Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ü2K6: In The End

Saturday the 16th.

Wait, Saturday the 16th? There's only 10 more days until Christmas!

And with that, comes the top 10 of Ü2K6: Arivia's 25 Musical Days To Christmas. Before we get to number 10 itself, here's some statistics on the top 10:
  • 3 are solo artists (2 of them female)
  • 6 are from Scandinavia
  • 6 are metal groups (2 of which are spawned from an extremely influential band that reformed in 2006 for a series of concerts)
  • Pitchfork has reviewed less than 5 of these albums
  • 3 are pop albums.
Now, with that, let's look at number 10...

10. Yuki Kajiura - Xenosaga III: Also Sprach Zarathustra [Original Soundtrack]

I know, I know, I know. Soundtracks to Japanese roleplaying games for the PlayStation 2 are not the sort of thing that should end up on top 10 lists. And if they do end up on yours, you should be checking for evidence of fangirlism.

However, I sincerely doubt still mourning Sex and the City's end has anything to do with anime fangirlism (I couldn't find anything like that). So, I am sticking to my guns and keeping this where it is - #10.

Why number #10? How could a soundtrack leap to number 10, in such a good year? Let me tell you how: it's a really good soundtrack that has merit beyond just acting as a soundtrack.

What's on offer here is akin to Bal-Sagoth: epic, musically varying, ambitious pieces. What makes it better than Bal-Sagoth is the better composition. While listening to The Chthonic Chronicles was really an exercise in surprised awe, combined with laughter at really terrible moments, Yuki Kajiura (one woman, Japanese) simply creates some of the year's best songs out of whatever she wants to.

There's no real genre pegging here - it is soundtrack music, in that it has a classical/incidental base - but the breadth of instrumentation places it outside specific boundaries. Choral sections are often used to provide feelings of tension, complimented with keyboard washes and careful drum accents. The focus here is on emotion, with songs like "Forgotten Sanctuary" capturing the essence of longing for long ago, while "The Battle Of Your Soul" encapsulates emotional conflict.

Just like Bal-Sagoth, there are some surprises, such as "Rolling Down The UMN", which brings up feelings of revolution through jazz, or the shift in "Shifting Territories" from quiet contemplation to full-out blast beats and violins.

It should also be noted that this is a very long soundtrack - 39 pieces, spread over 2 CDs, ranging from under a minute ("Zarathustra Dungeon") to nearly eight minutes ("Hepatica #3 [I Believe In You").

At the end of the day, it's futile to pretend this isn't a soundtrack; but it's so well written, it tells the story itself, without aid from image or word.

Next: The saviors of melodic death metal.

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