4 out of 5
Label: Data Discs
Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl master)
Hiroshi Iuchi’s score for Ikaruga (斑鳩) has finally captured, for me, what divides video game music of the 80s – 00s eras from nostalgia-scented bleeps and bloops to relistenable, catchy, works of composers: quality use of percussion. As Yuzo Koshiro’s Streets of Rage was probably one of the first scores that stuck in my mind – extricated from gameplay – I think his appreciation for rock and techno, married to the hardware-of-the-time’s limitations, kicked that off, and now, with Data Discs’ 22nd release, it’s pretty crystal clear, as Ikaruga draws a pretty hard line between bangin’ tracks that are led by dense drumlines, and more orchestral tracks that fade in to background music. Hiroshi Iuchi does seem to prop the latter up against the former – that is, the heavier stuff looms large – so while the A-side drops into a sort of repetitive, celebratory orchestral trill during the latter half of track 5 (Recapture) and track 6 (Faith), the intenseness of what’s led up to that point, which is surprisingly layered to the extreme, and varied in pace as drums hit double-time at points, keeps your heart pumping throughout the less memorable moments. And on to the brilliant B-side, on which Reality reverses Recaptures loud-to-quiet dynamic, building up to the two-part score to the final chapter – Metempsychosis and The Stone-Like, which are both mini-epics, mirroring each other but also differing in tone, Metempsychosis’ ominousness shifting to the more upbeat Stone-Like.
When I first started listening to Data Discs, I took their mastering for granted. But now that I’ve done some tours through other video game score labels, and remasters of old tunes and whatnot, the quality of DD’s recordings simply can’t be beat – not to mention their consistently stunning pack-ins and artwork. Thus: another great release.