What does Psamathes sound like?
A one women choir recreating some mighty fine VGM anthems.
The review of Psamathes – Sacred Groves: A Celtic VGM Tribute
I’m always impressed when someone gets expressive and creative with their video game music covers. Psamathes is a singer-songwriter in her own right but is also known as a tagelharpa player and vocalist for several video game soundtracks such as The Pathless. She’s also lent her voice to vocal libraries, and ‘Sacred Groves’ feels like a bridge between the two. This is a vocal only rearrangement of various themes taken from game soundtracks.
The sheer depth and scales that Psamathes is able to cover with her layered one women choir are astounding. On the blossoming ‘The White Lady’ from Hollow Knight, she reaches octaves you rarely hear on record. From a booming shrill cry that feels ghostly and eerie to its calming and soothing intro and outro, you feel like the track has manoeuvred through a haunted mansion. Elsewhere ‘Waterfall’ from Undertale has a beautiful ebb and flow to its rhythmic melodies that you could listen to on repeat for ages without noticing. ‘Primrose, The Dancer’ from Octopath Traveler has an operatic waltz of ‘ah-ahhhs’ that underpin actual lyrics and an aural barn dance. In many ways it reminds me of the album Final Fantasy: Pray where a mixture of folk and opera styles are intertwined creating their own subgenre.
That mixture of folk takes centre stage in certain songs. ‘Kaer Morhen’ from the Witcher 3 has some guttural bellows that really provide a powerful boost to the latter part of the track. ‘Reflection’ from Celeste is the most operatic and Roman sounding. Psamathes layers her voice in long drone hmms and oohs and amps up the reverb for a comfortably numb but grande feel. ‘Know Thyself’ from Erica is a short but beautiful choral movement. ‘Song of Healing’ feels the most Celtic of the album. It isn’t overtly Celtic but it has a shimmering isle feel to the arrangement as Psamathes’ vocals are like a backing shroud. You can’t quite pinpoint the exact note but it’s resting easily on the ear. The closing track is ‘Tifa’s Theme’ from Final Fantasy VII. As this is the track I’m most familiar with, I appreciated most how delicate and layered the arrangement is here. It’s recorded up close unlike the rest of the album and the reduction in reverb makes it sound more intimate.
What makes ‘Sacred Groves’ a success for me is that the arrangements feel like they’ve been transposed to a vocal harp. You can hear the chords have been broken day to vocal steps and everything is in constant motion. When things are still and quiet, it is purposeful. The vocal performances wax and wane with passion and elegance. This is a gem in the VGM world of rearrangements and any fans of choir music, vocal layering and game music should take a listen.
Recommended track: Waterfall (from Undertale)
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