The concept of Illmatic Envelope, the title of which was inspired by one of rapper NAS' albums, is electro, according to Kou Hayashi and Daisuke Nagata. However, they also wanted to throw in some hip-hop influences and elements of randomness as well. While each of their soundtracks is quite different from one another, this one definitely manages to add some interesting compositions to their repertoire. How does it compare to some of their other works?
The majority of the major themes are composed by Daisuke Nagata. The tutorial music, "Hermit Network," definitely incorporates the hip-hop sound they were aiming for in some of their songs. The theme effectively employs the use of some scratching, some hip-hop influenced beats, and some electronic effects. Although repetitive, it definitely has great energy and is a great way to start off the substantial themes on the soundtrack. The first stage theme, "Phantom's Dance," mixes together a pretty intoxicating beat with some ethereal and futuristic soundscapes. It has a fantastic energy that really helps to counterbalance the mellower sections heard in the theme. Overall, it's quite successful.
"Maguro," the second stage theme, features another fantastic beat. It's more energetic in nature than "Phantom's Dance," and has a pseudo-industrial dance soundscape to it. The addition of electronic effects helps to give it a bit of a playful air. Both the melody and the synth are quite strong and really help to reinforce the futuristic vibe. The fourth stage, "I Wanna Be With You in this World," is easily my favorite of the Daisuke Nagata stage themes. It's the most energetic of the bunch, featuring a great tempo, a fantastic retro-sounding melody, some sexy beats, and I love how it opens up with a distorted chiptune-like sound. The piano section is particularly impressive, mixing great beats with portions of the A section.
The other themes that Nagata is responsible for include the boss theme and the final boss theme. "Pizza Phat Iller," as always, shows how experimental and surprising Nagata can be when it comes to boss music. Heavy industrial beats mix with distorted synth and high-pitched electronic effects to create a sense of chaos. It's one of his best boss themes in my opinion. The final boss theme, "Channel Fannel," features a style that, at first, is very unlike what you hear in most popular shmup games. It's rather subdued opening leads you to believe the entire composition will be quite calming, but some fantastic beats, some electronic beeping, and a slight rock influence help make this a much more energetic theme in the end.
The rest of the soundtrack features music by Kou Hayashi. The stage three theme, "Roofie," is an extremely diverse piece that mixes some slick beats with some mellow, beautiful piano work while also incorporating some more upbeat sections. The melody, although sparse, definitely shines in the mellow section of the music. Next up, "Mr. Radio Shock," the stage five theme, incorporates a similar style to "Roofie," in the fact that there is an extremely driving beat mixed with a slower section that features some slick beats and some excellent electronic mixing. Overall, this is another fantastic theme by Hayashi that has a great melody and a great sense of direction. The true final boss theme, "Killer Tune Store," also starts in a very subdued fashion, with an elegant mixture of ambience and crystalline synth usage. For the most part, the subdued nature is kept throughout the piece as the crystalline synth and piano fantastically mixes with some excellent sporadic industrial beats. It's easily my favorite tune from this soundtrack.
The album also features two remixes by showerheadz, an alias of Kou Hayashi. "Roofie -showerheadz remix-" feels a bit fuller, overall, due to the incorporation of some new layers, some subtle, some not. The piano section, once mellow and slow, also features a more upbeat tempo now, and isn't featured as much. Still, it's a pretty good energetic mix. Lastly, "Killer Tune Store -showerheadz remix-" is my favorite of the two remixes. It still features the subdued, more calming nature, despite the frequent and more prominent use of a variety of beats. It definitely is more voluminous in terms of layering and really makes for a fantastic listen that only improves upon the original.
Overall, Illmatic Envelope is a very successful soundtrack with tons of variety in terms of the "electro" sound that the composers were aiming for. Those who wish for more upbeat boss themes may not find those compositions to their liking, but from a compositional standpoint, they are quite sound. The stage themes also feature a variety of effective techniques and the two bonus remixes really help to accentuate the originals. Although I find it weaker than ChaosField and Karous, it's still quite a successful album.