Gahhh, I wrote a long review for this, but for some reason it didn't post and I lost it all. OH WELL, TAKE #2.
Man, let me start by saying that, after reading your song description, I can't help but say that you remind me a lot of myself four years ago. I was in the same boat, having to figure out loads of dumb workarounds just to get a final export on my track. I was using EWQLSO on an old PC running Windows XP with a single-core CPU and 3 GB of RAM, which was an absolute nightmare, through and through. You should definitely look into upgrading Cubase, or finding a cheaper DAW (like FL) which doesn't place limitations like that on you.
Right, first order of business is the melodies and harmonies. Like in that other track of yours I reviewed a year ago, I think you did an absolutely wonderful job on both accounts. The unwavering sense of movement and 3/4 pace, coupled with the unorthodox sound palette, really make this a unique and distinct listening experience, that isn't easy to forget. With regards to composition, you don't leave much to be desired. If I had to point anything out, it'd be that you lent a little from that incredibly overused i - VI - III - VII progression, but thankfully you go places with it and use it well, so it didn't come off as generic or cheesy at all.
And wow, your instrument/sound set is just ridiculous. My prevailing thought while listening to this track was "how the hell did he think of this stuff" haha. You've got everything from an accordion to a piano to bells to weird squeaky percussion/effects, which give this a likable yet unique style. Additionally, I agree with the reviewer below me. The low quality of the real instrument samples doesn't detract from this piece at all. In fact, it arguably adds onto the obscure style you have going.
You saw this coming a mile away, but I think the primary issue with this piece is the production value. I have some good news, though; I didn't hear any clipping. Now, I'm not very good at noticing clipping, but from what I heard, you got rid of it, or at least got rid of the worst of it. As for the mix itself, it sounds too doused in reverb and lacking clarity for my tastes. It actually doesn't sound half bad at the start, but the further we get into the track, the more it seems to degrade into muddiness.
Also, the mix feels rather flat. I was hoping for it to open up at one point, but it never really did. I felt almost like I was hearing the same dynamic level for the whole track (save for the intro and outro which were suitably soft). I feel like the instruments are just squeezed together and need more space. I wanted to hear a disconnect between the foreground and background, but everything seemed to wash into each other (especially during transitions like 0:50, 1:33 and 2:00). Careful EQing and cutting down on some of the reverb can remedy this.
All in all, what you have here is an oddly relaxing, yet engaging piece, with a quirky set of instruments and some truly memorable and solid, waltz-esque composition. Enjoyed it!
Yay! Thanks a great deal for reviewing this track, not once, but twice! XD
I can relate to losing everything that you've written (or done in general) for something, and it's one of the most frustrating experiences I know of -_- Nowadays I try to remember copying everything, every now and then, but it's always the times that I forget doing so that something goes wrong D:
"I was in the same boat, having to figure out loads of dumb workarounds just to get a final export on my track."
=> Hahha, yeah. I think that many musicians, especially the ones starting out experience lots upon lots of technical difficulties and other issues while trying to work with DAWs. Or maybe that's just what I'm telling myself in order to not feel alone in this o.O
I will certainly upgrade my Cubase, probably to the latest version too. After all, it's not that expensive in the end. I'm having more trouble figuring out what VSTs I want to buy :/ I'll really have to think about what I actually need. I believe my computer will be able to handle pretty much, despite being a laptop, as it has 8 GB RAM, a decent sound card and an i7 processor. I'd like an external sound card too though. There'll always be to much I want compared to what I realistically can get XD
"...melodies and harmonies."
=> I actually wrote the composition on the piano before recreating it in Cubase, as I wanted a solid base to go on for this project. I definitely used very cliché chord progressions, mainly because I wanted to work with something simple to begin with. I tried to focus on having several different transitions too, so that I could practice automation. If I were to try to orchestrate some other piano piece of mine, like "Medley of a Shattered Mind", I'm sure I'd just destroy the composition and fail horibly :'D
In general, I think that my strong point lies in composing, and as we all know, certainly not it things like production!
"...ridiculous instrument/sound set."
=> I'm glad that you as well as many other people liked the weird intruments I used! I wanted to vary the intruments a lot, both as it keeps the different sections interesting, and because it's good practice. I grew kind of fond of the low quality instruments too, for this track at least. Sadly, you can't get away with that in every genre. Electronic stuff is pretty easy, but if you want to create somewhat good sounding orchestral pieces, great instruments would help a lot.
As I think I already told someone in the review, I might as well have thrown a dice for which instruments I would combine together (except for in the beginning, where I knew I wanted to use an accordion, bells and weird percussion). I couldn't combine any instrument though; I tried to make them harmonize (like the harmonica!) to some extent at the very least :)
"You saw this coming a mile away..."
