It’s been awhile since we’ve seen some DJs and remix artists take hold of some Final Fantasy music and get it published with Square’s sanction. Last time we saw it, really, was with an album called “Final Fantasy Mix.” A lot of people didn’t like it. Now, over a decade later, we get “Final Fantasy Remix.”
The Remix is arranged entirely by a two-man group named “Ante,” made up of Ian Hartley and “mattb.” Unfortunately, it looks like this album didn’t plan on aspiring much higher than the last album, though I think I can say definitively that it is better than “Mix.”
I was frustrated to hear Ante making the sort of amateur-ish mistakes that no remixer should allow. The biggest offender comes from lacking in music theory. When adding new musical parts to the music you’re remixing, it’s important to know and follow the chord progression, especially the bass! If you’re smart enough to “mix it up” and do something new, or complementary, to what’s there, go ahead. But otherwise, you should stick to your guns. Hartley and matt, unfortunately, fail to do either of these things in a number of arrangements, including “Zanarkand” (which is, for the most part, a good arrangement). Some quick study of transcriptions (sheet music) would have remedied these basic errors. It grates my ears to no end to hear mismatched notes and chords hit, and all because of laziness on the remixers’ part.
(Note that I’m not accusing Hartley and matt of being musically ignorant. That may or may not be the case. I’m only saying that the problem is, blatantly, there in the music.)
Take a look at the tracklist. For the most part, we get Final Fantasy tracks in order. Note that Final Fantasy I and IV are strangely absent, and II and V only get representation through common themes (“Prelude” and “Chocobo”). Also, it’s important to note that two tracks were remixed from specific arrangements. “Terra” (or “Tina” in Japan) comes from the FFVI Piano Collection, and “Maybe I’m a Lion” (originally from FFVIII) has been remixed based on the Black Mages II recording (which was, in my opinion, a fairly weak arrangement of what could’ve been a great track). I lament the lack of representation for certain games, particularly the older ones, because it seems to me that Ante could make better tracks with 8-bit and 16-bit music than the newer stuff.
For example, check out the arrangement for “Eternal Wind.” Another techno remix for this same song was released on the FFIII OST (for Nintendo DS), and that remix wasn’t very strong. This one, in contrast, is fantastic. It may be the best track on the album. Why didn’t Hartley and mattb stick to what they’re best at? Even the remix of “Prelude” (using 8-bit samples from FFII) sounds decent.
But then, things all fall apart. Let me be frank: JENOVA sucked. There was so much potential for a good fast tempo remix here, and it was totally wasted. The result is one of the poorest examples of “House” arrangement I’ve yet heard. Better things have been made for, and are freely available on, Overclocked Remix. What a shame.
Liberi Fatali was also extremely weak. Granted, this is a very difficult song to remix properly; I don’t think they should have attempted this track. Blue Fields doesn’t make up for the last two insults, but it is a decent arrangement. Once I had reached this point in the album, I realized the Ante was probably better with the softer, slower songs.
My suspicion was confirmed when I heard Zanarkand. Minus the aforementioned harmony/chord progression complaint, this remix is solid. The extra percussion added is really good. Hartley and mattb really showed their best on this song (as well as Eternal Wind).
Overall, this album is a disappointment. My personal belief is that there is plenty of potential in Uematsu’s compositions for solid techno/dance/trance remixes. Yet, no one has hit the nail on the head (not officially, anyway). This was another missed opportunity, for the most part. “Eternal Wind” and “Zanarkand” were good tracks, but almost all of the others fall short of being something worth paying for.