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Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 24 - Rave Racer :: Review by Chris

Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 24 - Rave Racer Album Title: Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 24 - Rave Racer
Record Label: Victor Entertainment
Catalog No.: VICL-15048
Release Date: October 21, 1995
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Rave Racer, unofficially known as Ridge Racer 3, rounded off the early years of Ridge Racer series on the Arcade. It was the last in the series to be principally scored by Shinji Hosoe and co. given they were preparing to leave Namco for Arika. In retrospect, the departure of Hosoe's team from leading the Ridge Racer scores was a good thing — their hard techno approach to the series was inaccessible and was quickly becoming old. It also gave way to Namco's new sound team to show off their creativity with masterpiece scores such as Ridge Racer Type 4 and Ridge Racer V while accommodating Hosoe, Saso, and Sano as guest contributors along the way. Nonetheless, did Hosoe, Saso, Sano, and Aihara save the best till last with Rave Racer?


Sound director Shinji Hosoe starts things in an encouraging way with "Linx On" and "Rave In". While both are short generic techno tracks, at least they don't feature the cheesy announcer that superficialised the introductions of the three prior Ridge Racer soundtracks. Megaten really starts to reflect the rave feeling with the first race theme, "Wrong Love"; with booming bass lines, fast treble frills, trippy female vocals, and percussive interludes, what could be better for getting the crowds jumping or, eh, the engines revving? "Rotten7" maintains the aggressive feeling with hardcore beats and boisterous voice samples. In another good move, it seemingly replaces the "Rotterdam Nation" track after it had become old and frustrating on earlier albums. "Yoyoreri" keeps things eccentric with yodelling against more electronic beats, but is probably going too far for a racing game, whereas "Heat Floor" is another hyperactive rave track.

Later in the soundtrack, Ayako Saso makes a few contributions to the soundtrack. "Kamikaze" maintains the hard edge of Shinji Hosoe's contribution, but opts for a more mainstream approach; her booming bass riffs are more infectious than Hosoe's and the voice samples aren't quite as disturbing either. "Euphoria" also captures listeners with catchy bass lines and anthemic melodies. Much of the development section actually has a retro touch, initially highlighting warm chiptune melodies before focusing on elated shooter-style rhythms. Of all the contributions on the disc, this one probably sounds most like conventional game music, though it also works well on the course it is used in. More controversially, Saso preludes the Sampling Masters albums by combining reggae voice samples with electronic beats on "Heart of Hearts"; like so many of these tracks from the team, I don't think offering a few voice samples should be a reason to ignore the other elements needed to make a composition rich and enjoyable.

Series mainstay Nobuyoshi Sano makes his largest contribution to date on Rave Racer. Following an aggressive introduction dominated by orch hits, "Jazz Mission" becomes a serene nu jazz piece and is certainly a curious twist on sanodg's usual musicality. "EXH Notes" is perhaps the most colourful piece on the soundtrack, creating serene and dynamic soundscapes with fast ascending treble figures, electronic bass lines, and individualistic piano passages. There are vocal samples in this piece as well, but fortunately they're not the primary focus like in "Heart of Hearts" or "Yoyoreri". The choral work of "Teknopera" is very similar to that of the controversial Drakengard, although the accompaniment is electric in both timbre and mood. Yet again, he arranges "Rare Hero", but who's complaining? The original was a delight and this remix keeps things fresh with a mixture of chillout beats and elating melodies. His final contribution, on the other hand, is a short tribute to Rally-X.

Although a relative outsider to the series, Takayuki Aihara makes a couple of interesting contributions to the score. "Blue Topaz" is one of his most bizarre tracks to date, blending so many stylistic elements into an ever-changing mix. Sometimes it's dominated by jazzy piano runs, other times by tropical percussion, and yet others by crazy voice samples and electronic samples. I personally think that it uses so many random elements to hide its vapid core, though perhaps someone out there will make sense of the track. "Water Front (Ambient Mix)" is a more mature contribution. Some might be misled into thinking it is one of Sano's contributions with its opening electronic figures, though it soon encompasses Aihara's hydridised sound with drum 'n bass beats, funky treble motifs, ethereal synth pads, and the odd voice sample. Although it's very long, such a track is probably needed to close the album in a peaceful manner.


Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 24 - Rave Racer was a decent way for Hosoe and co. to lead out their main contribution to the Ridge Racer series. The team upped their game after the uninspired Ridge Laser by creating more diverse and refined tracks while rejecting those gimmicks that grew old in previous albums. Each contributor offers something interesting to the album, whether Hosoe's wild raving mixes, Saso's catchy bass-driven anthems, Sano's deep eclectic soundscapes, or Aihara's enigmatic fusions. However, the compositions are pretty inconsistent with fantastic works like "EXH Notes", Euphoria", and "Water Front" featured alongside random and superficial tracks like "Yoyogeri", "Blue Topaz", and "Heart of Hearts". There is also an issue with accessibility and many won't find much at all to like here. Nonetheless, this album alongside the Ridge Racer 2 soundtrack are worthwhile for fans of Hosoe and Sano.

Overall Score: 6/10