=> Yup yup, it's also why I really wanted the help of reviewers regarding this >:D There is very little clipping left, but I've located two very minor instances while listening at a high volume, at 2:04 and 2:10. It's caused by the cymbal sound which I should've mixed better.
"As for the mix itself, it sounds too doused in reverb and lacking clarity for my tastes."
=> I must agree. I tend to overuse reverb in all my tacks, and this one is really muddy. I wanted to give it a sense of dreaminess, but I know I went far overboard. I think I should make a really dry track in the near future. All the reverb made the balancing of the different instruments far more difficult as well.
"Also, the mix feels rather flat."
=> Now that you say so, it's certainly true. Once again, part of the reason is that I started out with too high volume while mixing the track, and I couldn't really increase it too much without redoing all the automation, at least if I didn't want a lot of clipping in the track :( I should learn how to balance these things from the very start. It didn't help that I had to export half the track on beforehand and thus rendering it uneditable later.
You're also right in that the track didn't open up at any point (well, as you said, apart from the outro). I would've liked to do some kind of a breakdown at some point more in the middle of the track, perhaps right before the climax.
The instruments are definitely, so to say, squeezed together.
"I wanted to hear a disconnect between the foreground and background..."
=> That's a really good idea!
"Careful EQing and cutting down on some of the reverb can remedy this."
=> I'll think about this. In fact, I'll take all the advice you gave me to heart, and hopefully be able to implement it into future tracks of mine!! :3
Once again, thanks a million for reviewing my track! I'm truly grateful for the fact that you spent some of your time giving me tips! :')
Damnnn, this is a really pleasant piece of music. I'm going through a pretty stressful time right now, full of work, and this is PRECISELY what I needed haha.
The composition is absolutely LOVELY. The first ten notes are indeed wonderful (props to Anthrogh) but you develop it well, especially at around 0:33 with that chord progression. You even end it perfectly. I mean, there isn't much in terms of composition considering you don't even reach a minute, but you make very good use of that minute. I also quite like the harp you're using. It's quite full-bodied and has a pleasant sound. What did you use?
Now for why I really came here - to talk about the note velocity/tempo editing. I honestly think the effort you took to tweak the fine details of the track was worth it. It shows, because the piece is infinitely more dynamic and expressive. There are some really nice touches like slowing down a little before the chord at 0:09, or slowing down for the ending. I'm curious why you didn't use softer notes that much though - there is a range of note volumes here but it's from, say, mezzo forte to fortissimo, rather than a more expansive range. I also think the pause around ten seconds in should be a bit longer.
I definitely think you did a very solid job on this. One little tip - I find that for solo passages like these, playing them with a MIDI keyboard (if you have one) with the metronome turned off (and some intentional rubato) helps a lot. Even if you make a whole bunch of mistakes, you can easily fix them afterwards in the piano roll. I've taken to recording nearly all my solo pieces on my MIDI keyboard now and editing them heavily later. Give that a shot if you have a MIDI keyboard and haven't tried it already!
Hope I helped. Beautiful piece, great job!
I'm glad you are that pleased with the music. :]
The harp is a soundfont called "Beauty's Harp". I got it for free, but the sheer quality of it makes me think it /must/ not be a free soundfont, so I've searched for it to buy it, but I can't find it. You never know with soundfonts, haha.
I think you prefer a wider note volume range than I do. One thing that bothers me in classical music is just how much the volume of the pieces vary throughout. First I can't hear them, then they're blasting my face off with brass... haha. Anyway, this piece might sound better with a wider note volume range - I'll be sure to try it out some time. I completely agree that a longer pause would have been better.
I have an old midi keyboard but the keys have no dynamics and there is no pedal support. It's quite difficult to play emotionally since all notes come out sounding the same. "Buy a better midi keyboard" is on my list of things to do whenever I get a stable job.
Thanks for the review. You always help to sharpen my critical eye.
This is an NGADM Finals Review.
Just yes. I have no words to express how impressed I am right now. Every round you've nailed it. Not once did you slip up. You've simply delivered an extremely consistent and sky-high quality of music since the beginning of the competition. Ergo, this an extremely well-deserved first place.
This song... where to start? It's in roughly the same kind of melodic, journey-like style as your Round 1 and especially your Round 4 track, so you weren't reaching too far into your sleeve for this one, sure, but damn, despite that I still can't help but feel taken aback by the sheer splendour of what you've presented. This is insanely uplifting and huge, realised beautifully by your inspirational composition and thrilling array of sounds.
Once again, I'm a big fan of your main melody. You have this approach to melodies which I think is pretty unique (I've only heard it done before in the NGADM by RetromanOMG and to a lesser extent), where you think of this addicting little melodic phrase, and build whole melodies out of it, while somehow keeping everything from coming off as monotonous. You've done it in nearly every NGADM track thus far, and it's a great way of creating a hook without obnoxiously repeating the same thing over and over again like an extravagant amount of commercial electronic music does nowadays.
While there's a whole plethora of super enjoyable aspects to the composition, I think the highlight would have to be how you built up to the climactic sections each time (0:45, 1:19, etc), which was nothing short of gorgeous. The way you approached it was pristine, and the energy and emotion came through each time.
The secret behind those great buildups has to be the vocals. I think your vocal performance here (aside from some quirks) is brilliant. That dreamy, soft quality to your voice is nothing short of perfect for this track, and damn, you deliver it like a beast. Your confident delivery, amalgamated with the significant, but not excessive, use of reverb makes it sound like you're singing atop the peak of a mountain or cliff, facing a vast blue sky, rather than in front of a microphone in a small room. Great stuff.
The additional singing you've got in the 1:52 climax is an especially nice way to elevate that climax with even more energy and atmosphere. I kind of think that the only part which sounded awkward is 2:13. The vocals are mixed in somewhat awkwardly there, and they felt kind of sloppy compared to the much tighter performance of the rest of your vocals. Doesn't help that I had no idea what you were saying in that part either!
I don't usually dedicate much time to talk about the percussion of a track but I felt like I should talk a little bit about the drums here since I think they're some of the best drums you've done for this contest. It's easy to overlook them since they're just in the background, providing the rhythmic backbone for the track, but when I paid particular attention to them I realised that they're really damn good. I love how you use different drum sounds for different sections, opting for a more understated, glitch/breakbeat style for the verses, a heavier, DnB style of drums for the climaxes, and a set of drums more suitable for dance music at 2:13. You also have really great fills, especially during those aforementioned buildups.
Really, my main issue with this track (apart from that vocal section that didn't sit too well with me) would be the same one I had previously with a few of your earlier tracks. While I do like how you set up your melodies out of a single, small melodic hook, I was still hoping for something new to pop up in the form of an alternate/counter melody. It is definitely not much of an issue, as I don't think I would call this particularly repetitive, but it is something I wished for.
That's everything I have to say about this track. I can't possibly overstate how much I've enjoyed your music over the past months. As I said in an earlier review (forgot which), your NGADM tracks are simply perfect role-models of what I personally look for in electronic music. Congratulations on winning this enormous contest, and above all, thanks for the amazing music you've given us during your stay.
Step, your reviews truly are out of this world. I've told you before, they are one of the best things in the NGADM. I can't thank you enough.
This is an NGADM Round 4 Review.
Holy CRAP garlagan. This is amazing. You've done it again, and stronger than you've ever done it before. Your reign of sonic supremacy over electronic music never ceases to amaze me, and even though you most certainly know by now that I'm a huge fan of what you've been doing for this contest, I will reiterate it every time. I hate sounding like a fanboy, since it kinda shows unprofessionalism from my part as a judge, but my point is, please, keep up the great work!
Where to start? Your composition, I think, is what struck me the most here. Do you have some repetitive sections? Yep. Was I hoping for more melodic variety? Yep. But screw it all, you have an absolutely PHENOMENAL melody here. Your knack of creating simple but excellent earworms is undisputed, and you made good use of it especially in this track and your Round 1 track.
The best thing about the melodic material in here is that wow, this is some really emotional stuff. The soft piano interludes are beautiful, the rise at 0:36 is wonderfully uplifting, and this is structured as if it were some main theme in a film score or something. It's dynamic, has an iconic melody and tells a story, like a film score in the guise of a Drum and Bass track. This is especially apparent in the unexpected orchestral-esque section towards the end, complete with orchestral percussion and some really nice strings. I find this aspect to be really interesting and memorable.
Not only will I commend you on your creative compositional ideas, but your execution of them is also impressive! While you keep a prevalent main motif throughout pretty much the whole track, you offer some incredibly clever and fun varieties on that motif, such as 4:25's descending key changes (seriously, what a great idea). Over here I'll have to concede that I was kind of hoping for some more meaningful variety in the melodies. Essentially, all of the melodic material was composed of different variations and takes on your primary motif, which left me wanting a little more.
Your production value... I don't know why I even bother. As always, I am in love with it. The mix is very even and clear, and this time it's significantly dynamic! From the delicate soft sections to the climactic and heavy-hitting sections to the more spacious and subdued outro, there was a variety of different dynamics to please the ears, and you transitioned masterfully between each one!
I also quite enjoyed the less melodic section at 2:14, since not only did it provide momentary relief from the heavier melodic stuff that's more demanding to listen to, but it also showcased your plentiful sound design capabilities. Having said that, 1:01 - 1:26 was a little bit less interesting to listen to (especially since, after it was over, it just transitioned back into a carbon copy of the section before it).
