I was one of the many to be very disappointed when Mitsuda was not announced as Xenosaga Episode II’s music composer. I had never heard of Yuki Kajiura before, so I was unsure of what she would do. Well, between this and the .hack//SIGN soundtracks, I now know what to expect from her. Her style is categorized often by a fusion of electronica and techno with either an orchestra or ethnic instruments. While this may sound like an odd combination, Kajiura somehow makes it work. That said, the Xenosaga Episode II Movie Scene Soundtrack is not a fantastic soundtrack. It has a good deal in the way of average tracks on it that keep it from being as good as it could possibly be.
Another distinctive part of Yuki Kajiura’s music is the incorporation of vocals into pieces that most composers would leave as instrumental. Female chanting runs through tracks such as “fatal fight (Jin & Margulis)”, creating a different type of sound from the typical choir track or even the Mitsuda-esque looped voice sample.
There is some fantastic material on here. The first 4 tracks fuse right into each other perfectly, and yet are very distinctive on their own. “first meeting”, in particular, is a strong atmospheric piece that uses its multiple layers of melody and harmony to create a dark mood. “chase” is a great electronic track, with a standard set of background notes, but incorporating many other instruments here and there to create a unique style. Of note is the cool drum section, even if it is pretty short.
The main theme is beautiful, even though it seems to show up too often. The best two versions of it are “Xenosaga II opening theme”, and “Sakura #4 (theme-gentle stings ver).” The first of these has a nice percussion background, and the second, while using a full orchestral flourish, keeps to the simple tune nicely. The ending vocal, “Sweet Song,” is very good, with many great instrumental sections, even if the lyrics are a little on the cheesy side.
My favorite tracks on this soundtrack are, hands down, “lamentation” and “communication breakdown”. “communication breakdown” begins with some atonal female chanting, then builds upon it with an orchestral section with a technoish beat in the background. By the end, all of the elements are combined, and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. “lamentation” begins with a simple melody played on a synthesizer, then it expands out to include piano, flute, and strings. The melody is great, the composition is strong, and the track’s 5 minute length seems too short, even. The album is worth buying simply for these two tracks.
There are weak tracks as well, though. “strain~Jin” has some great material at the end, but the track takes too long to go anywhere. “battle of Elsa” is a little too heavy on the techno beat for my taste, and although it has some nice material in it, the track as a whole is less than impressive. Others, such as “strained” and “inside~Sakura #3” worked well in the game, but not on here, as the abstract sounds don’t even do as much as say, “here he comes,” with its layers of percussion.
Despite these faults, however, this is a fantastic album that will definitely appeal to Kajiura fans, and some others as well. It will not appeal to everybody though. Kajiura’s style is not to everybody’s taste, especially those who dislike the use of vocals in their music. In this case, the samples are very indicative of the rest of the album. Take that into consideration when noting my recommendation of this album.