Synth Album Review: Voltz Supreme, "Synth VGM Remixes Vol.3—Underwater & Slightly Moist Themes Part 2"
The second album of Voltz Supreme’s “Underwater and Slightly Moist” video game music remixes was the stronger of the pair in my view. The interaction between his choice of music to cover, the ability of analog synths to produce full, rich sounds and to extend those sounds over long periods and his tasteful approach to the remixing process has created a tranquil album with moments of deep sea darkness and flashes of sunlight on tropical seas.
I felt that thematically there were stronger links between Voltz Supreme’s choices of tunes on this album. One track moved seamlessly into the next without becoming too similar, but they all maintained a distinct floating, gliding sensation. The end result was that, as I listened through each track, I felt that Voltz was guiding me on a journey through the oceans and seas of the world from sparkling surface to mysterious depths.
His usage of analog synths here was well-calculated. Those analog synths can create rich, full sounds, impart a feeling of true aquatic float as they can sustain notes virtually forever and give the impression of sunlight on water with their high, chiming tones. In combination, they reinforce the sense that we are seeing the great diversity and complexity of the aquatic world.
The first volume of these remixes was perhaps more energetic as a whole, but for me there’s more depth and power to the second volume. I think that it was the album that most generated aquatic imagery in my mind and kept that mood up for its entire length. It evoked all of the varied moods and states of water.
Now we get to my favorite part of the review, the part where I break down those tracks that I most enjoyed on the album!
Of all the tracks on this album, “Aquatic Ambiance” has to be the quintessential “water” track. Dave Wise’s atmospheric soundtrack for Donkey Kong Country was one of the defining soundtracks for any SNES game and Voltz approaches it with the reverence of which it is fully deserving. The imagery conjured by the tranquil shifting sounds is intense and the ability of synthesizers to create full, deep sound and long sustained pulses of that sound is well-suited to expressing that imagery.
When the percussion floats in, it adds some structure to the track and then the main melody, played on a pipe-like synth, warm and full slips into the track over that rich undercurrent of bass. Shining synth arps sparkle through like sunlight on water as that melody soars and a solid rhythm establishes itself, pulses of synth moving into it, as though carried by a current. Voltz really does an excellent job of capturing the feeling that Wise had created on the track with his analog synths and sensitive approach to the music.
Masashi Hamauzu is one of the golden era of VGM’s classic composers and “Besaid Island” is a fine example of his work. It’s a gentle track that begins with the wash of waves and a soft bell on Voltz’s remix, feeling so soothing as the synths produce those extended sounds that ethereally float through the track. The drums dance lightly into the track, moving it along without feeling overwhelming. Here the way the synth chords simply add depth and warmth adds so much richness to the sonic world of the track.
Arps spin and wheel through those extended sweeps of sound, giving the track the feeling of slipping along the surface of the water. Voltz has really emphasized the way this track moves, all of his sounds seem designed to reinforce that soft, watery movement that is created. I feel so soothed and cradled by this track, evoking the sensation of a boat skimming quickly across glass smooth water.
Voltz Supreme’s remix of “The Sandy Beach of Gumbo” composed by Noriyuki Iwadare for Grandia emphasizes the yearning, almost melancholy atmosphere of the melody. This is a track that just pulled all the tension out of my shoulders as I listened to it.There is warmth oozing from Voltz’s synths and the delicate melody is played on a light synth that echoes and reverberates gently. I also really dig the way Voltz slides the synth up to notes, reminiscent of a slide guitar. His remix highlights the heart-piercing emotion of that melody and the very gentleness of the track only heightens the slightly mournful nature of its emotional expression.
Yasunori Mitsuda had a real gift when it came to writing ethereal music and “October Mermaid” from Xenogears is no exception. Voltz has chosen a suite of sounds that complement the rather tragic feeling melody on this track. I enjoyed the choice he made of including a vocal, choral sound that added a reverential quality to the music and rumbling synth bass that held it up. His choice of a lead synth that has reverb really showcased Mitsuda’s gently meandering melody. The shining arpeggios that move through the track bolstered the “watery” nature of the music.
The music that Toru Minegishi wrote for “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” continued in the footsteps of Koji Kondo but brought a unique musical sensibility to the series. Voltz showcases his tranquil melody with a background of rising and falling notes that create the sensation of floating on gentle waves, carrying the listener over the cool water’s surface. The bass under it continues to emphasize that floating feeling. The overall sensation of this track was one of being soothed and cradled. It has a certain lullaby quality to it that I found quite lovely.
By the conclusion of the album, I felt that I had been swept along on a tide of music that moved from light and shining to something altogether darker and more mysterious and back again. Voltz Supreme has combined all of the elements of this beautiful music with his own skilled touch on the analog synths to produce a lovely journey through an aquatic world that left me relaxed and ready to listen again.