Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Midweek Music Box: Mortal Kombat the Movie Theme Song

It has begun! Yes, a brand new Midweek Music Box has arrived here on your virtual doorstep. Okay, so most game movies are somewhere between terrible or terrifically (and unintendedly) funny. They're either unbridled cheese-fests that are laughably bad, or so disconnected from the source material (lookin' at you Super Mario Bros Movie) that aside from a few perfunctory nods to game, that you would never know the movie was based on a game---

Except for, I would argue, the first Mortal Kombat movie. No, it does not have a hard "R" rating like you would expect the movie to have if it were true to the source material. However, let's keep in mind that the game itself was largely played by teenage boys, so a hard R would have any money making potential of the film.  I love the film for two reasons. First, it keeps to the basics within a PG -13 setting. The plot is thin and the characters two-dimensional, but really, do we need the exciting back story of each person? No! Just a quick intro for the key players, off to the island, and let's start some fights to the death to save humanity! Who needs plot when a kick to the face will do? Oh, and the other reason the movie is awesome? The intro music!  So let's talk real quick about music from the intro of the film:

Mortal Kombat (Techno-Syndrome 7"):

"Mortal Kombat Movie Intro"

Okay, so most of us (or rather, those of us familiar with the movie) have this intro burned into our minds like Scorpion finishes off his enemies. It plays for less than a minute, but is as iconic as this moment:

Image result for it has begun mortal kombat

However, it'd be a disservice to The Immortals, the German techno band responsible for the music, to not only not mention them by name, but to not link to the full cut of the song so here's that:

Great, ain't it? Not sure whether this or Daft Punk came first for me when I was introduced to electronic/techno music, but it was definitely one of the "gateway" songs. Its driving beat felt like an actual composed piece of music rather than empty droning. That synthesized gong hit at the beginning, leading into an electronic keyboard intro had me hooked--but then somebody screams "Mortal Kombat" and you know the song has entered into awesomeness. It has all the right elements going for it, and that's just the intro. It not only gets you into the movie, but it gets you amped to play the game. I like the game sampled audio of the characters' names being announced as it doesn't get in the way of the rhythm in the jarring way many electronic/techno songs can go. Don't care if it sounds weird to say it, but it actually sounds like a musical composition, not just "techno music."

I hope that this doesn't come across sounding like a slam, because I love techno...when it's done right. So much techno was flying about at the time of the movie. It was the hot new thing and raves were starting to happen and...well, much of the music that was meant to get your glow-stick groove on was only functional, not listenable. Maybe I sound like a snob here, but I wonder if half the techno tunes listened to back in the early to mid-90s get a listen to today and how many albums are now floating around various garages and thrift stores across the world.

Always on the hunt for retro games, I, like everyone else, do a quick search in the CD section in case a random Dreamcast or PlayStation game should happen to show up. (Sometimes I even pick up an album or two that's fallen out of popularity). Among the countless country western and Christmas CDs I don't recall once coming across the soundtrack for the movie, and I would be willing to bet that most people held on to it just for this song alone. Not all of the songs from the movie soundtrack or The Immortals inspired album hold up as well as they did in the day (and perhaps I'll cover the tribute album in full in the future). Speaking for myself though, I'll happily pop in the original movie soundtrack just to give the title track a listen because it takes me back not just to the movies, but to a time when Mortal Kombat was an arcade staple and both the game, and this song, was a must play.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Midweek Music Box: Donkey Kong Country Music

Image result for donkey kong country

Truthfully, I never have liked apes, monkeys, chimps and the like. I find them gross. Also truthfully, I'm not much into funk unless it's done right. Well, the tunes in Donkey Kong Country have just the right amount of funkiness to them that I can wash away thoughts of monkeys and just jam along to the tunes.

Intro Music:

I'd be remiss if I didn't just use the intro itself to showcase this particular track. It goes from what could be just a simple, upbeat tune--into the funky, radio blasting music. It's funny, it tries to be hip, and still has a decent basic beat that can be appreciated even today.

Jungle Hijinks:

Originally this track was actually composed as three separate tunes, but the composer (or so rumor has it) was told to just make it all into one. Well, I think it works as a continuous beat. It goes from jungle drum sounds and flows into a higher tempo as it goes along. I think this not only works for the game but just basic listening goodness. There's something about the mysterious nature of the jungle drums underneath the later half that just helps me get into a groove when I'm working on something (like writing).

Aquatic Ambience:

I hate this track. I'm allowed to say that right? It's not the tracks fault, I just don't care for music like this in a video game or even for listening to in my non-gaming time. I mean, it just feels dull to me. It makes the action on screen feel dull. I could be swarmed by zombies all about to take a massive chunk out of my neck and I'd probably be too far into a boredom coma to care. I don't get why the normally funky, upbeat music in the game takes this sudden turn where I'm reminded of New Age synthesizer music. Can't there be conga drums under water? I mean seriously!  Anywho. I just don't like this music and it makes me want to rush through the stage and never play it again, who cares about the bananas! Just get me away from that boring music before I....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Well, there you have it. Something a little different this week for Midweek Music Box, me highlighting a track that I hated. I may do this again with future articles because I think there are even some in my most beloved of series. Yes, maybe it's time to highlight some of the lesser tracks and say just why they are so bad/unlistenable outside of the game.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Midweek Music Box: The Battle of Olympus (NES)

Image result for battle of olympus nes

Beware the Ides of March! Or rather, games that are really fun but may-or-may-not be similar to a second installment of a beloved series. No, I'm not here to talk about the similarities/out-and-out clone-type nature of The Battle of Olympus and Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link. I will probably do so when I cover The Battle of Olympus for a Friday Night Rentals. For now, lets talk a little bit about the music from the game.

"Title Theme"

For a little bit, I did consider covering the music for God of War, but I honestly have little experience with the game and even if I did, I am more in the mood for something slightly more old school. And nothing quite says old school gaming music to me like the sounds made by those guys and gals over at Broderbund. (Not pronounced Broaderbound, as I used to do when I was a kid.) Anywho lets get into things by looking a few tunes:

World Map Music:

"World Map"
I like the way they tried to do trumpets and a sort-of army march drum beat in this one. It not only suits the game well, but I think it reflects the music choices made at the time. It seemed like classic films from the golden age of Hollywood had the notion that all things Greek or Roman should have continual trumpet flare and drums in order to impress upon you the...well, impressiveness and grand scale of what you were seeing. There was a certain spectacle nature to films, and I think that it is reflected in game music, in particular with this track. It suits the game well for while you are exploring and adds a subtle layer of classic feeling without being overbearing.

Temple of the Gods:

Something about this music feels more suited to a game about the Phantom of the Opera. Perhaps it's the big, dramatic pipe organ that intros the music. It drives the whole selection and makes the game feel more epic, but in a way that doesn't quite suit the game. I mean, it's great and all, but tonally doesn't seem to work. I get that's a classical piece, but it doesn't feel like the right classical piece as most audiences who recognize it will instantly think of the silent film version of Phantom of the Opera. It's odd to have music in a game that sounds well done, but jars you out of the game just as much as if it were bad.

Boss Battle:

Now this music is more like it. The low snare drum constantly in the background, the drumming, thrumming sounds. A few bleeps and bloops here and there to add atmosphere and setting and you are there for a boss battle. I love it when the old NES games make battle either sound epic or intimidating and I think this does a great job on the latter.

There's so much more I want to cover with this game, but most of it false under the purview of my Friday Night Rentals blog. SO...I guess that offers a big hint as to what a future one might be about.