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The Travelers VGM -“The Travelers” Review

Going back to the forest for ancient game music arrangements
The Travelers VGM
The Travelers VGM

One of my favourite soundtracks of all time is Kumi Tanioka’s Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. It’s simple and warm melodies are made 1000 times better because they are beautifully performed with ancient, organic and real instruments. Enter The Travellers VGM, whom take this style of instrumentation but put it to good use by arranging a variety of game tracks from various RPG’s. Frankly – I’m in heaven.

Opening with the sumptuous “Calm Before the Storm” from Final Fantasy X, we get one of the few literal translations from guitar over to something more akin to a travelling troupe. It’s recording quality is superb and the added rhythm and robustness really gives an amazing song more life. “Twilight Street Inn” from Shadow Hearts 2 turns a synth based piano styled track into an Irish jig. The transformation of the arrangement makes you see the track in a whole new light and the same can be said from so many of the tracks. “Cave of Dran” from Dark Cloud is lifted up from its somewhat MIDI inspired original to have that gypsy folk quality the original soundtrack had but is fully fleshed out now whilst the woodwind from Chrono Trigger’s “Vinden Bevaeger Mig” is inspired.

“The Place I Shall Return to Someday” (Final Fantasy IX) is given a pirate-y acoustic shanty feel with vocals. The lyrics are lovely but they feel a little too cluttered in places. “Ancient Beasts Lay Dormant” from Seiken Densetsu 2 on the other hand is a woven fabric of guitar, wind and string. That whole soundtrack has been begging for a lush acoustic rearrangement and this makes the prospect more tantalising. Romancing Saga’s “Balle Coimhthiocha” is cute and clunky like a child’s nursery rhyme whilst “Seipeal” from Final Fantasy Tactics has a nordic nobleness to its French like courting dance.

“Clockwork Town” shows that the band can also make their own music as it appears to be an original work that reminds me so much of Xenogears Creid  – one of my favourite albums of all time. Part Iona, part Celtic and folklore mystery – I was entranced by this track from start to end. Interestingly Xenogears is next with “Ath-cheangal” with a slightly detuned pipe. It’s lovely to hear unusual instruments taking centre stage and although this version is not as graceful as the original, there is something quite sombre about a lone pipe player going full blast in your ears. Indeed, the album itself slowly turns more Eastern with its arrangements and instrumentation as “Taydellinen Keho” from Final Fantasy Tactics plays with high guitar note picking and bowed instruments to make a more creepy take on a battle track. Legend of Mana’s “Diddle’s Organ” is more like a folk legend’s tale being told in music. You can almost hear the warrior taking its final stand to the minimal guitar, woodwind and drum taps. The guitar has a wonderful solo here and more should be made of the artistic directions individuals want to put in for future albums. “Dissipating Sorrow” from Final Fantasy IX is a faithful recreation in many ways although whistles and fiddles take over to evoke a death knell British sensibility about the whole track.

“Last Battle” from Xenosaga is a six and a half minute eargasm and a culmination of all the instruments working together in unison. It’s powerful and magical in equal measure. The way it switches instrumentation about but keeps the force of the music pushing forward is a testament to the arrangement skills of the band. Bravely Default closes off an amazing album with “Is Tusa Mo Dhochas” – a sombre but free-spirited track which has a skipping beat to it and so takes a couple of listens to really get into.

The vast scope of RPG’s included and the style changes across the album is also what really sticks out. There’s not a poor track here and I feel like I’ve been a journey, healed and returned home again a wiser man after listening. An absolute must for any game music fan and also for anything whom enjoys folk music or ancient instruments. It’s a critical hit!

Recommended Track : Twilight Street Inn

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