Project A14, Atelier Ayesha, marks a continually evolving Gust. Especially in their music. Long-gone is the Nakagawa/Achiwa/Tsuchiya trio that made their sound team huge. Daisuke Achiwa is still around, and actually did a fair bit of Ayesha’s music. Yanagawa-san, who joined up for the Arland trilogy (Rorona / Totori / Meruru) is on point as well. Neither of these two are contracted under Gust: they’ve gone freelance. We also have newcomer Yu Shimoda contributing a few instrumental tracks. Also, you’ll notice that Gust is no longer publishing their music via Team Entertainment: they’ve gone back to self-publication, though they are distributing their albums through various outlets, including CDJapan.
This is also the largest Atelier soundtrack to date. The previous record-holder was A13, Atelier Meruru, which was also 3 discs, but its first disc was just vocal tracks and then a variety of instrumental arrangements of those vocal tracks, so … less OST content proper. This is 3 discs of full OST, and it has a whole separate vocal album (Twilight Hour).
Ayesha takes the music in a decidedly more acoustic direction. One performer, Kou Ogata, plays whistles, concertina, mandolin, bouzouki and an Irish drum known as a bodhran. The recorded instruments make a huge difference on this album. Atelier has been moving more and more away from the vocal-heavy chants (Haruka Shimotsuki et al) and more and more towards an authentic, provincial sound.
I also detect a bit of Hisaishi-envy, though. Check out one of the opening tracks, “Sleeping Earth.” That orchestral writing with featured solo instruments … it sounds like it could’ve come straight out of Mononoke or Spirited Away. Not that I’m complaining! I really enjoy it!
It’s not all acoustic. There’s this great power-rock battle theme on disc one, “Yesterday’s Opponents are Today’s Ingredients,” probably one of the best and most interesting Atelier tracks I’ve heard in a decade. No kidding, I was completely floored by the style of this one.
And it’s not ENTIRELY moved away from the chant vocals. Sure, they aren’t the feature presentation (opening theme, main theme, etc). But they do appear, and they sound almost exactly like the style of “Melkaba” from Xenogears: CREID. Where can one hear these strange and beautiful vocals? Disc 2, track 8, “Wish for Treasure.” Check it out. It’s a tiny but welcome reference to the Atelier games I grew up with.
Extra care was paid by this new team on the “Invitation Flower” season tracks. Each and every one of them is awesome, easily some of the best tracks on the OST.
Ooh, and check out “Vestiges of Technology.” The melodic consistency against varied layers and levels of sound, the intensity of the drums, that beautiful violin solo — this is another good one. And if you’re looking for a solid Gust battle theme, look no further than the boss battle track “Artemis,” which comes right after. Guitar and bass are jamming out at a fiery 16th-note pace while … mandolin and piano combined into one packaged synth? … take the lead.
I was worried about what might happen to Gust since there’s been so much transition, but it seems they’re staying the course: or, rather, continuing to pave a way forward. Screw it, I suck at metaphors. Let’s just say that I’m wonderfully surprised and pleased that the track record for this series’ music has continued to impress this lowly reviewer.