Kota Hoshino really has baked up a plateful of indecision with the Evergrace original soundtrack.
His work on the long-forgotten PS2 RPG launch title fails to make a scratch on a considerable portion of other RPG soundtracks on offer; yet for the past month, I've found myself wallowing delightedly in what this soundtrack has had to offer.
Easily the most dominant element of the score, the vibrant, immersive choral work produced herein is really something to behold. Eighty percent of the pieces contain some sort of vocal presence, and though this might come across as daunting, I can't stress enough the importance of vocals in this soundtrack. "Sunbeams Streaming Through Leaves on the Hill" opens with a drawn-out, hideous shriek. This is followed by ethnic percussion (which, for the track's duration, is quite content to go nowhere) and is soon accompanied by female wailing. Shrieking, wailing, disorganised instrumentation... There! A concise wrap-up of what Hoshino excels at!
"Alcrest", as far as I can gather, is Hoshino's sole exclusively instrumental piece, a coaxingly playful assemblance of sitar, glockenspiel, castanet and maracas. Personally, I think it'd be much better suited to the likes of Pikmin than to a RPG. Again, we're seeing how Hoshino is just as capable of throwing melody out the window, and I for one love it.
Some pieces, particularly "Sounds of the Cavern", are unquestionably dastardly. Where various tribalistic elements of percussion and vocal work were used to wonderful effect in some of the later pieces, nothing can quite (or rather wants to) harmonize properly this time, and so the aforementioned "Sounds of the Cavern", together with "Red Gale", can really detract from the overall listening experience. To add to our list of irks, at least half of the soundtrack is brought down by structurally weak interstices. I'd pardon this, however, as nobody can expect to be greeted with absolute musical solidarity in a debut composition, can they?
I'd think it unfair to conclude this review on a gloomy note, so I'll comment on the *delicious* acoustics used in what I'd nominate as my favourite piece - "Saw it in the Circle". The listener becomes enveloped in this near-indescribable hybrid of mandolin and sitar. It pops up every now and then, throughout the track's three-minute duration, opts not to progress towards anything in particular, and showers us in a dishevelled barrage of some of the most beautifully organic riffs I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. Again, the piece doesn't fly without a soft and somewhat "unrestrained" element of chant to it. The synth quality is pretty good, overall.
Kota Hoshino has nary a chance of blooming into familiarisation as has been the case with Masashi Hamauzu or even the Noriko/Matsueda duo. I find his wonderfully natural, dishevelled, unconventional approach to be extremely refreshing.
While it's evident he still has a great deal to learn, nobody can deny the mesmerising, almost ethereal tribal flavours he has so artfully incorporated into Evergrace's soundtrack. Should he ever decide to collaborate with Junya Nakano or Yoshitaka Hirota by some unworldly occurrence, I'd be prepared for some truly remarkable results.