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.