Keiichi Okabe + Shotaro Seo
NieR Re[in]carnation Original Soundtrack


3.8
excellent

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell STAFF
February 16th, 2024 | 3 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is a music website.

Soundtrack reviews tend to be insular testimonials that fixate on the author's experience of the film/game in question for the exclusive benefit of an audience who likewise has seen/played it – and fair enough! Who else would want to read what (if handled right) is essentially a review-in-disguise for a wider multimedia experience, or paw their way through however many haphazardly sequenced themes that memorialise vistas, confrontations and emotional beats they lack a contextual framework to recreate?

So, I have never played Nier Reincarnation and hold little to no interest in doing so. Much as I adored Nier Automata and maintained patient intrigue through Nier Replicant, even a storyteller as uniquely talented as game director Yoko Taro at extracting profoundly moving narratives from kitsch dalliances and absurd world-building couldn't persuade me to sit through however many hours of avaricious gacha bollocks as this mobile-only title apparently holds in store. No thanks! Don't you go there!

But do listen to this record! Composer and frequent Taro collaborator Keiichi Okabe has long since perfected a distinctive style of largely neoclassical New Age that leans heavily on gauzy, suspended chord-heavy progressions, underpinned by insidious diminished cadences and breath-stopping vocals in nonsense-languages: a shrewd complement to the games' contrast between faded colour palettes and enigmatic imagery, but hardly any less stunning outside of this framework. On the level of individual songs-motifs-progressions-arrangements, Okabe's work on the Nier OSTs constitutes some of my favourite music of the past decade, but the past soundtracks have been too vast and unwieldy to earnestly recommend to anyone without some sense of prior investment. Take the Nier Automata OST, with its three, hour-plus discs that
・sequenced battle and pastoral themes against one another haphazardly,
・followed the order the pieces appeared in the game almost religiously, and
・demanded to be stripped for parts and reorganised by a dedicated listener.

Too bad, non-gamers! But no such obstacles to entry here: the Nier Reincarnation OST is an altogether different story format-wise, although it re-affirms everything entrancing about Okabe's signature style. In keeping with the (presumably) downscaled scope of the mobile game, the soundtrack cuts his epic tendencies down to sparse arrangements, nurturing a prevailing tone of gentle suspense and extending this even to the battle themes, which blend disarmingly well into the tracklist if heard sequentially. You should hear them sequentially! This OST works excellently as a holistitic listen, in part because it refuses to indulge any given piece beyond the demands of its background-friendly loopability (thanks to which the whole soundtrack runs at a modest(-ish) 57 minutes). Factor into that a cohesive aesthetic across the whole package, and you're left with – essentially – a conventional music-album as you've come to know and love such things – in you go!

User-friendly formatting aside, this thing's appeal is as writ as the notes on its sheet. There are several points on this OST that perfectly illustrate the haunting motifs and subtle progressions the whole thing deserves to be sold on, none moreso than the central highlight pairing of "Ikō" (#8) and "Shinpan" (#9). These two tracks are melodically striking as Steve Reich bouncing over an entire trampoline's worth of assorted, spongifed mallet instruments. Both show off the quality common to all great New Age: an untouched plane of unworldly mystique, grounded in enough pathos and intrigue that the listener has all the bearing and motivation they need to send their imagination out a-plunder. You'll hear this in "Shinpan"'s uneasy string accompaniment, which follows a chord sequence far more portentous than the initially colourless piano motif suggests, constantly pointing at unseen nuances within the composition, or "Ikō"'s flurry of future-exotic arpeggiations and indecipherable mantras. "Kaikyō" (#5) has a similar it-factor in spades, perhaps the most reminiscent piece of the earlier Nier OSTs in the way it seems to sinister patterns around unseeable shapes but no less arresting for it, while the most melancholy piece on the soundtrack "Aun" (#15) is another great highlight, weary in a way that seems to keep its guard firmly up. These pieces are overtly fantastical, yet subtly suggestive enough to furnish their own context for anyone without a prior reference point – getting lost in them is as simple as blinking twice with a deep breath. The only substantial drawback I've found across the OST is that the background-oriented pace of each pieces coupled with their brief individual runtimes is somewhat passive in scope across a full listen, but the strength of individual cuts is generally sufficient to offset this.

Though Okabe's compositions are the main event here, this is not his OST alone. A minority of tracks on this soundtrack were delivered courtesy of co-composer Shotaro Seo, who has collaborated with Okabe on soundtracks since 2018. Seo's pieces almost keeps pace with Okabe's – though his vocal arrangement on the battle track "Gōgan" (#17) is somewhat cluttered (as, in fairness, is Okabe's on "Shikku" (#14)) – but never fully overtake them. By and large, Seo favours a slightly drier take on the same atmospheres Okabe specialises in here: his compositions are a little less wondrous, a little more sober, more neoclassical than New Age. This provides a fair, if less distinctive, complement to Okabe's work that neither steals the show nor extends beyond its welcome: Seo's "Sabigoe" (#12) is a particularly strong piece with a stirring vocal, and I look forward to hearing how he pairs with Okabe across future, since-released OSTs for the same franchise. Mirroring the different phases (or whatever) of the game, a second, separate volume of the Nier Reincarnation OST dropped last year, and I believe we will be due a third at some point. Happy eating, nerds and norms.



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user ratings (2)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2024


60588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

tl;dr I have no idea how to access this legally outside of splashing out on a disc or trawling a cluster of very unhelpfully named Youtube uploads (often of alternative versions?), but it's a rare soundtrack worth grabbing and jamming album-style with full disregard for the source work

brainmelter
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2024


8336 Comments


I want to hear this, nice write up nerd

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
February 20th 2024


32047 Comments


I knew by the summary that this was a Johnny review XD

I've never played any Nier game but always heard good things about the music.



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