Welcome to Brandish Piano Collections, the piano collection that is not solely piano! Almost every song is based on the piano with various snyths and instruments layered over the top of it. Keiichi Shibata takes the arrangements to dizzying heights and for a piano collection that’s some 15 years old this original outlook on piano collections is still surprisingly fresh.
“Prologue – Bundevia” is a very solemn song with the piano plays the background to a bizarre organ-sounding soundwave that plays out a dark and sorrow filled melody. The song is fantastic and will have you feeling glum and hopeless in no time. It’s more like a requiem of beauty than anything else and captures the overall mood of the album completely. “Shop” continues this slow, glum feeling, but this time has a light string backing that fades in and away to fantastic effect. The playing of the piano is great and although there is no fast playing, the tune is complex. After a while the song uplifts a little as other instrument samples are entered. The effect is like a piano led orchestra. “Shop” is another fantastic song.
“Game Over” doesn’t have any piano for the first 10 seconds! The sparse beginning makes you feel isolated and desolate. After a minute, the tune starts, which is fantastically catchy but sorrow filled too. The balance is a fine one but it is stricken perfectly. Quite how you can make a four and a half minute version of a game over screen become such an excellent track is beyond me. “Brandish Tower” is a dramatic piece too, with a beat pounded out on the lower keys with an almost Spanish feel to the main tune. The strings are back again and work well. The chorus is majestically played with a trumpet synth thrown in for good measure! Organ join in and then play out the tune for the second time round. The pitch is perfect and although it may sound on paper chaotic, it sounds perfect to the ear.
“Cave” is the first all piano song, and it relies on a good tune to get through. It’s a beautifully played song, and the tune is infectious. “Spilling Innocent Blood” on the other hand is the least piano based so far. Congas and synthesizer waves start the song before after 45 seconds, getting to the piano. It doesn’t feel jarred but there is a big difference between the agile piano playing and emergency of the starting piece. The end is fantastic; as the last notes are played a hollow breeze begins – perfect!
“Stage Clear” starts off with a bang, before playing the melody. There is percussion in this great tune, which sounds like someone is playing the beat on a piano top. It’s another unusual twist in the album that works fantastically and sounds really organic.
“A Journey Without Rest” is a blues song and only the second all piano song. If you like blues songs, you’ll love this as it’s beautifully played, with all the frills included! “Ruins” is another piano only song, which is a little less obvious to the catchy song people, but the playing is excellent again, and after a few listens, you’ll like this piece a whole lot more than first time through. “Solders Sorrow”, the closing track, an epic 6 and a half minutes. It is played ever so fragile and gracefully and is a poignant way to finish the album and sums it all up.
Brandish Piano Collections is a rare piece of artistic beauty. Perfectly played music, with all the trimmings and all the unique twists and turns to make an epic album forever memorable. With piano collections constantly staying (especially back in 1994/5) in a set box, this really broke a mould and I highly recommend it all these later. Well done Keiichi Shibata!