Songs of Healing, Volume 1 Review: A Sanctuary for Weary Souls
Songs of Healing, Volume 1 collects 20 tracks from Soundole VGM Covers oeuvre, starting as early as February 2016 and leading up to April 2017. If you aren’t familiar with Soundole’s music, he primarily arranges for Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI), but you’ll also find a clarinet composition here and there. Most of these tracks originate from older titles (A Link to the Past, Secret of Mana, and Mother), but you’ll find a few more recent titles as well (Undertale, Gone Home, and Minecraft). In addition, all tracks have been remastered and legally licensed for the album. Here’s what Soundole has to say about the inspiration for his album:
I really love it when people tell me that they use my music to relax, or as ambiance while they're working. As such, putting together an album like this — something intended to set a soothing ambient mood — is a task I've been planning to do for quite some time. I really hope you enjoy this collection. If my covers have brought an extra shred of calm into your life, I can consider my mission accomplished.
The first thing I should mention about Songs of Healing, Volume 1 is the sound quality. Soundole’s decision to remaster these tracks pays dividends because all too often, tracks released over a long period of time will differ greatly in terms of production and mastering. There’s nothing more jarring than a massive EQ shift or a spike in volume from one track to the next, so thankfully you won’t find any of that here. That said, sound quality is only one part of the equation.
From Soundole’s quote, it’s clear that he was very deliberate in which tracks he chose for the album. Typically, compilation albums will collect all tracks from a certain period of time, without regard to theme, tone, or mood. By only choosing tracks that fit a certain mood, Soundole has created a cohesive listening experience unlike any compilation album I’ve ever heard. What’s more, the album benefits from his taste in video games as well. By covering mostly classic video games, he focuses on simple, but layered melodies that translate well to EWI.
It should be stated that Soundole is pretty faithful to the originals in terms of composition and arrangements, so if you’re looking for covers that take wild and unexpected turns, this album is not for you. That said, there’s a certain care given to each of these tracks that’s hard to explain. Perhaps, the best analogy would be an archaeologist excavating ancient relics. Soundole, as the archaeologist, wants to put these tracks on display without tarnishing them or damaging them in any way. Some might say that an archaeologist isn’t an artist, but I disagree. What tools do you use to preserve a track? How do you make sure that the best attributes shine through? How do you bring these tracks to life?
Thanks to Soundole’s expressive and nuanced performance, these timeless tunes come to life like never before. Sure, his modern takes are just as good, but something resonated within me when I listened to songs like “The Boundless Ocean” or “Phantom Forest.” I felt a strange connection to these tracks despite the fact that I’ve never played the video games from which they originated. Perhaps, that’s simply the power of video game music, that it can establish a setting and context even if you’ve never played the game, or perhaps that’s a testament to Soundole’s skill. I’ve often thought that good albums creates a setting or a place for the listener. In this case, Soundole has built a sanctuary for weary souls, a place of healing and contemplation.
By his own words, Soundole hopes to bring an “extra shred of calm into your life” with Songs of Healing, Volume 1. To that, I say: mission accomplished. I can only hope that Songs of Healing, Volume 2 arrives soon as I’m eager to slip away to whatever new world Soundole VGM Covers decides to create.
Buy/preview the album here.
“The Boundless Ocean” from Final Fantasy III
“Town” from SimCity
“Phantom Woods” from Final Fantasy VI featuring Justin Woods, and Steven Morris
“Magicant” from Mother