01 - LORE
02 - EXEC_LINCA/.
03 - EXEC_PAJA/.#Orica extracting.
04 - EXEC_RE=NATION/.
05 - COSMOSCAPE
06 - EXEC_SUSPEND/.
07 - EXEC_RIG=VEDA/.
08 - EXEC_PHANTASMAGORIA/.
09 - Playing the Moon ~Tsukikanade~
10 - MEMORY
Ar Tonelico promises to be one of the sleeper hits of this coming year. Created by GUST (and Banpresto), the same company that brought us Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~, it's shaping up to be gorgeous in both aural and visual departments. Heralding Ar Tonelico's release in Japan, GUST created not only a standard OST, but two vocal albums known as Ao and Kurenai.
Kurenai, subtitled Playing the Moon (Tsukikanade), features the nasal vocals I've come to expect from GUST, though used to a far better effect here than they were in Atelier Iris. The vocalist, Noriko Mitose, should be familiar to many RPG fans, largely due to her work on the Chrono Cross credits track "Unstolen Jewel." (the other vocalist, Haruka Shimotsuki, has worked on many other GUST projects). Much of the album has a chanting quality to it, especially themes such as EXEC RIG=VEDA, and often fittingly so. This is the first track I want to talk about.
Despite being a beautiful vocal piece, I'm a little lost as to why it's called RIG=VEDA. The Rig-Veda, for those unaware, is a spiritual doctrine from India, one of the oldest in the world. Not being fluent in Japanese, perhaps I'm missing something from the lyrics, but I'm going to guess the title was used merely for sounding mildly religious. Aside from this sticking point, I rather enjoyed this track. It has a very compelling sound to it and jogs along at a moderato pace, much like the rest of the album.
Other notable tracks include EXEC LINCA, which is a much louder, expressive piece with higher pitch to the voices. Like EXEC RIG=VEDA, it has an epic feel to it and sounds like it could accompany a momentous scene in the game. In some ways, its tempo reminds me of that used in certain Phantasy Star Online vocals, though with a heavier bass and more energy.
Quieter tracks include LORE and the titular piece "Playing the Moon ~Tsukikanade~." Playing the Moon plays in largo and, while still inspiring an idea of epic scope, is suited to a more resolute, contemplative scene. The vocal chanting is still loud, but not nearly as commanding as that found in EXEC LINCA and EXEC RIG=VEDA. It continues the religious and dramatic themes found in them, but at a slower, thoughtful pace.
LORE is, like Playing the Moon, a quieter track with more understated vocals and lacking the frequent chanting of other pieces. The flute present throughout its bulk and the general flowing rhythm are reminiscent of Peruvian melodies, though not quite as broad in sound.
One piece which seems to stick out like a sore thumb is COSMOSCAPE. It has a jazz theme running through it, using a strange stomp-and-clap noise as the bass, piano running across it. It also feels very out of place on a vocal album, largely because it lacks vocals. By itself, it's not a bad piece, but it would be more fitting on a separate album carrying a similar theme. By sitting with the others, it's more of a disruption in the harmony and sounds too much like someone cut to a commercial for the anime Cowboy Bebop right in the midst of a radio show.
Overall, the album is excellent and shows how talented the music composers are at GUST. Only COSMOSCAPE really detracts from the overall theme, and even then it's a good piece on its own. A great addition to the library of any video game music aficionado.
Reviewed by: Mark P. Tjan