Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Song of the Week 41: 'Avien' by Theophany

Hey, I really do apologize for my laziness in posting. These are almost like "Song of the Month" posts instead of "Song of the Week". I feel like a hypocrite for saying that I'll post often. It's even more ironic that I'm posting this on one of the busiest weeks for me this summer. Anyway, the most recent post here at RPS talks about Metroid's 25th anniversary. That was a pretty exciting time, for Metroid remixes were being released everywhere. Just because of that I got over three hours of Metroid-based music that I listen to every day. So naturally, why shouldn't I review one of these songs? This track in particular comes from a non-OCR album, although every single track was created by OCR user and remixer Theophany. He created a six-track album known as Crystal Flash EP (which may I add, has probably the coolest cover art I have seen in a long time). You can find the OCR thread for the album here in case anyone wants to download it. (If you want to download it off of the original album site, you might have to pay to get it. Fortunately for me I got it there when it was still free. :D) The name of the track I'll be looking at is called 'Avien'. So far it's been the only track from the album to be posted on OCR (you can find the thread for the song here). What's special about this song is that it's a tribute piece to former OCR remixer Avien (a.k.a Christopher Powell), who had suddenly passed away back in 2004. So without further ado, let's check out the remix.

The beginning of the song starts out with a pure mesh of atmosphere. There are a ton of sounds that can be heard here; everything from light cymbal hits, layers of synth elements, and quiet vocals. You can mainly here the vocals starting at 0:10, and their addition in the song makes the track sound even more haunting. Starting at 0:15 the piano will begin playing an intro to the main melody, which is the theme for Maridia from Super Metroid. At 0:18 though the piano will leave, and another small section of ambient atmosphere will be heard. This time however, I feel that the various synth elements used here were brought out a little bit more. The entire thing brings chills up my spine. The piano will return and play the same pattern again at 0:30, and like before will leave for another fifteen seconds or so. For this next section of atmosphere the vocals were a little louder, and new elements are added in that make the song sound like static (great addition). Starting at 0:44 the piano will play the occasional note, with all of the ghostly atmosphere still playing (and it pretty much plays for the entire track). The difference here is that there is an increase in the number of vocals and their volumes. Starting at 0:56 the piano finally starts to play the main melody (Maridia). I like how the piano stands out beyond everything else here, and the only chords used are small. I noticed that at 1:03 the piano as well as the background effects are edited a little bit also to create a different sort of sound. The progression of the melody is very slow, making it all the more haunting and dramatic. Coming up at 1:24 has to be one of my favorite sections of the song. There's now some bass in the piano that comes in every measure to intertwine with the treble melody. The melody here is playing an extension of the sequences played at 0:15 and 0:30. The addition of the bass clef for the piano really adds depth to the song as a whole, in my opinion. At 1:36 some more vocals are added in. What I notice about the vocals here are that you can't understand a single one of them, making it all the more ghostly. There's a large, yet fast buildup at 1:48, leading into one of the stronger sections of the track. We have more of a beat developing here with some light bass and bass drum. The female vocal is probably the element here that stands out the most though, even bypassing the piano (which lost it's own bass). It really defines its trip-hop genre (although on the original album site one of the tags for that particular track said "ambient dubstep"). The only time in this section where the piano is the strongest would be from 1:58 to about 2:04. At 2:05 the sequence repeats itself. When the vocals leave again though at 2:11, I notice there's a pretty cool suspended cymbal roll added in right as they leave (and after listening to the song again, there's another one of those rolls back at 1:48). The same type of pattern happens again at 2:19, although there is a difference of instrumentation; the piano plays the main melody while a saxophone plays what the piano was originally playing. Plus the power of the vocals has been slightly diminished. The entire section seems rather repetitive, but blends together wonderfully. There's a little bit of a change at 2:39 when the vocals are cut rapidly and the piano starts to trill. 2:45 is really when the song starts to shift over in another direction. The atmosphere and melody remains the same, but the beat has changed to a more complex pace. Also, all of the elements including the piano have been edited to create more of a different feel. A light synth is also playing the pattern that the piano had been playing back at the beginning and throughout the song (an example is at 0:15). This section will continue until about 3:12, where there's another big suspended cymbal buildup. Here at 3:13 is another strong section in the song. The vocals hit a high note, and everything becomes much louder. There's even the addition of bells to play the main melody instead of the piano. Everything starts to die down though at 3:27, and for some reason I love the progression of how almost everything fades out. By 3:39, everything except the low sax playing and a few of the atmospheric elements remain. At 3:40 though, you hear a vocal say "drop" and instantly the a section very similar to the one at 1:48 starts up. The only differences are a more complex beat, and a couple minor differences in the vocals. At 4:06 there's another buildup, and a different section starts at 4:08. There isn't much of a change here, but the song-dominating piano complexes and syncopates the rhythm that it has been playing all this time. This will repeat itself again at 4:22. At 4:41 the beat drops out, making the background atmosphere a little more emphasized. At 4:50 I notice that the piano rhythm goes up an octave so now it's very, very high in pitch. There are still the vocals and all of the ambient stuff going on, and there's even the occasional bass drum hit every couple measures. At 5:00 there's a major slow-down with pretty much everything. The piano will drop soon after, and everything else will follow by slowly fading away...

Pros: Atmosphere is everything for this album, and Theophany nails it especially with this track. I liked how almost every element dominated during different points of the song. Every buildup and transition was near perfect, and I love the way that the melody was played. Maridia is a pretty haunting tune, and piano made it even more so. I also liked the eeriness of the various vocals, and I loved the ending. This song is absolutely spine-tingling.

Cons: I really wish that progression of the piano at 1:24 would've lasted a little longer. Also, I thought that the trip-hop elements added in didn't quite work out with the song as a whole, especially after hearing such an atmospheric beginning. Other than that there isn't much that I didn't like about the song.

Overall: This song is absolutely beautiful. It has a perfect atmosphere for the source tune, and I can't stop listening to this as well as the rest of the album. Theophany's style really impressed me with this album, so I recommend checking the entire thing out. This is a wonderful tribute to Avien and the 25th anniversary of Metroid. Awesome stuff here.

Rating: 9.5/10


Met said...

"That was a pretty exciting time, for Metroid remixes were being released everywhere."

This sentence cracks me up, just saying. :)

Met said...

After reading your review I can't recall any dubstep elements or feel within the track. Also, I don't recall a sax, but it's quite possible I missed it. I would reevaluate your view of what you consider "dubstep" as this falls more under the category of "trip-hop" with a whole lot of ambient downtempo stuff going on. Definitely deserves the 9.5 though, I'm very impressed with Theophany's work here.

Anonymous said...

I'll get to editing some of my post right away, since I made a couple of mistakes.