Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian :: Review by Harry and Dave
Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian is an arranged album by Hiroshi Hata and Hidenobu Ootsuki, who go by their respective nicknames 'HATA' and 'KALTA', and call their team GUIDO. Like their previous arranged albums Chrono Trigger: The Brink of Time and Xenogears Creid, this album is highly experimental, but is more electronica-based than jazz or Celtic. The title is a little misleading, since 'Electrical Indian' refers to the last track on the album rather than the theme of the album; though electrical, an Indian theme doesn't appear to be present.
Five of the original team who worked on the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack have at least one of their themes arranged, with Yasunori Mitsuda, Masashi Hamauzu, Junya Nakano, Yasuhiro Kawakami, and Ryuji Sasai all featuring. Yoko Shimomura, Noriko Matsueda, and Kenji Ito are sadly not featured, though the track selection remains good. The arrangements are all written to near-perfection, and at the end of it all we have a brave and daring new album. In terms of its electronica approach, only the Parasite Eve Remixes comes close to rivaling it in the field of Square arranged albums, and there are too few remix albums available from the company.
1) Character Select (One Nation Under A New Groove Mix)
The original version of this track is definitely the strangest character select theme that I have ever heard, and this has to be the strangest character select arrangement that I have ever heard. The track starts off in a rather trudging fashion, and there is a person who shouts out every now and then. A looped trumpet melody then follows, and the frequent input of a deep male voice really gives it some more activity. With a wonderful drum beat in the background, this track really moves, and it is such a change from the original too. The track begins to pick up so much variation towards its end, and the persistent looping trumpet melody just keeps the whole track going. Although the end seems rather abrupt, I think that it is a superb way to end the track. This is one of the most effective starts to an arranged album that I have ever heard, and it seems like it sets the pace perfectly for the rest of the tracks too. The album already has a unique feel to it, and I rate this track as a perfect ten. (10/10)
2) Your Name Is... (Summer Resort Guitar Mix feat. Hata)
The second arrangement on Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electric Indian is Yasunori Mitsuda's "Your Name Is...," which gets spruced up by the Guido team, with Hata playing the jazz guitar. The arrangement sticks to Mitsuda's original melody, but adds dominating electronic drums, a repetitive double bass, and, as mentioned earlier, a jazz guitar. The smooth, jazzy chill-out feeling of the original composition still remains strongly intact, and with the new live jazz guitar performance, it can only get jazzier and more relaxing. I'd say that the new guitar passages aren't very memorable nor do they try and grab your attention, but you can still thoroughly enjoy the feeling when it's playing. That said, the track is also strongly based on the original's construction, which is the arrangement's weakness, as once it builds to its maximum potential, it tends to get repeat very quickly. "Your Name Is... (Summer Resort Guitar Mix feat. Hata)" may not be the most creative arrangement on the album, nor is it the most interesting, but the great chill feeling it sends you makes up for its faults. (8/10)
3) Poltano (On The Corner 1996 Mix)
This track begins very much like the original, but this time the melody is dampened and a muffled radio noise sound is added. The same dramatic rising pizzicato chord sequence still remains, as does the original melody. An interesting improvised part in the bass is extremely effective, and it is only when we are thrown into a mass of noise around the 2:10 mark that the track starts to get moving. The sections after 4:00 have to be my favourite in the track, as it sounds so much more head-on than the rest of the track. The bit that I love the most is the part after the 4:30 mark, where there is a change in rhythm and a bit more improvisation in the bass. This isn't the best arrangement, as it doesn't vary too well from the original, however it has an extremely memorable melody, which just makes it superb. (9/10)
4) Hills of Jugon (Kaltechno Mix)
Junya Nakano only has one track arranged on the Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian album, and luckily it's a great one. Here, the GUIDO team use the synth noises found in the background of the original track and they turn it into the main melody. They also concetrate on Nakano's traditional ambience that was used in the original track, and then they analyze the key features whilst layering them all together. Like the vast majority of the tracks on the album, this track has a slow and steady introduction with NES-esque synth. As the introduction progresses, another synth sound enters and plays the same melody but at a different time. After this awesome introduction, we are treated to an excellent middle section which incorporates both forms of electronica and techno. The track ends on a high note by returning to the introduction's synthesizers, which I thought was a great way to end a fantastic track. (10/10)
5) Vision On Ice (Space 2003 Mix)
