Monday, July 02, 2012

Song of the Day 30: 'Saelmeth - The Rusted Voice of a Forgotten Godwraith'

This is another one of the more background-ish pieces of Espers with probably some of the harshest sounds in the album.

Saelmeth, unlike most of the other Espers tracks, doesn't fade in gradually. It immediately starts with percussion in the form of a bass drum that isn't a straight four on the floor and has some closed hi-hat action going on in between. The percussion also intermingles with some of the sound effects that appear throughout, one of which sort of sounds like it could've come from the Chozo Ruins of Metroid Prime. These sound effects complete the overtones that drive most of the track. These overtones are immediately present and dissonant sounding in the beginning, going through something of a harsh and blended melody. At 0:10, some more dominant sound effects come in and there appear to be some notes that support the overtone-ish melody more distinctly. At 0:20 there's a bit of a sweep effect in the background and some more atmosphere is added by single notes that mesh well with the rest of the soundscape. At 0:24 there's some sort of obscure sounding voice clip that probably fits the title of the track more than anything else, blending with the soundscape. At 0:42-0:44 there's a building noise out of the atmosphere that fades out soon after. At 0:48-0:52 another new atmospheric element plays around with delay and pan in the same sort of theme as the rest of the track. At 1:02 there's another strange voice clip that's the same as 0:24. At 1:08 one of the more distinctive and permanent elements of the track is added in the form of a "washable yet harsh saw wave" that bounces around with the sound in a delay effect. At 1:20-1:24 there's the same building noise from 0:42-0:44 that adds to the continuance of atmosphere and sound effects. At 1:31 there's the same voice clip heard twice previously. At 1:36 another sort of harsh blended overtone melody is added to the sequences that've been occurring since the beginning. At 1:45 there's yet another interesting sound effect that reappears later on. The overtone-ish melody finally lets up at about 1:48. The departure from the same overtones that've been dominating from the beginning allows the track to move forward. Driven by atmosphere and sound effects washing together for transition, the track continues more distinctively at 1:55 with a less harsh and more straightforward melody. The melodic cycle resets at about 2:05, giving us a more clear picture of a cycle that lasts about 9-10 seconds. At 2:07-2:12 there's a panned left saw wave that rises up via filter and then back down again. This is just a sample of one of the more noticeable sound effects (to clarify, I'm missing a lot of sound effects in this writeup simply because they're all over the place and mostly blend with the general atmosphere). At 2:14 the original overtone-ish melody from the very beginning takes over once again, eliminating the melody introduced at 1:55. At 2:22-2:26 there's another building noise previously heard. At 2:28-2:29 there's the same voice clip that's also been heard previously (notice the build leads up to the voice clip several seconds later). At 2:33 the percussion drops out for the first time since the track started, leaving us with the overtone of the melody and some atmospheric sound effects. At 2:36 the overtone melody has been absorbed by the atmosphere and sound effects. Of these sound effects, the most apparent at this point appears to be the Chozo Ruins Metroid Prime-ish one. At 2:40 a new sound effect appears that sounds very much like a muted (think more in a diminished volume type way) old car horn. At 2:48 the sound first heard at 1:08 described as a "washable yet harsh saw wave" reemerges to dominate the transition, replacing the car horn sound. At 2:53 there's a knocking/tapping like sound effect reminiscent of what we heard in Dear Death by The Opensky. This effect is followed a few seconds later by Metroid Prime again. At 2:57, a high synth note solidifies and we begin to hear a new voice clip emerge that sounds equally as obscure and exotic as the first few although this time it is more continuous and discernible. At 3:02, while the voice clip continues, a new note from the same synth as 2:57 solidifies. Then at 3:03, we begin to hear the resurgence of the overtone melody from the beginning. The overtone melody now works with the "wash harsh synth", the voice clips, and the solidified single notes along with the knocking/tapping sound and the other atmospheric effects. The voice clip dies down a little bit by 3:20, but doesn't disappear until the build at 3:30 (that's the same as heard before). At 3:33 the percussion starts up back again and runs with the track similar to the beginning with the overtone and atmospheric elements. The build that's appeared multiple times in the past appears once again at 4:17-4:21. At 4:21 there also appears to be a faint voice clip that appears to be new and from a different speaker than seen previously (although since the clips are very atmospheric in nature, speaker doesn't matter in the sense of words; in fact, it feels wrong to call them clips as they are very well mixed with the overall atmosphere). At 4:31 the addition from 1:36 comes back (that is, an additional "blended overtone-ish melody"). At 4:40 there seems to be a significant change as for the first time the percussion continues in a new pattern and both overtone melodies drop out gradually. However, their spirit still seems present in the all-to-familiar build heard at 4:43-4:47. This build is now assisted by the left pan saw rise previously heard at 2:07-2:12. At 4:50 there appears for the first time some bells that have a bit of a pan delay attached (although these only last a few seconds). At 4:53-4:57 the left pan saw rise is integrated again as atmosphere. At 5:00 more sound effects are added that interplay with the percussion. At 5:09-5:10 the track is once again dominated by a melody previously heard, this one being at 1:55 (the less harsh and more straightforward one) and the percussion is also returned to its normal state as heard at the beginning. At 5:19 the bells from 4:50 reappear for some brief notes and this again happens at 5:28 and 5:38. At 5:47, the percussion drops out and the same overtonish sounds from the beginning are once again the melody although this time it takes a slightly different path with a less harsh sound. At this time there's also the Metroid Prime atmosphere adding its effects, but this is soon phased out in favor of a more subtle approach. An atmospheric element that might've existed previously (and I ignored it because it was subtle and blended with the rest) emerges that sound like waves. This begins at 5:48 and continues as the last noticeable element to disappear when the track ends. Although it occurs infrequently initially, the wave effect is worked off of by other "pulsing" atmospheric elements that continue to appear in and out as the track nears its conclusion. However, another atmospheric element dominates the track until the waves. This is the old car horn heard at 2:40 and it continues from 6:07-6:14. The car horn effect also signals the end of the overtone melody and the departure of the effect leaves just the waves and intermittent "washing/rumbling/wind" effects. These effects continue until the final wave as the track ends at 6:29.

Pros: There was so much atmosphere in this piece that I sort of ignored the comprehensive approach in favor of the more distinctive elements and overtones. There is a fantastic mesh of atmosphere in a variety of forms ranging from voice clips, old car horns, waving, washing, rumbling, Metroid Prime Chozo Ruins, or just noise. The percussion rhythm is also interesting and the clearly defined overtones at 1:55 and 5:09-5:10 come across as stronger as do the overtone blends that usually precede a change in the track. Although the beginning wasn't particularly strong in my opinion, the end was very well done.

Cons: Way too much repetitiveness along with the abundance of atmosphere makes the previous track sound like a roller coaster in comparison. To make it worse, the majority of overtones are harsh and unappealing and there isn't any real noticeable melody to be spoken of. The percussion is also extremely repetitive and while the rhythm is initially interesting, it quickly becomes very irritating.

Overall: To be honest, this is my least favorite track on Espers and I usually listen to it while distracted by something else. It's harsh enough sounding to keep me well awake, but it's so atmosphere based that it's very hard to intently listen to. It also probably didn't help that I wrote this review at close to 3 in the morning. However, I can find a lot of value in the variety of effects that went into making something such as this and the idea of all overtone based melodies was interesting. Unfortunately, I just found it too repetitive to truly enjoy. Title once again matches the track.

Rating: 8.0

No comments: