On the same day as the original soundtrack, two additional albums were released by Gust for the latest entry of the Atelier series. One of these was the Atelier Ayesha Vocal Album -Twilight Hour-, a commercial album featuring nine vocal themes from the game. The majority of these tracks are exclusive to this release nd feature a range of vocalists, including Haruka Shimotsuki.
Two tracks were added for the sake of completeness from the original soundtrack, namely "Flower Sign" and "Altair". The opening theme "Flower Sign", written, composed, and arranged by Kazuki Yanagawa, is performed by Mutsumi Nomiyama. It marks their second collaboration after "Little Crown" from Atelier Meruru. It's definitely a laidback and easygoing track, pairing the rich vocals and memorable chorus with acoustic guitar and light percussion backing. While it fits its thematic role well, it does sound a little mismatched with the pacy opening animation. On the other side, the ending theme "Altair", produced by Daisuke Achiwa and performed by series' newcomer Annabel, is a classic through and through. The melody is highly catchy, the aspirating vocals are excellent, and the traditional Achiwa-style backing of pan flute, guitars, and drums are effective. Not the most original track, but still very enjoyable on its own.
But we're mainly interested in the new themes, aren't we? Having now recovered from aphonia, Rurutia introduces the listener with the fascinating image theme "Mystic Pendulum". An absolute favorite of mine, it sticks clearly out as one of the most beautiful and enchanting compositions from the album. As mysterious as the Japanese vocalist itself, the song fuses whispering vocals and chorals with haunting soundscapes highlighting soft orchestration and electronic percussion; the sound effects of dropping water increase this atmosphere and give a nice touch to the overall theme. It's an emotional roller coaster and I adore the vocals and piano work here, especially the interlude section around 3:40 gives me the creeps it's so beautiful! A definite highlight.
Kazuki Yanagawa contributes one track, the thrilling "Thorns". Sung by J-Pop artist Nagi Yanagi, the track boasts an energetic surf rock anthem with an uplifting melody and top-notch guitar arrangement. It reminds me a bit of "blind world" from his original album Le petit bois, and even rivals some vocal themes in the same style from veteran Daisuke Achiwa. One of the weaker additions is character theme "Stars at Dusk". The composition itself is pretty cool, a soft rock song with excellent guitar harmonics. But the performance from Japanese rock band Chirinuruwowaka leaves something to be desired. While bandleader Yumi Nakashima is an excellent guitarist, I feel her vocals are really feeble here, especially in the higher tones.
The main contributor to the album is Daisuke Achiwa. Achiwa's "Dream-Weaving House" is a typical Atelier-based theme. It boasts Shimotsuki on vocals, a happy-go-lucky melody of accordion and guitars, and a nice electric guitar solo at 2:48. This track was actually featured on the original soundtrack as instrumental recorder version. Unusual for RPGs, he also incorporates two of his vocal themes as battle themes in the game. Right from the start, "Stargazer" sounds like an epic theme full of melodic power. Whle Daisuke Achiwa gives all he as to offer with a banquet of electric guitar riffs, fast-paced percussion, and piano backing, the vocals of Saya are pretty strong and stand the test against the instrumental force. With its placement in battles, these themes really help to increase the atmosphere to the maximum.
Also used as a battle theme, "MARIA" is without doubt my favorite song from Daisuke Achiwa for a long time! It stars Haruka Shimotsuki on vocals, which are top-notch like always, especially in the strong chorus section. After the grandious opening, which immediately gives the listener goosebumbs, the vocals set in to perform a sweeping and gorgeous melody. Overall, the music is pretty unobtrusive, and so there's enough room for the haunting vocals to shine. Still, Achiwa wouldn't be Achiwa without his trademark guitar solos, which appear twice within the track. Especially in the context of the game, this is an ultimate and important theme towards the finale. Yu Shimoda's single contribution, the title track "Twilight", is also arranged by Daisuke Achiwa and performed by Chinese singer Tae. The melody is really captivating and is performed in similar whispering manner, as other slower tracks from the album, in conjunction with a guitar-based arrangement.
After listening to the original soundtrack, I was pretty curious about this CD, especially given all the featured vocalists. In the end, it easily can be said that Atelier Ayesha Vocal Album -Twilight Hour- marks another fantastic addition to the series' musical repertoire. All tracks are wonderfully composed and extremely varied in terms of emotion, which range from the magical "Mystic Pendulum", to the energetic and rocking "Thorns" and "Stargater", to slower and solemn compositions like "MARIA" and "Twilight". All vocalists contribute their best as well, which makes this album an entertaining musical journey in the Atelier universe. Don't hesitate to check it out!