One final note on the intro and outro. Let me start by saying that the Mirror's Edge vibes I'm getting from the intro are almost overwhelming! That aside, it's a lovely intro. Only thing I would've wished for is that you were a bit more patient with your introduction of the climax at 0:21, and built up to it more suitably (I think I had the exact same problem with your Round 1 track's intro). Of course this might lengthen a track that's already fairly lengthy, but I certainly wouldn't object to cutting down on some of the length of 1:01 - 2:06 to make room for this addition.
The outro was approached really well, but the ending itself? Eh, I was a little disappointed. I'm not one for the abrupt/unfinished endings like that, so I might be biased, but it did feel a little unsatisfying. Might've just been a stylistic choice on your part to end it like that (or maybe it was just deadline pressure?) but whatever the case, it isn't my favourite ending from you to say the least!
Anyway, I've mentioned quite a few gripes I have with this track; the intro/outro could use some work, I was hoping for more melodic variety and some of the sections weren't as interesting as they could've been... so why such a high score? Well, when I listen to the track as a whole I realise that, frankly, those issues really aren't that detrimental from the overall listening experience. You've made an absolute BEAST of a track here, and I hope you continue to impress for the final round!
Can't believe this review Step. Your writing skills, god. Just WOW. Reading it has been a pleasure to say the least. THANK YOU!
By the way 'like a film score in the guise of a Drum and Bass track'<-- loved this.
'All of the melodic material was composed of different variations and takes on your primary motif'. This is probably something I need to work on. The idea though is that it only takes one listen to like and understand the track. But it doesn't offer much more than that. So maybe I should keep a balance between risky and easy/friendly stuff.
The first thing I did for the track was the quiet section in the middle. I started with that sinewave thing doing the main melody. Then I realised it got these Mirror's Edge vibes and it actually inspired me quite a bit. I'm in love with the OST so it was nice coming up with something similar to it.
Regarding the intro being kinda brief, I tend to abuse this resource a bit. It's tempting to introduce something and let it go quickly into something bigger to catch attention more easily. I usually try to imagine what a listener might think/expect when listening to my tracks and as I'm totally impatient, even when pretending to be a random listener, my tracks end up going from part to part sometimes too fast.
Immensely glad you liked the track!
Also that score is surreal. Can't believe it!
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review.
Talk about making a 180-degree turn from what you've made so far. I'm thrilled to hear that camoshark actually contributed more to this submission, and it shows clearly in the total shift in style. Above all, however, the sheer ambition of this track is already something to admire. Not only do you have fantastic guitar and drum playing by Kor-Rune and Patrick, but you have the detail, intricacy and complexity in your composition that gives this a noticeable edge over other submissions, at least in the melodic and harmonic department. So yeah, sounding like you're composing on crack makes for some impressive stuff!
You've got some absolutely brilliant compositional aspects here. For starters, the rhodes organ was a highly enjoyable addition. Not only did it fit into the track so well but provided some awesome harmonies to back up the melodies, especially with that really gripping and catchy chord passage that starts twelve seconds into the piece. I also absolutely love the drum work. The rhythms fit perfectly and the drum beats are incredibly intricate. The little fills/solos like the one at 0:09 or the one at 2:25 are brilliant. Huge props to Patrick for delivering such a glorious showcase of his raw talent.
I always feel compelled to talk about transitions in a review of a track which Skye was involved in, given his reputation of being so meticulous with them. I think the transitions here are wonderfully smooth, with highlights being 1:14's awesome sustaned chord into the drum solo, or 0:50's introduction of the main motif. The smooth transitions complement the pace of this track very well. You've actually got a surprisingly intense pace with a lot going on, both harmonically and melodically, and having every section meld so well with the next gave this a very gripping and uninterrupted listening experience.
The two main pillars of music creation - composition and production - are certainly done very well here, but each have their own little issues. I'll start with the compositional issues. First off, while you have some great stuff, I felt like the melodies were a bit directionless, as if they were talking a lot but not really saying anything. This is especially true in 1:21's needlessly long section which doesn't do anything particularly profound and ends up coming off as repetitive and bland. I also feel like the ending could've been executed more properly. The track unnaturally and abruptly bursts in volume at the end, and the cymbal isn't even given enough time to fully ring before the track ends. In terms of production, while, again, you have some great stuff, it could have been tighter. The bass in particular is very undefined. Lastly, I feel like corners were cut with the second iteration of your motif at 2:39, which is essentially a direct copy-paste of its original counterpart, whereas, especially in a genre like jazz, I was hoping for something more unexpected.
While I can tell where the corners were cut, this is still a fantastic and intricate jazz piece that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to. Bravo!
Heyo Step, thanks for popping in!
