Cellythm – Those Who Distorted


Review by · May 17, 2009

An all-cello quartet: I didn’t even know such things existed. The group “cellythm” is comprised of four female cellists from Japan, and they’re no amateurs. This album, published by Nobuo Uematsu’s “Dog Ear Records,” features music that the group apparently thinks were really good at rockin’ out, complete with the power of DISTORTION!!!

And, by the way, it seems Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu is in the same league as Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. React to this statement however you see fit.

The three songs chosen from the Final Fantasy series were all battle themes, and are based on arrangements from “The Black Mages.” We get the boss battle music from FFVII, the regular battle theme from FFVI, and the Gilgamesh battle music from FFV. These arrangements are of supreme interest to me, primarily because I didn’t know such a thing was possible. Being named “cellythm,” an obvious mixture of the words “cello” and “rhythm,” it’s clear that being a member of this group requires having a precise sense of rhythm, as well as the ability to add percussion when needed. And I’m not talking about pizzicato work, strangely enough. The vast majority of the performance is bowed; but sometimes, they’ll also tap the wood of the cello to produce a rhythm, and there’s always someone keeping time by pounding out what would be the work of a drummer or rhythm guitarist.

To get this out of the way, the non-FF tracks are decent. Particularly, the cover of “Eleanor Rigby” is nearly perfect. Not only is it the longest track on the album, it’s the one with the most varied performance styles. The other non-VGM cover songs are good, too. But Eleanor Rigby just became epic.

What makes the arrangements for the FF tracks stand out are the “solo” sections. About halfway through each song, the transcribed melody is tossed aside in favor of some newly-arranged melody that feels ad-lib, even though it’s obviously not (considering the group dynamic). The solo in “Those Who Fight Further” made me smile; the fast-paced triplets make for incredibly fun performance, and the back-up rhythm that sounds like a horse’s gallop helps to build the intensity of the music.

“Clash on the Big Bridge” is awesome, no matter what instruments you put to the task of recreating the tune. It should come as no surprise that this version is quite enjoyable.

An interesting case study that I’d love to see done: have someone with no prior exposure to Uematsu or the classic rock artists covered on this album listen to it from start to finish, and then have them describe the album. First of all, did it feel cohesive, or can you pick out different styles/genres? Also, what tracks from the album did said person tend to prefer? Of course, I wish you luck in finding someone who has no prior knowledge of The Beatles, but if you search hard enough, you might find someone. And if you do, I’d certainly be interested in the results of the study. My suspicion is that most people would never guess the varied sources to the music. And, of course, this add’s to Uematsu’s credibility as a composer. There’s no question that he possesses a great talent, and has brought a lot of credibility to game music.

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.