement as of this writing.

The SPIRA: Music from Final Fantasy X albums Zanarkand Mix and Besaid Mix are available on multiple services including Spotify, iTunes, and Bandcamp. The albums boast a large range of styles from some very talented people. If you’re a fan of the Final Fantasy X soundtrack definitely check these albums out.

Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the indie game FEZ. On top of being a great exploration and puzzle game, FEZ has a wonderful electronic soundtrack created by Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland. To help celebrate the puzzle game’s anniversary Materia Collective has released an album of acoustic covers of the game’s soundtrack titled Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album. As part of Materia Collective I contributed a cover to the album.

There are a few reasons for restricting this album to an acoustic direction for the arrangements. First, by distancing the album from the electronic sounds of the original music, it gives the album a distinct sound. Taking a soundtrack that existed in the realm of synthesizers and digital effects and bringing it into a world of acoustic instruments makes for a much different listening experience. It also forced those of us creating arrangements to come up with different approaches for interpreting the melodies and harmonies of Rich Vreeland’s score.

I also think that it was good to avoid synth remixes of FEZ, since there are already some excellent electronic re-imaginings of the soundtrack on albums like FEZ: Side F and FEZ: Side Z from the game music remix community. With Tesseract, we are taking the music in a less explored avenue.

My arrangement on this album was for the track “Progress.” Much of the music in FEZ has a minimalist composition structure, with “Progress” in particular having some similarities to the music of composers like Steve Reich. The music is constructed out of multiple ostinatos and rhythmic patterns that stack and build on top of each other. In the actual game, these adapt and shift in real time with the gameplay. For the arrangement I stuck with the structure that Rich Vreeland created on the official soundtrack.

Since this arrange album was emphasizing the use of acoustic instruments, I did as much of the track with live instruments as possible. Normally I use virtual instruments for the music that I create, so tracking live audio for a majority of a project was a new adventure for me. The guitars, bass guitar, organ, and bits of the percussion were performed by me live, with the remaining accompaniment instruments played with sample libraries. My idea was for the music to sound like an improvised jam session, using the guitars, bass guitar, and percussion to provide a steady backing texture, with the other instruments soloing over them.

 

The two instruments that I knew had to be performed with real instruments (as opposed to samples) were the flute and trumpet, since I had arranged them to have the melodies that play over the other instrument’s rhythms and chord patterns. I was delighted to bring my Materia Collective friends John Robert Matz, on trumpet, and Yishan “Catboss” Mai, on flute, for this track.

This was my first time having other musicians contribute to one of my tracks, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Their performances really brought the quality of the arrangement to the next level, and I will definitely be bringing Materia Collective members onboard for future arrangements when possible.

Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album was quite fun to work on and a great learning experience. There are some great arrangements featured on this album. Be sure to check it out if you’re a fan of the original FEZ soundtrack or enjoy acoustic music arrangements. You can find the Tesseract: An Acoustic FEZ Album on Bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes.