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Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 Original Soundtrack :: Review by Don

Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 Original Soundtrack Album Title: Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Lantis
Catalog No.: LACA-9235/6
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Yuzo Koshiro returns for the next entry in Namco's Wangan racing series, Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4. As with the rest of this series, the music features an overall trance atmosphere, but incorporates some diverse other stylings and vocal performances too. Compared to his previous entries in the series, how does it compare?


Despite being the sole composer of Wangan Midnight, Koshiro manages to infuse his music with lots of styles and ideas, making the album flow with variety while still maintaining the style of the previous entries in the series. The album opens with "Entry Maxi4" and, out of all the entry music in the series, I feel this is the best. While repetitive, it definitely has that peppy, enticing sound mixing heavier dance beats with trance elements that really get you in the mood to race. The album also ends with a remix of this theme titled "Entry Maxi4 (Terminal Mode)" and, in my opinion, manages to take the fantastic original and elevate it to something even better with its focus on subtle piano tones, softer percussion, and light electronic components providing an almost hypnotic sound that really pulls the listener in.

Of course, there is a lot of music that captures the Wangan spirit in essence. "Never Throw Away" is a shining example of this and is also one of the best tunes on the entire album. In many ways, it feels like a refined version of the style used in "Stream of Tears" from Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune. The combination of trance and piano is heavenly and really manages to grab the listener's attention. The trance beats and trance accompaniment really capture that Wangan sound and embody the racing spirit. "Driving Energy" also captures this mood, albeit in a much peppier sound overall, but still manages to lure the listener in with its infectious beats, wonderful synth tones, and a great sense of energy. Even though the melody line itself is a bit on the repetitive side, there are a lot of accompanying elements that really help provide some variety to the track. "Madly Driving" is another such tune that follows a similar flow to "Driving Energy," but at the same time, has a bit more of a menacing sound.

The Wangan trance sound is also combined with some harder techno beats in a few tracks as well. "No Turning Back" and "Live With You" both incorporate similar approaches with ethereal trance samples with those heavy beats that really get you in the racing mood. With "No Turning Back," Koshiro incorporates some vocal samples that give off a lighter tone, compared to the heavier, intense trance elements while at the same time. "Live With You" has a bit of a darker tone, making me feel as if this is one of the final racing tracks. The heavier elements are nice, but I find the chaotic opening and the manipulation of the synth elements to make it sound as if a car is zipping past to be extremely effective. This track is quite long though and is repetitive, so it may turn some listeners away. Lastly, "The Final Count Down" is another favorite of mine on the album and really reminds me, in some ways, of "Black Pressure" from Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 with its incorporation of choir. The choir is one of the key elements of this track and one that really manages to make it stand out amongst a sea of purely instrumental themes. While the beat definitely gets you pumped, I feel that the accompanying synth with its higher pitched sound is another element to this track that makes it stand out so much.

Of course, there are a few themes that rely more on providing a darker soundscape. "Dark Side Style" is a personal favorite of mine, providing a hard techno style that incorporates a variety of sound effects, from wobbled synth, manipulated synth to sound like a car's engine revving up, distorted synthesizer, vocal samples, and an intense beat that just hammers down on the listener, providing an atmosphere like "Evil Association" from the third title, but much more developed and chaotic. While not nearly as complex, "Control Your Music" also manages to capture that oppressive sound with heavy beats, distorted synth, vocal samples, and an exhilarating beat. Of the racing themes, I'd say that "Black Zone" is one of the most intense. While it may not be for everyone, I really enjoy how Koshiro manages to provide an extremely oppressive environment that relies on hardcore beats and sinister synthesizer tones. While it isn't the most melodically developed theme on the album, it definitely manages to ooze atmosphere.

There are also a variety of other shorter themes that have varying success. "Result Maxi4" also features some heavy dance beats with trance elements giving off a sense of victory, but at the same time, it doesn't really manage to stand out amongst the other tracks on the album. "Time Trial Maxi4" suffers a bit from repetition, but overall manages to capture the listener's attention with its heavy beats and synth manipulation. "Eternal Circle" is an excellent trance theme with a great use of gradual buildup to create an engaging atmosphere while "Peace and Comfort" has a very interesting vibe, sounding almost like a trance tune with some dance beats that has some Caribbean flavors to it. I'd definitely imagine hearing this at an island party. Lastly, "Midnight City" is one of the more unique themes on the album, opening up with solemn choir tones before moving into a groovy dance beat. As the theme progresses, the choir is added back into the mix and some trance lines are thrown into the mix to tie the track in with the overall style of the album. Overall, it's quite successful.

There are two substantial themes that stand out on the album for their unique styles. The first, "Glory Days," is an amazing dance tune that combines elements of jazz, soul, funk, and trance music. The soulful vocal samples and strings accompaniment really help set the tone of the track; however, what really sets this track apart as one of the best on the album is the amazing saxophone incorporation featured throughout. Norihiko Hibino plays an amazing saxophone passage that really manages to bring the energy of the whole track to another level. The other track, "Highway Discipline," is rock oriented. It combines powerful guitar riffs with trance elements in the accompaniment and features an ample amount of vocal samples, some of which I recognize from Ayako Saso's tune "Do you play?" from Nanosweep 3. I wouldn't be surprised if the rock/electronic fusion was even partially inspired by her style of music at times. In the end, it's a fantastic track that really manages to capture the racing energy.

There are also three vocal themes present on the album. Dragon Age's Aubrey Ashburn contributes two performances to the album, but, unlike her operatic approach in that soundtrack, her vocal abilities are put to a different use. The first, "Drifting into You," is an extremely funky track featuring plenty of bass guitar, groovy dance beats, funky synthesizer accompaniment, and some exquisite piano tones. It's an extremely satisfying track and Aubrey Ashburn manages to excel with her fast-paced slightly sung spoken word vocal contribution. Her other contribution, "Re-Birth," features a similar style vocally, although due to the nature of the track, the chorus is sung. It has a very pop-like feel vocally, but I think it really fits with the trance accompaniment and dance beats. Of the two themes, it's my least favorite, but one I can't stop listening to, nonetheless.

The last vocal performance on the album belongs to Emi Evans, known for her work on the NieR soundtrack, and is an absolute gem. "Taillight" follows in the footsteps of Koshiro's previous Wangan vocal works by Paula Terry, but at the same time, I think that Koshiro has truly managed to perfect the Wangan sound with vocals with this track. The trance tune is impeccable, providing a wonderful racing energy, while at the same time, providing those intoxicating synth tones. However, because the vocal performance is more prominently featured in this track, compared to those featuring Paula Terry, the overall experience is much stronger. As for Emi Evans' performance, her wispy, ethereal approach really excels in this format. While she has had experience singing with trance tunes on onoken's Blue Orb album, I think her vocals are more suited for this type of trance style. In the end, this is the vocal highlight of the album. I hope for future collaborations between these two artists as they are a wonderful match for one another.


In the end, the Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 Original Soundtrack is definitely Yuzo Koshiro's most diverse soundtrack in the series. While some fans may be disappointed that the trance focus isn't as strong as in previous albums, I think this album has the potential to draw more fans into the music of the series. Fans of Emi Evans' vocal work will at least enjoy her contribution to the album while fans of harder techno styles or even electronic fusion work will be drawn to tracks such as "Black Zone" or "Glory Days," respectively. This is definitely the best of the Wangan Midnight soundtracks, in my opinion, and should definitely be sought out by fans of Yuzo Koshiro's electronic music.

Overall Score: 8/10