review

Hiroki Kikuta – Lost Files Review

Hiroki Kikuta had seemingly dissolved into thin air for a long time in the world of VGM – I personally hadn’t heard of anything high profiled since “Koudelka” back in 1998. I shame for me as I had always enjoyed his works. However in 2006 he quietly released “Lost Files”, a collection of unused songs he and written that were never placed in games or released on a soundtrack.

“Mona Lisa Overdrive” opens up with Hiroki clearly stuck in the early 1990’s synth mood, setting the mood for the album. In a very typical arcade sound, its a clunky and offbeat electronica rush that is slightly confusing and doesn’t really make sense. However “Newromancer” is a classic song sounding like it should have been used on something like Outtrun! A lead electronic guitar gives the main theme with overactive oragns giving us all the action hamming up in the background. Great stuff. “Burning Chrome” sounds like it came from “Soukaigi” only it once again is synthesized not instrumented but again is a very good track which some fun tweaks to it. “Catch A Falling Star” sounds like a Mega Drive era song which strangely plays a happy quirky song but seemingly all in minor chords because its cleverly off kilter all the time. “Oceanic” closes the first section of tracks with a beautiful crystallised melody quite reminiscent of “Seiken Densetsu” crossed with “Shadow of the Beast”!

We are then presented with a ten minute epic “Something Wicked on the Way” which opens like a cheesy 1980’s synth-pop song and stays that way slowly evolving its way through with different verses but coming back to the same chorus. Its a nice song but it is indeed a tad too long. It does make you a happy bunny though if you like synth music. “A Long Trip To Teatime” is another happy track using the same synth set again which reminds me of traditional arcade music. If you do not enjoy those sounds then sadly this CD is not for you at all. “Knight Moves” is more of a battle piece with heavy percussion and bass and not a lot else until a very funky piano riff kicks in. “The Einstein Intersection” is another weird track using brass stabs as a large part of the arrangement which completely throws the rest of the complex track out of proportion. The basis of the track is good indeed, if not called “Seiken Densetsu” era music but the brass stabs just jump from nowhere! Maybe it will grow one me… “A Scanner Darkly” gives a small Arabian tinge to the music with rolling adagios throughout before unexpectedly “A Small, Good Thing” gives us an acoustic guitar led track – the first real slow track of the album and its much needed too even if there’s not much to it, its still a nice simply melody.

Phase three of the soundtrack is a six-track flowing piece. Each section is called “Tenryo-to Kitan” followed by its part number. The synths are now updated to pretty much “Soukaigi” level. The opening part is very typical of the game actually and suddenly the album leaps into a new higher level after the early tracks were good but nothing special. Part 2 is a fun sneaking song by the sounds of it with some funky bass and electric piano. Part 3 sounds like a percussive heavy battle track with some vocal ad-libs thrown in for good measure and reminds me slightly of his “Koudelka” battle works. Part 4 is an excellent work of giving scope with not many instruments. It reminds me a bit of the “Chrono Trigger” arrangements for some reason – the same beats and jazz workings. Part 5 is another fast paced piano led battle track before Part 6 gives us a beautiful stadium rock finale to the section – a song that really uplifts you.

The final track of the section is “The King to Elflands Daughter” where we have what seems a very up to date synthed track. It’s elegant harps, strings and flutes backed by big percussive thuds are really quite something and I’d actually say this is my favourite track from the CD.

Hiroki Kikuta’s “Lost Files” face a similar problem as albums such as “F.F.Mix” does. They are unreleased track compilations and marketed as never-before-heard-gems. While some of the tracks are very good it must be said, a few of the earlier tracks on the album are let down because of the synth work chosen. I am a huge fan of very early VGM however I think the songs here could have benefited from being upgraded to today’s standard of musical genius. Sometimes the cymbal crashes just hiss too much over the main tune, or the ambient pads are too harsh to be calming. If they were unreleased tracks, we’d have never known if they’d been upgraded! However it has whet my appetite for more Kikuta and I hope we hear more from him soon – his latest track, the final on this album, is a corker.

One comment

  1. Excellent synopsis. Kikuta’s among the most imaginative and independent artists in videogame music. I’d be interested to hear more about Alphabet Planet and Concerto!

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