"For starters, the rhodes organ was a highly enjoyable addition"
Lol, throughout the entire compositional process, that part was played by a grand piano, which gave it a much more vanilla jazz feel (especially with the bass being an upright too). That was all Skye's doing, and I'll agree it's a great match, even though it's theoretically neither a Rhodes nor an organ! (nice try though) :P
"[Much love for the drums]"
Heh, while we DID write down a few sketches for what we wanted the drums to sound like, this was all Patrick's doing. That's one of the reasons why I systematically choose him whenever I need to record some drums: we've got the same ideas and mindsets. So I just give him vague cues like " give this bit a standard 8-feel, this bit a square 4-beat, a two-bar transitional fill to go towards something more hard-rock-ish, and then go crazy" and he shits out gold nuggets every time.
"First off, while you have some great stuff, I felt like the melodies were a bit directionless, as if they were talking a lot but not really saying anything."
Yeah, we get that a lot. I can't really figure a good way to remedy that though, because Skye and I tend to work more in styles that use "horizontal" composition, which relies more on movement and ideas, rather than broad melodic phrase and recurring themes.
I guess we'll try to make our themes more to-the-point and have more in common.
"This is especially true in 1:21's needlessly long section which doesn't do anything particularly profound and ends up coming off as repetitive and bland."
Gah, I'll agree you got me there. We were actually supposed to integrate more stuff in there, including a guitar and bass solo, but time is a bitch, and we ended needing to ax it out to finish the song.
Can't really say much more than sorry, we'll try to not keep useless space like that in the final version if we get to it.
" I also feel like the ending could've been executed more properly. The track unnaturally and abruptly bursts in volume at the end, and the cymbal isn't even given enough time to fully ring before the track ends."
That, my friend, is the sound of "HOLY SHIT WE'RE AN HOUR AWAY FROM THE DEADLINE AND DON'T HAVE AN ENDING TO THIS, LOOP DAT SHIZ AND BUT A BOW IN IT!!1! DDD:" I'd say it's a miracle it even managed to fit with the rest, but it's definitely far from good.
Also whoops on the cymbal resonance...
" Lastly, I feel like corners were cut with the second iteration of your motif at 2:39, which is essentially a direct copy-paste of its original counterpart, whereas, especially in a genre like jazz, I was hoping for something more unexpected."
That is literally what it is. Sorry. :C It was either that or some random meandering that had nothing to do with the rest of the song, so I figured blatant copy-paste would at the very least give a semblance of closure.
Thanks for the review Step, t'was much appreciated. I'm really glad you enjoyed nonetheless!
First things first - sorry for your loss! It was bad timing to have this tragic event happen when halfway through the contest but somehow you pulled through and made him a great tribute indeed. This has the usual fantastic aspects that I've come to expect from you, having listened to more of your tracks than I have fingers. The production is meticulously and masterfully executed, the guitar playing is phenomenal, and, of course, it has the beefiest and meatiest snare I've ever heard in a metal track on Newgrounds.
One thing I particularly liked over here would be some of the absolutely incredible lead guitar sections you've thrown in. You have this style of playing that I think you've been incorporating more heavily into your more recent music. It's a tendency to make these very upfront, soaring, high melodies played by the lead guitar. Parts like 1:03 and 2:35 really make this style shine, and it's an absolute pleasure to listen to, especially when paired with your beefy mix, suitable rhythm guitar accompaniment and powerful drum work. It's a listening experience you can't achieve nearly as well in any other genre, and you represent it fantastically.
There are a bunch of other sections here that I think you did a great job with. The mastery with which you play the solo at 1:41 is no less than awe-inspiring. I also love the transition at 3:02. The momentary pause was a great idea, but what sold it was how you brought in the intense pace once more. You also have a solid transition at 1:26, followed by a section that plays familiar material, which was a nice touch. You also once again nailed the intro, which is in the same vein as your previous track's intro, what with the filter you put on it.
The reason why I don't think this is quite as good as the near-masterpiece you gave us in Round 2 is that I feel like it sounds a bit less inspired. Perhaps it was time constraints or simply lack of inspiration, but I feel like the melodies weren't very interesting, save for perhaps 2:35. Sections like 2:04 or so feel less like meaningful continuations to the track and more like filler to showcase some new riff or rhythm. The ending also isn't particularly satisfying or suiting. Couple that with your brickwall mastering which eats up a lot of the dynamic range and you've got a listening experience that sounds quite samey and flat throughout. You got away with it mostly in your previous track with really fantastic sections and solid, exciting foreground melodies, and while you still retain some of that stuff here, it's been taken a notch down from what you've shown you're capable of.
And that's all I have to say about it. You did a phenomenal job with this track! Great work.
Really didn't expect to get as high a score in this round but I certainly didn't expect to get through due to how rough those two weeks where for me!
Firstly again, thanks for pointing out the bits you liked. I'll 100% be incorporating them into my next track, but only with more power and more emotional content!
