Released in late 2001 alongside the Zwei!! OST as the fifth run of albums in the “Falcom Millenium Series”, Ys Healing is an album that I avoided because I had wrongly assumed that it would just be another “Best of” Ys album featuring previous arrangements of softer Ys songs. We all know Falcom’s made enough of them to fill up a good CD or two with them. However, I was wrong: it’s all new music, and it’s all good.
“Healing” in Japan is a genre of music all its own that Americans would recognize as “New Age” music. Using piano and strings, and throwing a world of reverb into the effects, this sort of music is designed to help you relax and/or sleep. We have seen this sort of thing years earlier from M. Fujisawa’s “PrePrimer” albums. Ys Healing takes this style, but goes a step further by creating truly unique arrangements and making it all sound top-notch in terms of recording quality.
My two favorite songs on here, which I will describe in detail, are “Fleeting Love” and “The Ice Waltz.” While all ten tracks are very well-made (including two different version of Feena), these arrangements of Too Full With Love and Ice Ridge of Noltia are way ahead of the others in terms of musical excellence.
“Fleeting Love” follows the well-known Ys II melody “Too Full With Love”, but makes one significant change. It cuts out the song’s refrain, which is the only part of the song that focuses on minor chords, and sticks it all at the end, making it softer than the previous three and a half minutes of beefed up string sections (which played the verse and pre-chorus twice over, building all the while). Twenty seconds into the sampled audio, you’ll hear the drastic cut in volume as the song changes over to the refrain/chorus melody, which is my favorite part of the song, and carries it through to the song’s ending. The piano here is beautiful: sticking to the high notes, adding the descant melody on the third run through the simple melody…ahh, brilliant!
“The Ice Waltz” has the fastest tempo of any song on this album. It is a lovely fast waltz, one that I could actually imagine dancing to in a ballroom setting. In general, the left hand of the piano is consistently playing “down up (rest)” in the 3-beat pattern, though it sometimes adds embellishments in the higher notes. The strings carry the melody: sometimes on octaves, sometimes with harmony, sometimes with counter-melodies, always breathtaking. Calling all Falcom fans! Come on over to my house, and be dressed formally, because we’re gonna be waltzin’ all night to this lovely song!
The entire album has one sheer strength going for it: and that is paying attention to the dynamics. When I say “dynamics”, I am referring to the simple matter of volume: is it soft, loud, or somewhere in the middle? This album keeps things soft for the most part, and builds at the most crucial points, creating an effective “swell” of music that may be compared to a spa or a massage created solely for your aural pleasure.
Though it may lack the grandeur of, say, “Symphony Ys” or other fully orchestrated albums, “Ys Healing” is one of the best arranged Falcom albums still available. I recommend it to anyone, as it is one of the best “new age” albums I’ve heard in a long time. Just don’t expect it to “heal” you of your VGM addiction.