Last Spring’s Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies, a collection of low-tempo twists on beloved game melodies, ranked among my top albums of the year. It was a standout album, reverent to the source material yet unafraid to experiment with bold deviations in instrumentation and pacing. GENTLE LOVE duo Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI returns with a 2015 sequel of sorts, under the moniker of “Volume II,” with ten new (but immediately recognizable) tracks led by soothing saxophone and thoughtful piano.
The tracklist is just as varied this time around, with arrangements from RPG favorites like Chrono Trigger to unconventional choices like DuckTales, and plenty in between. Volume II captured my interest right away with its rendition of the Final Fantasy VI town theme “Kids Run Through the City Corner,” a song I’ve been humming to myself with regularity since I, too, was a child clumsily ambling through my own city streets. The soulful saxophone performance is a perfect fit here, following the main melody and alternately breaking to freestyle in all the right places. It’s followed by Final Fantasy IV’s “Troian Beauty,” another tremendously familiar piece that evokes the trickling waters of Troia Castle as bathed in the light of a placid red moon.
The lunar imagery continues with “The Moon” from DuckTales, a piece that trades exuberance for tranquility, its hopeful melody now a suitable accompaniment for stargazing rather than moonwalking. Or is that moon-hopping? Scrooge McDuck knows better than I do. Other standout tracks on the album include “Scattering Blossoms,” a Chrono Trigger piece that didn’t make its first appearance until the game’s inclusion in Final Fantasy Chronicles, and Metal Gear Solid 3 theme song “Snake Eater,” now led by (you guessed it) saxophone instead of husky vocals.
The final track on the album, “Close Up,” is an original composition accompanied by cello. Contemplative and emotionally ambiguous, this piece reminded me of Shadow of the Colossus composer Kō Ōtani’s work on 2002 anime Haibane Renmei. Even when compared to the pleasant nostalgia summoned forth by the other arrangements on this disc, “Close Up” might be the most profoundly affecting track of all.
Ten tracks may not seem like an especially large amount of music, but Volume II packs in plenty of variety, with each piece clocking in between six and eight minutes in length. Pair this one with the equally excellent Volume I for the ultimate relaxation playlist — and should you fall asleep, your dreams will most assuredly be sweet.