THE STAR ONIONS FINAL FANTASY XI- Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel

STAR ONIONS FINAL FANTASY XI- Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel, THE. Booklet Front. Click to zoom.
STAR ONIONS FINAL FANTASY XI- Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel, THE
Booklet Front
Composed by Куми Таниока / Наоси Мидзута
Arranged by Куми Таниока / Масато Кода / Наоси Мидзута
Published by Square Enix
Catalog number SQEX-10050
Release type Game Soundtrack - Official Release
Format 1 CD - 10 tracks
Release date August 24, 2005
Duration 00:53:17
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The Star Onions are an ever-changing group of performers dedicated to performing the legendary music of Final Fantasy XI. Their first album Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel attempted to be very different by offering jazz, synthpop, and piano solo versions of the traditional organic pieces from the franchise. Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka, and Masato Kouda each asserted their individuality with their ten arrangements while a group of in-house instrumentalists, guest artists, and synthesizer operators interpreted them. While the performances are good, the track choices, arrangements, and overall direction for the album are often more dubious. While the album focuses mainly on jazz and synthpop music, the album becomes increasingly varied and muddled towards the end. It seems like most people find something to like in this album due to the sheer divergence of the material, but there are relatively few who appreciate it as an overall work. Let's find out why...


The album opens with an emotional solo piano arrangement of "Vana'diel March". The impressive feature about this piece is how arranger and pianist Kumi Tanioka ensures it subtly intensifies, developing from a simple rendition of the main melody with some light and basic harmonies into a sumptuous and harmonically rich arrangement. Compared to most Final Fantasy Piano Collections arrangements, this is surprisingly simple, but Tanioka's beautiful performance and the multifaceted development make it a gorgeous addition to the album nonetheless. A short but sweet introduction. At the centre of the album, there is an increasingly poignant improvisation based on Chains of Promathia's "The Forgotten City - Tavnazian Safehold". This arrangement isn't quite as successful, however, since it wanders aimlessly during the introduction and nearly always adheres to diatonic chords. The arranger Naoshi Mizuta adheres too much to his ostinato-based style here, though at least performer Tanioka is able to bring the most out of limited material. According to Final Fantasy XI's concerts, Tanioka's performances like these are very popular, so are likely to be a big draw of the album.

Following on abruptly from "Vana'diel March", Naoshi Mizuta's arrangement of "Metalworks" is the first of several saxophone-led jazz performances. The soprano saxophone lines are quite enjoyable because of Osamu Koike's performance, though the rest of the arrangement is too simple and bare. The harmonies merely comprise some endlessly repeating motifs while the saxophone is never given the chance to improvise. To make matters worse for the piece, a synth motif is featured for most of the duration that grows irritating very quickly. Other similarly styled tracks also raise eyebrows. The once vibrant and catchy "Selbina" is transformed into a sloppy synthpop tune. The meek piano and guitar lines do not compensate for the fiddle for the original while the plodding bass line features excruciating synth and drowns out the renditions of the main melody. Tanioka's take on "Mog House" sounds very cheesy due to its pop-influenced chord progressions; in particular, the first minute constantly swaying side-to-side from sounding like an instrumental version of a nursery rhyme to being an opening riff of something you'd expect from a wannabe boyband. The piece gradually improves, most remarkably with the addition of a piano-focused section after the 2:00 mark, though the introductory passage soon recapitulates and proves to be as tiresome as ever.

Mizuta's most wholesome contribution on the album, "Rolanberry Fields," makes up for these failures. It is more developed and a little more instrumentally balanced, integrates several well-done solos, and, best of all, doesn't feature the repulsive synth instrument that made "Metalworks" and "Selbina" so unbearable. Once again, it is soprano saxophone-led and Koike does a satisfying job emphasising the relaxing beauty of the original melodies. The piano also plays a well-done jazz solo at one point, which is loosely improvised and just makes the listener want to sit down with a cup of coffee and chill out. Just like the original, Rise of the Zilart's "Kazham" opens briskly with Tsuyoshi Sekito's overdriven electric guitar riff but deviates to become a saxophone-led ska arrangement. Koike plays with great naturalness, giving the piece just the edge it needs, and his integration of more jazz techniques makes it even better. That said, the arrangement is dragged out for six minutes and the number of repetitions of the bass riff between each verse is just ridiculous. It'd have ben fine were its track time halved. Masato Kouda also contributes a groovy synthpop track based on "The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah". The sacred original material certainly doesn't fit with the cheap porno music style adopted here. It's technically proficient unlike some of Mizuta's arrangements, but simply tasteless as well given the original material...

