As anyone who has listened to me or read my scribblings on the music of the Kingdom Hearts series, they know it’s something very near and dear to my heart. I’ve heard my fair share of arrangements and remixes, some great, some not so impressive. I’ve been aware of and a supporter of pianist/composer Kyle Landry since first spotting him on YouTube back in 2008 with a piano arrangement of music from my beloved Kingdom Hearts. Several years later, here we are — thanks to Joypad Records providing licensing assistance to independent musicians, I find myself writing about Landry’s 2013 arrangement of Utada Hikaru’s Passion/Sanctuary track from Kingdom Hearts II.
The original track is one of my favorite pieces of music from the series. It captured the essence of what the series was once emblematic of, and the orchestral version featured in-game was at turns moving, dramatic, heartbreaking, and uplifting. So what happens when someone with Kyle Landry’s chops strips it all down to its barest essentials and arranges it for piano?
As my fellow editor John Tucker notes in his upcoming review of Landry’s arrangement of “From Past to Present” from Skyrim’s soundtrack, one of the performer’s strengths is knowing where to really hammer away and where to back off gracefully — all of the right beats are emphasized in the arrangement. At times his fingers dance across the keyboard, barely grazing the keys and showcasing a sensitivity to the source material that is wholly outstanding. But when those heavy-hitting moments kick in, such as in the song’s bridge, you get the sense that he’s (skillfully!) mashing those keys with everything he has.
Performance aside, the arrangement is also excellent. The tempo and mood are just right, and the song loses none of its emotion or intensity; some of my favorite parts of the track are rendered especially well here. Much like with TPR’s “A Melancholy Tribute to Final Fantasy IX,” one gets the sense that Landry really is a lover of his source material, and that shows in the care and passion (yes, I went there) that this iteration of the arrangement has received.
With my love of piano arrangements and the source material, I was predisposed to enjoy this work, but even if you aren’t as familiar with Kingdom Hearts as I am, you should check out this arrangement. It’s available as a pay-what-you-want with a full sample on Joypad Records’ Loudr store, so there’s no reason not to. If you’re like me, a lover of Shimomura and the musical stylings of Sora’s continuing (and increasingly convoluted) adventures, I find it hard to believe you won’t be as enamored as I am with this arrangement.