In my defence, I worked on this piece for 2 days. When my friend passed, I spiralled for a good week. Unable to work, write, play or generally do anything. Once the shock had worn off, I was extremely time limited with regards to what I could do and pull out of the bag.
I already have some new ideas I've NEVER incorporated in my tracks before. Stuff that's gonna bring a whole new bag to the table. All I'm gonna say is just you wait ;)
You know, I think this might be my favourite contest submission from you this year. Maybe it's because you spent three days on it instead of two. I can't even begin to imagine how good your submission would be if you spent TWO WEEKS on it, but I don't think that's ever going to happen! Rambling aside, what you've given us here is a jumble of your best styles - the emotion and melodic prowess of "footsteps" and the uplifting sound of "wide world" and "i believe". Let me say that it really, really worked. Seven minutes of wonderful music that doesn't ever get boring for a second is nothing to scoff at.
I'll get the production out of the way to get the ball rolling. Your production is actually pretty great this time! I can tell you spent more time on the mixing or at least everything fell into place more easily this time round. Well, I can imagine something more stripped-down like this to be much easier to mix than the more climactic and explosive natures of your previous tracks, but regardless, I proudly have little to no complaints about the mix this time. I actually think that the drums fit wonderfully here because they give this track a very unique sense of forward motion without sounding too exciting, but in fact, what really sold it for me is their sound and the way you mixed them in. You nailed the levelling.
The composition is absolutely fantastic. You make use of major 7ths a lot. I think the major 7th is a very tricky note to use since it's easy for it to have an unpleasant, dissonant sound, but if you know what you're doing when you use it, it really heightens the emotional value of a melody. You use it very well here. But really, this is honestly jam-packed with so many beautiful melodies that I don't know where to start. To help break up the song's structure further, you even include that vocal section from the talented etherealwinds, which actually sounds pretty fantastic. I'd say this track is the epitome of what happens when a good sense of composition and bucketloads of creativity collide.
I have a bunch of small, and mostly stylistic gripes, since I don't think anything particularly stands out as an obvious flaw. Some transitions didn't do it for me. 0:46 sounds pretty premature and abrupt, and I feel like a more gradual and careful approach to that section would give it more meaning when it finally comes in. At around 5:45 where a bunch of elements in the track start fading out... yeah that didn't sit well with me either. It almost sounds like you had those two sections separated, and during the process of arranging the track together, you couldn't think of a good way to tie those two sections together. 0:46's synth is also a bit too loud I think (only mixing complaint I have). Lastly, the ending. It's not bad at all! However, I somehow feel like it could be a bit more subtle. I don't know... the tonic chord at the end sounds a little forced to me. You approached the ending so well, but when that final note played, I just didn't feel it. I hate giving criticism like this since it's so vague and unhelpful, but it's still a good ending and it's not worth worrying about.
This is just a beautiful track that would have given Zip and Steam a run for their money, that's for sure. Astounding work! On a final note, I know that one of these days you will make an ending - a gloriously satisfying ending - and I will love it. I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT.
> how good your submission would be if you spent TWO WEEKS
Oh shush you ;-) The maximum number of days I could even work on a song for NGADM would be 4, because there are only 2 weekends in the 2 week timespan. I'm pretty tired after work, and it's led to some really frustrating and unproductive nights heh.
> major 7ths
I don't even know what that is. How do you even music theory? *google* Oh... right. I know what that is. But I didn't think I was using them that often heh. I do really enjoy them though, they have a great open feel to them.
> 5:45 where a bunch of elements in the track start fading out
Heh yeah I tossed that on last minute. I actually meant for everything to become more reverbed rather than quieter, which I enjoy, but I just messed up the leveling :p
> tonic chord
Yeah I can see that. Next time, THE PICARDY THIRD! Oh wait, I was pretending I didn't know music theory before? Oops.
> an ending - a gloriously satisfying ending
I think I ended Footsteps pretty well. Yep, one good ending in 2 NGADMs so far. You have to take what you can get ;-)
Anyway, I'm glad you liked my track, but it didn't really come as a surprise because if I like my track then I know you're going to like it too. We have the same mind after all O_O
Of course it's also kinda lame because when I know my track is crap, I know you're going to call me out on it :p
But I mean whatever. It's still pretty sweet to have a telepathic link with one of the judges.
IM GETTING SIDETRACKED ANYWAYS thanks for the great review. I am always highly appreciative.
Oh wow. To me, your music is a PRIME example of what I personally look for in the electronic genre. Flawless production value and sound manipulation, but on top of that, super creative ideas and original concepts. You've got the habit of making each of your tracks so memorable, whether through catchy melodic hooks like in your Round 1 track, through unique instrument/synth choices like in your Round 2 track or through crazy sound manipulation and glitching like in this one. And let me tell you; this is a very, very good habit to have.