The end of the album moves away from the jazz approach with two very controversial arrangements. Kouda's thunderous techno interpretation of the final battle theme "Awakening" is certainly a stylistic misfit, though at least it is emotional and colourful. It maintains many of the samples that made the original so powerful, with passages dedicated to synth vocals, organ, pizzicato strings, and tribal drum beats, though there are underlying beats throughout as well. Unfortunately, most of these beats tend to detract from the original material and give a superficial gloss to the theme. It sounds more like a half-decent novelty remix that OverClocked Remix would come up with rather than a particularly artistic elaboration. It's still enjoyable, but just a bit cheap. Definitely the most cringe-worthy addition to the set is the gospel interpretation of "The Grand Duchy of Jeuno" in "Blessed in Her Glorious Light". It requires a lot of skill and ambition to transform such a traditional piece into a jazz ballad and Masato Kouda manages to adjust through employing strong lead vocals by Andrea Hopkins, mostly convincing backing singers, a sleek piano accompaniment, and some strong synthesizer solos. Even with these successes, however, the concept is totally off and there are so many parts that sound incredibly cheesy. Nice attempt, but the idea just didn't work.


Was this album worth the wait? Its inconsistency makes this question difficult to decisively answer. The arrangements range from decent yet conservative interpretations of the original material ("Rolanberry Fields", "Vana'diel March", "Kazham") to competent yet misguided stylistic experiments ("Awakening", "Blessed in Her Glorious Light", "The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah") to stinkers reeking of badly synthesized synthpop ("Mog House", "Selbina", "Metalworks"). Everything is disappointing or flawed in some way, although most will tend to find one category of pieces to like, and the album is weak overall due to its inability to achieve stylistic coherency. Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel is still worthwhile for those who don't mind this since there is "something for everybody". However, those looking for an enjoyable and balanced Final Fantasy XI arranged album rather than a scattered collection of experiments should try The Star Onions' second album Sanctuary instead.


Music in game


Chris Greening


When Naoshi Mizuta and the The Star Onions (consisting of Mizuta himself, Kumi Tanioka, Tsuyoshi Sekito, and various guest performers) announced that they would be performing an arranged album to accompany the Final Fantasy XI Original Soundtrack, everyone expected that it would be made in a style somewhat similar to other arranged albums. However, what they came up with was rather surprising, but at the same time very refreshing. Instead of going in the usual direction of an orchestrated, or even a piano album, they mixed various styles all on one album. The result on the whole might not be to everyone's tastes, but there is certainly something to accommodate all fans of the game and beyond.


Typically, the album itself starts off as you would expect, with the first track being a remix of "Vana'diel March," the original menu music for the game. Kumi Tanioka does a good job converting this from its originally powerful orchestral format into a much more soothing piano rendition, which, while not being overly complex to begin with, certainly builds up well during the duration of the piece. This is definitely a fitting opening track to any arranged album and one which this album should be proud to have. Unfortunately Kumi Tanioka's arranging skills are only heard one other time on this album though, in the sixth track, which is an arrangement of the "Mog House" theme. Some might consider this a shame, and I am one of them. However, the quality of the other arrangements is more than worthy, so we will forgive Kumi's arranging talents not being used on any other tracks.

Although Masato Kouda is not officially part of The Star Onions, his talents were also used when producing this album. His arranging skills were put to good use on the pieces which didn't necessarily suit the style of The Star Onions, and they were remixes of the "Sanctuary of Zi'Tah," "Awakening," and "The Grand Duchy of Jeuno." The first from the list is probably the best track on the album, which is fitting because the "Sanctuary of Zi'Tah" music is probably one of the best pieces from the Final Fantasy XI Rise of the Zilart Original Soundtrack. I don't think the arrangement could be more perfect if they'd tried, and I don't think anyone expected an arrangement of the piece to sound anything like this. When it first starts, with synthesisers and smooth warm pads, it sounds distinctly like nothing previously heard on the album and it only continues to impress as the piece develops. "Awakening" is similar in the respect that it doesn't stick to the styles previously set down by the pieces previously heard on the album, but I don't think it stands out as much as it should have. It's not a bad remix by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't necessarily think it was one of the best pieces from the Original Soundtrack to select when deciding which to remix.

