Music Review: Synthetic Orchestra Video Game Orchestrations
I’m only human, despite Andrew’s suspicions, so there’s no point denying that because I’ve been promising a review of this album since before Christmas, I’m tempted to simply give the album a glowing review to make up for my failings.
But I’m not going to do that.
Instead, I’ll give A Collection of Orchestrations: Video Game Orchestrations vol. 1 by the Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra a glowing review because it’s a wonderful piece of work. As the name suggests, the album is the work of one man, Blake Robinson, who creates and performs all of the music through sample libraries and music software. Blake’s music attempts to replicate the sound of a real orchestra performing , and I’m glad to say that it succeeds.
Having not long come off of reviewing an album of video game music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, I was ready to be little underwhelmed. Normally, you might expect the work of a one-man-band to sound empty, hollow, or obviously artificial given that it’s recorded entirely on digital equipment, however that’s not the case. Blake’s work is full of life, multi-layered, and textured. If you were to listen to the album without any prior knowledge of its provenance, it would be frighteningly easy to mistake it for a live orchestra.
Overall, the album has a more relaxed, ambient feel than a stirring, uplifting feel. There are moments where the tempo speeds up and things start to feel heroic, grand, and sweeping – the Gears of War tune that opens the album, and the Morrowind or Deus Ex tunes for example – but overall it’s an album that you may want to plunder for background music during a pen and paper RPG session.
The full tracklist is as follows:
- Gears of War (Hope Runs Deep)
- Minecraft (Sweden)
- The New Zealand Story (New Zealand Round)
- Silent Hill (Theme of Laura Reprise)
- Deus Ex (Theme)
- Rule of Rose (Main theme)
- Super Metroid (Crateria Zebes Planetfall)
- Assassins Creed II (Flight over Venice)
- Banjo-Kazooie (Treasure Trove Cove)
- Duke Nukem 3D (Stalker)
- Halo 4 (Green and Blue)
- The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind (Nerevar Rising)
- Bioshock II (Back to the Bottom of the Sea)
I’m not actually familiar with many of the original versions of the tunes on the album, so it’s difficult to say if any of them are objectively “better” than the originals. My opinion may not matter much to you on that score anyway, given that music is such a subjective thing. Trust me though, none of the tracks on the album are disappointing in any way. I loved the Minecraft tune in particular. The original version is a nice little ditty — laid-back and pleasant enough to listen to while you’re chipping away at a mountain — almost like a lullaby. The version on the album is a beautiful piece of music
For gamers of a certain age, there are a couple of nice throwbacks to bygone games, with New Zealand Story, Super Metroid, and Banjo & Kazooie all getting their time to shine. The Metroid tune is the standout track of that bunch – it’s a wonderfully moody piece, all ominous violins and ethereal chants, while the other two have the happy-go-lucky feel you’d expect.
If there’s one problem with the album as a whole, it’s that the tracks are all quite short. Only two are longer than 3 minutes, and the rest are even shorter. That’s an incredibly nit-picking thing to point out however, given that that’s really an issue with the original tracks themselves, and perhaps the inevitable downside of choosing material from such a wide range of genres. It might be nice to see future releases by Blake focusing either on specific genres or franchises or going for tracks with a unified mood. Again – nitpicking.
I’ve got no hesitation in recommending that you pick up A Collection of Orchestrations. Although the selection could be a bit more varied, there’s something on here for everyone – if you’re specifically looking for plenty of up-tempo, heroic style music, then you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. For everyone simply looking for an excellent selection of music, then you could do a lot worse than picking up this album.
A copy of this album was provided to Giant Fire Breathing Robot for review purposes.