Various Artists ‎– Okami

3 out of 5

Label: Data Discs

Produced by: Shaun Crook (vinyl remaster)

Confirmation bias: Data Discs’ presentation of the score of Okami – composed, across its 50-some tracks by Akari Groves, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Masami Ueda, and Rei Kondoh) – is one of its most ambitious, and beautiful yet.  It’s a comprehensive (though apparently not complete) capture of the music, and given an appropriately expansive box set of 4 colored LP, a 40 page artbook, a lithograph, and a sturdy, gorgeous container in which this all fits and looks great on your shelf, and I felt that the music had exactly the kind of lush, delicate, calming tonalities that this veritable work of art suggested to my never-played-Okami self; and I noticed that I was appreciating this synchronicity, and the craft of the boxset – flipping through the artbook – more than I was really connecting with the music.  I go to the internet and note that the Discogs‘ comments seem to focus on the presentation as well, not so much mentioning the score; other reviews talk about the music’s lack of an immediate punch, though being rewarding when given a chance.

I’m sure deeper searches will find thoughts that disagree with mine, but after a couple of listens, I’m okay with seeing what I’m seeing, even if its biased towards confirming what I’m hearing: instrumentation that’s befitting of a game focused on Japanese folklore – pastoral, soothing themes – that are absolutely more organic and layered and composed than what one might imagine of PS2 era games, but also themes that, quite often, drift into one another and don’t quite establish a feeling beyond their gentleness.  There are some moments that swirl up with momentum, and with fascinating contrapuntal beats, appearing on at least one or two tracks per side of LP – scores from battle scenes, to my understanding – which prevents the score from fully drifting off into the background, but these are also pretty fleeting tracks; the experience doesn’t center around them or lead into them so much as allow them to shimmer into existence and then fade away.

But: you can sit there and look at the artwork, and hold up the pretty pink and white LPs and lithograph, and be thoroughly satisfied, humming vaguely along as the soundtracks whisps from your player.  I don’t know how often I’ll be slipping these vinyl out of their box and setting needle to them, but it’s a mighty fine looking boxset on my shelf.