Quite a few of the other favourites from Final Fantasy XI were remixed, though, and the job of remixing those fell to Naoshi Mizuta, with performances from The Star Onions. While I will admit that on first playing, the pieces didn't impress all that much, they certainly have a lasting appeal that grows on you; even if some are unconventional remixes, like the "Metalworks" and "Selbina." Mizuta's remixes on the album really are quite impressive and, when comparing them to the originals, it makes them sound even better. His selection of instruments really complements the pieces that they are chosen for. To use an example of this, the distortion guitars that play the background riff for the "Kazham" remix really don't sound like they would work in the grand scheme of the piece, but in reality they provide a good introduction to the rest of the piece. It's this attention to detail that really makes Mizuta's remixes stand out.

The flagship vocal arrangement though, which was arranged by Masato Kouda, is the remix of the "Grand Duchy of Jeuno" music. Again, this piece is very unconventional when compared to the rest of the songs on the album, but listeners should have got used to this by now. The piece itself is arranged in a Jazz style, with a lead singer and background group being accompanied by a classic Jazz kit, and piano. I have to admit that, if you told me that they were going to remix this piece into that style, I'd think they were crazy. However, it seems like I am the crazy one, because this remix is actually rather good. Obviously it doesn't have the same type of power that the original piece had, but it does have a very lasting appeal to it, and the piano really does play the backing for the lyrical melody well.


In conclusion, I think this is actually a very good arranged album. Unorthodox, yes, but I am very glad that an album like this has been produced. You can hear too much of a good thing, and by experimenting with different styles in this album, I think they have given a new breathe of life to the arrangement of Final Fantasy music for future albums to come.


Music in game


Jared Smith

Also released on iTunes for $9.99.

1. Vana'diel March

Arrangement: Kumi Tanioka
Acoustic Piano: Kumi Tanioka
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

2. Metalworks

Arrangement: Naoshi Mizuta
Soprano Sax: Osamu Koike
Programming & All Other Instruments: Naoshi Mizuta
Music: Kumi Tanioka

3. Rolanberry Fields

Arrangement: Naoshi Mizuta
Soprano Sax: Osamu Koike  E.Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito  Bass: Naoshi Mizuta
Programming & All Other Instruments: Naoshi Mizuta
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

4. Kazham

Arrangement: Naoshi Mizuta
Alto Sax: Osamu Koike
E.Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito  Drums: Hiroki Murakami  Bass: Naoshi Mizuta
Programming & All Other Instruments: Naoshi Mizuta
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

5. The Forgotten City - Tavnazian Safehold

Arrangement: Naoshi Mizuta
Acoustic Piano: Kumi Tanioka
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

6. Mog House

Arragement: Kumi Tanioka
E.Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito  Acoustic Piano: Kumi Tanioka  Bass: Naoshi Mizuta  Drums: Hiroki Murakami
Programming & All Other Instruments: Kumi Tanioka
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

7. The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah

Arrangement: Masato Koda
Programming & All Instruments: Masato Koda
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

8. Awakening

Arrangement: Masato Koda
Programming & Mixed by: Masato Koda
Music: Kumi Tanioka

9. Selbina

Arrangement: Naoshi Mizuta
E.Guitar: Tsuyoshi Sekito
Programming & All Other Instruments: Naoshi Mizuta
Music: Naoshi Mizuta

10. Blessed in Her Glorious Light -The Grand Duchy of Jeuno-

Arrangement: Masato Koda
Lyrics: Michael-Christopher Koji Fox
Japanese Translation: Kenichi Iwao
Vocal: Aundrea Hopkins
Chorus: Aundrea Hopkins, Carol Gadsden
Drums: Hiroki Murakami
Programming & All Other Instruments: Masato Koda
Artist Management: Dagmusic
Music: Naoshi Mizuta
Album was composed by Куми Таниока / Наоси Мидзута and was released on August 24, 2005. Soundtrack consists of 10 tracks tracks with duration over about 55 minutes. Album was released by Square Enix.

CD 1

Vana'diel March
Rolanberry Fields
The Forgotten City - Tavnazian Safehold
Mog House
The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah
Blessed in Her Glorious Light -The Grand Duchy of Jeuno-
23 июня, 07:22
Основное имя teufelsbratscher
23 июня, 07:22
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