By Jeriaska . February 15, 2008 . 8:37pm
Late last year Brainstorm Co. Ltd., the publishing house behind the LUMINES series of games put together a strong collaborative effort by Takayuki Nakamura, h ueda, and Keiichi Sugiyama called "LUMINES remixes Winter." Just a month later, the chief composer of the visually compelling puzzle series has returned with a solo album. Built from arrangements of LUMINES II for the Playstation Portable seemingly designed to subtly clash with convention, "L.II remixes" is a more challenging and personal project than its immediate predecessor. It takes some time getting used to, but the uncompromising trial and error approach yields sounds that are always just a bit outside the box.
The faceless headphoned figure shown on the album cover of composer Takayuki Nakamura's latest offering, the first of his independent forays to see an official release since the days of Tobal 2 and Ehrgeiz, gets across something of the enigmatic musical identity of the composer. This time out there are twanging strings on display, bird noises, cuckoo clocks and zombified androids. While adept in the use of such low tech instruments as bongos, horns and acoustic guitars, you never have to stroll for long through Nakamura's LUMINES universe before being treated to an outcropping of extraterrestrial background noise or computer-manipulated voices.
Having gained some notoriety through the strong sales of the LUMINES series, the director of Brainstorm still bares his teeth at the soporifics of convention. Asked his opinion on the art design of his games, he insists on talking about the sound. And in a track on "L.II remixes" the artist skewers the samsara-esque complacency of the managerial class. It's hard not to appreciate a composer from a popular series going out of his way for a chance to stick it to the man.
For a game created without a story, the effort to provide a narrative thread keeps Nakamura's album kicking. The level of invention is unwaveringly maintained, though the vaguely menacing undercurrent mirroring our electronically mediated society might not exactly be everyone's cup of tea… or Starbucks frappucino, as the case may be. The moments where “Hikaru Frame Work” and “Machine Interface” withdraw into hollow caves of sound hardly seem designed to please the status quo. Rather, the album's focus is firmly trained eliciting aural tricks from Brainstorm's formidable studio of sound equipment.
One of the more laid back tunes on L.II remixes "The Mission to the Moon." is about the most delightful. Of the three songs whose titles inexplicably include punctuation, this one is most soothing in its amalgamation of acoustic instrument samples and computer effects from out of left field. Bizarre findings from Nakamura's electronic laboratory are amiable enough companions for a musical trip to the lunar surface, while "Mental Gymnastics" plays out like a veritable obstacle course of sound effects. Starting off and ending with a referee's ticking stopwatch, the song's tempo manages to keep its footing amidst the introduction of rippling echoes and synthesizer chords, the superhumanly swift pattern of hand claps, and yes, more robotic vocals. The rigidity of the song's structure is well suited to a concentrated time attack mode, never quite adding up to a melody until the player looks back after the battery of noises has subsided into silence.
Harder to get accustomed to, but equally rewarding, is the spacey-yet-headstrong "Xop." A collage of ambient synth and insistent rhythms, the track might be hard to get used to at first, but winds up being a catchy tune. As a whole, while not quite as people-friendly as Brainstorm's warm "Winter," "L.II remixes" offers a closer look into Nakamura's unapologetic experimentation. Having put some serious effort into establishing himself as a videogame musician, building a high tech studio to synthesize his sounds, the artist cares most of all for broadening the scope of his series and supplanting facile categorizations of his music.
Hear samples of this album at Nakataka.net