Masashi Hamauzu's last arrangement on the Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian album is most definitely odd and peculiar. If I were to compare it to another video game music album, it would definitely be closely related to the Xenosaga Original Soundtrack because of its icy 'Space Odyssey' feeling. The GUIDO team took an already ambient tune and transformed it into creepy electronica. The GUIDO team seems to have a unique ability which enables them to pick out the shortest of melodies and turn them into a main theme, and this is a key feature throughout these arrangements. I must admit, at first I prefered the original, but as I started to listen to it multiple times, I changed my viewpoint, as I realised that this track provides a great amount of wonderful imagery. You can easily imagine an icy outer space environment with civilization living around the outskirts. Such powerful imagery already makes this track a must listen. However, the track is pretty simple, and the mixture of an ambient melodic and experimental synth clash. Yet, this track his impressed me, by not only surpassing Hamauzu's original composition, but also through the addition of flair. Genius composition + Creative ideas = Masterpiece. (9/10)
6) Disused Mine ('70s Underground Funk Mix)
The track starts off in a rather minimalist fashion with a drum beat and some popcorn noises. More synth instruments are added over this to create a very industrial effect. The main melody line in this track isn't as distinct as it was in the original, and this is because the accompanying line plays a much more prominent part, which is definitely an improvement. This track is a whole two minutes longer than the original, and the reason for this is the wonderful development. A variety of rhythmic changes, contrasts, and musical devices are used by Kawakami in the original to give it a really interesting and dark vibe, which is nicely emphasised by GUIDO. There is a part where the track changes pace, and this is at the 3:12 mark where we are given some shocking chords. From this we are thrown into a nauseating part, which really sums up the whole of the track. I have to say that to create a remix of such diversity from the original can only be done with extreme skill. This is a great track, and as with the other tracks, it is a real influence on the game music world. (10/10)
7) Electrical Indian (Bon Festival Dance Mix with Afro-Martians)
The original theme was always extremely cheeky, and this arrangement is not too short of this either. The title track begins with a strange piano melody, which is then accompanied by a drum kit. Synth instruments follow this, and the most prominent addition after this is an electric guitar which plays out a wonderful melody. The piano part stays the same throughout this track, and it is what happens over this that matters. This is a perfect Mitsuda track, and it just brings out his and GUIDO's creative side perfectly. It is a shame though that each part isn't brought out as well as they would have been on other tracks, however; the drum kit is far too prominent in this track, and GUIDO seems to make too much of a big deal out of its beats, which stay the same throughout the whole track anyway. The ending could have been a bit more effective, but this is a wonderful track, and it is easily one of the best on the album. I can certainly see why the album was named after this track too. (9/10)
"Perfection" isn't an every day term in the real world, game world, or even in the VGM world. Simply nothing can be perfect, and even this album has flaws. Still, Yasunori Mitsuda, Masashi Hamauzu, Junya Nakano, Yasuhiro Kawakami, and Ryuji Sasai are an awesome tag team and their work from the Tobal No. 1 Original Soundtrack ensured this album had a lot of potential. I was curious to see whether the arranging duo that went by the name of GUIDO would do as good a job here as they did with the Chrono Trigger: The Brink of Time album. The result wasn't perfect, but was revolutionary.
Most arranged albums that contain more than one composer usually contain a few 'bland' or 'average' tracks, but in this album, there are no tracks like that. Most of the tracks featured in Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian are closely based on the original's composition pattern, so don't be disappointed if your favorite tracks from the Original Soundtrack don't get arranged in a totally awe-inspiring way. The best track example of this statement would have to be "Your Name Is... (Summer Resort Guitar Mix feat. Hata)" because there are no different changes to the arranged composition's structure as it remains the same as the original's. But after saying this, there are also a number of tracks which have been totally revamped. This is probably most evident in Yasunori Mitsuda's "Electrical Indian (Bon Festival Dance Mix with Afro-Martians)" as the Guido team really jumble around with the melody and the style.
Although I mentioned that the album was 'revolutionary', it does bare its flaws, and they are extremely visible from the start of the album. For starters, Guido decided to arrange the original compositions in an extremely risky style as the there aren't too many fans of electronica or ambient video game music. Another very restraining 'faulty' feature would be the fact that the arrangements don't really have the 'pull' factor that most arranged albums have, but this problem can easily be overlooked if you listen to the remixes on a repetitive basis. So what do I think of Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian? Well, to put it quite simply, it is a masterpiece. Not perfect, not flawless, but a masterpiece. Why do I think this deserves such a high recommendation? Simple: because VGM hasn't seen an album quite like it before. Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian is possibly one of the highest peaks that game music will ever reach.
Overall Score: 10/10