I think what I love the most about this would definitely be your sound design. Your synths are extraordinarily good, and there's a huge variety of them too! You treat us with a lot of new sounds throughout the length of the track. Even at the end, where most artists would lazily keep using the sounds and patterns they used before, you treat us with this awesome bass section at 3:43! Honestly, there are so many awesome synth patterns here, like the 0:33 arpeggios or the 1:06 lead sound that you layer on top of everything else. Another pretty small thing I quite liked was the reverb tail at 2:31. Perfect way to end that section.
You know, I keep praising you for your unique ideas and sound design, but your composition is actually pretty damn solid too! You have some awesome chord choices and make use of motifs really well to tie the track together rather than have it a directionless showcase of awesome sound design (which, I think, is a tempting route for a lot of electronic music). Plus, The vocals, unlike in Acidulus 8, are perfect here. I assume that's you singing, but whatever the case they sound really professional and funnily enough, give me these strong 80s vibes which actually work hilariously well.
I'm not the first to mention it, but some of the glitching didn't do it for me. I mean, it sounds badass at some parts. For instance, the glitching at the start and at the end, while taking a while to get used to, kind of grew on me and now I feel like the intro and outro shouldn't be done any other way, but 0:50 (and to a lesser extent 1:53)... still can't understand it! It SOUNDS pretty insane and memorable, but it really destroys the whole buildup you had going and ate up all the tension that rose through that buildup, making the more dance-like, busy section that comes right after sound much less satisfying.
Apart from that little quirk, which may even be personal opinion, I absolutely love this. You are so ridiculously good at what you do, and I look forward to your submission each round. While your Round 1 submission is still my favourite (purely because of how addicted I am to that melody you made), this comes at close second. Absolutely PHENOMENAL work.
Gosh your reviews Step, they're golden!
SO glad you liked the track! Wasn't sure at all about it. And actually you mentioned one of the things I wasn't convinced of either; which is the last seconds of the buildup. I got used to it though and thought it kind of worked. It was the effect of wanting to stay away from the typical sweep up tension cliché thing and what not.
You're right about the 80s vibes! It may be because of its disco feel or some vocal notes, not sure.
This is an NGADM Round 2 Review.
Oh damn that voice. I've listened to well over half of your music library, and I still spend most of it searching for my jaw. Your voice just gets me every time. I mention it for this piece in particular because I want to stress how good the vocal performance is here - one of my favourites from you. It's not over-the-top with complex vocal techniques but has just enough to impress, and the vocal harmonies/echoes at the end are simply to die for. And wow, from English to Danish to Greek to Chinese and now Esperanto. Don't forget to hit me and Echo up whenever you want to sing in Maltese! But yeah, fantastic job in the vocal department. I feel like vocals can easily give a musician an edge since voice is inarguably the most expressive instrument, and when you sing this well you really can't go wrong.
I'm not just here to gush over your vocals though. If there's one area you excel at more than you do at singing, it's building an atmosphere through strong compositional elements. For instance, after a fairly run-of-the-mill string intro, you instantly pull the listener into your deep atmosphere with the bassy piano notes. Your heavy amount of reverb makes this a track you can easily space out to, but instead of taking the tempting route of washing everything out with reverberation you keep the track firmly rooted in your spectacular composition with absolutely beautiful passages like 2:02's string run, 2:24's melodic piano passage or your piano outro. Major props for adding in such a suitable key change at the end too! Love it.
Honestly, the only reason I deducted 0.6 from what would otherwise be a perfect score is your mixing. It's not that it's particularly bad, but I have a complaint that I remember having on the first piece of yours I ever reviewed; Blind Maiden. There's too much focus on the vocals. There are some nice instrumental passages, but when the voice comes in it's too loud and drowns out a lot of the other instruments. I also feel like the instrument section could do with more mid and low frequencies, especially from 1:27 onwards. You'll have to strip down some of the frequencies from your voice first of course, or else it'll sound muddy as hell, but basically what I'm asking for is more balance in your mix, where the depth comes from the instruments rather than your voice, but where your voice is still clear.
Mixing quirk aside, this is really good stuff, as I've come to expect every single time from you. 9.4/10 would lose jaw to again.
Thank you for the in depth review!
I actually spent a lot of time trying to separate all of the frequencies so that they didn't clash. Also, for the first time, I added a separate volume gate envelope and manually adjusted the volume throughout the vocals at different parts to try and keep the vocals from overpowering the instruments. ^ ^
I remember when it was first pointed out how loud the vocals were in Blind Maiden last year compared to the rest of the instruments and how before that, I had never noticed. To my ears at least in this, the balance in volume sounds okay. The gain of the vocals in Blind Maiden was probably about +6.5db higher than the vocals in this in comparison to the instrumental. I'm afraid I don't hear the vocals as being overwhelming. ;_;
Thank you for your kind words Step!! I always appreciate your honest critique and really, it's invaluable.
