Gentle Love is a collaboration between pianist Ayaki and well-known game music composer Norihiko Hibino. Combining their efforts in arrangement and playing, the duo perform “Prescription for Sleep” live – a soothing take on all thing video game music with some great choices for reinterpretation.
Opening with “Lifestream” from Final Fantasy VII, the piano gently wades in and out as it gains fluidity and momentum, much like the spirit wave the song is about. There’s a hint of saxophone quietly purring in the background on occasion but it’s really the piano that takes centre stage as it forms the main melody. A heartening opener that only gains momentum with “Dire, Dire Docks” from Super Mario 64. The piano covers the main chords and the saxophone becomes the main melodic voice. What I love about the saxophone playing is that it’s never raucous and has a hushed velvet tone to it. The two instruments are never in competition and they interplay in the more rousing parts perfectly. A more unusual but excellent choice is “Song of the Ancients” from NieR. It feels almost like an improvisation wrapped around the sultry and sombre theme but I could listen to the duo playing variants of it for hours and not notice the time go by.
“Lost Painting” from Castlevania Symphony of the Night is more of a pacey jazz bar number. There’s a shuffle to it that really works with the original theme and leads nicely to the deliberate and macabre “Maiden in Black” from Demon Souls. This track is minimal in its delivery as it tentatively shifts notes and chords. It takes repeated listens to get into but there’s a lot there for those that want to look. “Main Theme” from Genso Suikoden starts off very close to previous arrangements of the theme before veering off down its own more bluesy and warm path. It’s a far more cheery tune that the previous two and that makes for nicer dreams when sleeping! The closing section is particularly dreamy.
“Singing Emotion” from Chrono Cross is possibly the happiest track on the album. It’s perky chords and happy frills of the saxophone shine and it’s the kind of backing track you’d have in a 90’s tv movie romance on a Sunday afternoon… only good. “A Wish…” from Secret of Mana on the other hand goes for delicate beauty. The high notes of both instruments and the emotional sway during all the performance is magical. I really felt like I was in a warm embrace or cuddled up in musical warmth. “Auriel’s Ascension” from Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion has the marked distinction of being the only track with any percussion on and even that’s more shimmering jangles than actual drums. However the way it adds to the mystical chord progression elevates the track. The closing piece is “Aquatic Ambience” from Donkey Kong Country which is a fluid and beautiful piece. I love how the piece slides up and down the octaves with ease. It’s probably along with the NeiR and Chorno Cross arrangements, my favourite piece.
Prescription for Sleep does just that – it lulls you into a beautiful mood. I had the hump and now having listened to this album I feel refreshed and less like I want to murder someone. I say a raving success from the master of calm! Gentle Love all round!