Heya! For starters... man, the Ōkami vibes I'm getting from this make me miss that game so much. Right from the start I knew my review would instantly be biased positively, since I love that game's art direction, from its graphics to its soundtrack, and I'm getting strong vibes of that style over here. I don't know if it was an intentional nod to the style or not, but whatever the case, you really do it justice. Either way, biased or not, I think this is a very solid and well-developed piece.
I'm going to get the bad stuff out of the way first, and I'm starting with the glaringly obvious. The samples are bad quality. You can't go very far with soundfonts. Naturally I'm not going to deduct any points just because you don't have expensive sample libraries but I feel like it's worth mentioning since a lot of the sounds are pretty artificial-sounding, dry, or lacking power, especially the drums, and that unfortunately detracts from the listening experience. You deserve better samples, but yeah, money is a harsh mistress.
I feel like your intro and outro could use some work. My thoughts on the intro are more opinionated. While it isn't a bad intro by any means, you have a very fleshed out piece here, and starting it straight off with a lot of movement doesn't really do the piece justice. If you started with something more low key and subtle and built gradually into the busier sections, I think it would leave more of a suitable effect, especially in such a dynamic piece like this. The ending on the other hand sounded a little unfinished and consequently unsatisfying. I personally would've liked some more closure, rather than a fade-out into a chord that isn't even the tonic.
One other thing I want to critique is your sense of dynamics. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of moods and dynamics here, which I was very pleased to hear, but some sections fall a little short of what they could be. To me it's almost as if the track is constantly building to a high point which never actually comes. For instance, at 2:09 or 2:36 I was expected a climax to come in, but it never really came. This left the track with a lot of tension/excitement, but never any means to release all of that buildup.
Finally, on a more minor note, 1:21's harp section (and its repetition later on) are a little empty-sounding. You don't need to add more instruments there, but some additional bass accompaniment from the harp would seal the deal. Perhaps even an exaggerated amount of high-end reverb on the sparse drum hits you play in that section would give it a nice sense of depth and space.
Now that all that is mentioned, let me just say that the composition here is simply wonderful. I think your melodies and harmonies are a definite selling point. I can't begin to express how much I enjoyed your energetic arpeggios played by the pizzicato and shamisen, the gorgeous melodies played by the flute and the emotional little harp solos that play during the breakdowns. Care and effort were put into the melodies, and it shows.
A lot of other compositional aspects don't fall behind either. Your transitions are smooth, and your instrument choice is spot on. You went for a definite ethnic/eastern instrumentation with the shamisen, heavy use of flutes and array of different ethnic percussion such as the tam-tam, vibraslap and finger cymbals. What we're left with is a set of instruments where each instrument sounds complementary with the next. Props on having a mostly clear mix too! I agree I would've liked some more bass, as the piece did have that occasional tinny vibe, but I didn't find it much of an issue.
All in all, the critiques I mentioned don't significantly deter from what the focus of this track is - a fleshed-out, lengthy listening experience with fantastic composition and a clear ethnic direction. Good job!
No, this is not a nod to Ōkami, but I certainly don't mind that impression! I love everything about that game.
I look forward to the day that I can play with some of those hefty orchestral VSTs.
I wanted this piece to feel high-energy throughout (hence the chosen intro and outro). It is part of a bigger picture and anything overly low-key would end up as a preceding track rather than part of this track. That is how I presently feel, anyway. Perhaps that is not the best mentality for a stand-alone track.
I had actually initially been working on what I thought would be a more widely-accepted outro, but this one is really the one /I/ wanted for the track. I was already thinking of the criticism I would get for it before I even finished it. ;)
And I particularly like the ending chord I chose. It's common enough for songs to end on a chord other than a tonic to convey a certain feeling, and I actually see ending on the tonic as a lazy default, good in most cases, but not all. If I could show you the images in my mind, I think you would understand my choice of ending chord, but I find it difficult to express those images with words.
The 2:09 "fake climax" is exactly as I wish it to be, but I totally agree that the 2:36 part would do well to actually rise to a climax, especially as a follow-up to the fake climax. I hadn't realized that before.
Regarding emptiness, I feel that everything before 01:39 and some other parts of the track feel rather empty, but I couldn't figure out ways to fill them out without muddying the sound. I think your advice for the harp parts is good.
I'm glad that you enjoy the composition. My favorite aspects are the percussion and the shamisen- they really helped to add character to the piece. (Some of the percussion idea actually came from your piece, "The Festival".) This piece wasn't even meant to sound Eastern until I found that there was a shamisen channel in my soundfont and it didn't sound crappy and synthetic like half the other instruments did. I do have a soft spot for ethnic instrumentation and percussion. :D
Thanks for the lengthy, valuable, and encouraging review!
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