By luck - and only luck - did I come across a domestic copy of 'The Bouncer' soundtrack at a pop music department at a mall. I had only heard brief summaries of the game itself, and not owning a PS2, didn't plan on having it for quite a while. The soundtrack was terribly cheap, and I figured it would be one of the few cheap videogame soundtracks I would ever purchase. 'Cheap' only in value based on currency, mind you. I would've been happy to spend more on it.
The first thing to be mentioned regards Square and their sound production colossus -- personally, I find the best original scores with them (the best games as well!). 'The Bouncer' is yet another step into a new branch of musical genius at its best. The composition credits are given to Noriko Matsueda (Front Mission, Racing Lagoon) and Takahito Eguchi, each very versatile in their calling. Unfortunately, there is plenty of ambiguity as to who composed what - my copy of the soundtrack doesn't specify.
Each track is a mix of live instrumental and vocal performances superbly mixed with fine synthesizer techniques and equally stunning samples. The first 12 tracks, not including the prelude, are all character battle themes to my understanding (it IS a fighting game). The next six or so are more environmental, symphonic tunes to fit specific scenes. The final two are the main theme to 'The Bouncer' and an extra bonus track only included on the domestic version of the soundtrack.
The first track is probably the most 'wild', and every following track doesn't do much to revive its rather erratic nature. I don't find it to be extremely enjoyable - good thing it's short. The next track, "Sion Barzahd", surprised me from the second I heard the first sustained, ominous note. Whether it was due to the unattractiveness of the preceding track, I'm not sure, but I immediately forgot about the money I spent listening to the clever rhythmic progression leading into the powerful main melody driven by a rocking electric guitar. What surprised me more was the piano interlude - not a harsh piano as would seemingly fit the tune but a mellow, bluesy piano that fit even better. Very suitable main character battle music, I think.
The third track, "Volt Krueger" is another blast of innovation that has kept it as one of my favorites since I purchased the CD. The introductory electric guitar will throw you off the mood I believe the rest of the song sets you into for this character; it's a pleasant surprise. Bagpipes make a very unusual, but seamless appearance here (they had a brief phrase in the first track, as well). The song is summed up with an excellent synth instrument solo that is mastered with flawless filtering.
One of my favorites, "Mugetsu", features another very innovative blend of both a flute and tenor sax solo, each performed by the same musician, Hiroshi Matsumoto. And both are amazing performances, especially with the sharp sound of the flute's upper pitches. And I am admittedly in love with the tenor sax phrases - they almost sound like improvisation, but I'm not sure. Come "Dominique Cross" who's namesake is, from my very limited knowledge, the lead female, some listeners may be reminded of a similar chord progression from "Mars, Bringer of War" of the Planets Suite. Dauragon C. Mikado must be fairly important to have three different battle themes, each contrasting remarkably. I found "Dauragon C. Mikado: Awakening" to be particularly enjoyable due to a very soft, beautifully flowing piano/string introduction that evolves into an almost jazzy, covert-sounding piece.
After the character themes comes "Prologue" (interesting to have such a song placed halfway through the album), which I can only assume is the opening music. And it's very eerie as well as emotional. After it comes one of the most haunting, moody songs I've ever heard, "Disquietude" with it's crazily bowing violin and heavy dissonant orchestra hits, not to mention a very ghostly choir and piano. The only bad thing here is that it is a loop simply repeated a few times (other following tracks are similarly looped). But that's bearable. "Distant Rain: The Cross Children" is beautiful and sad, reflecting a very mysterious plot about the story.
The soundtrack, for me, wraps up gorgeously with "Forevermore" (I'm omitting more than half of the extensive title). The first two minutes of warm, yet heartbreaking music truly can make you think about the happiest and the saddest moments of your life at the same time. The flowing string ensemble is carried through with a consistent piano. The second movement is, more than anything, a flawless J-Pop experience. Of course, many listeners may find the vocal theme too cliche for them, but I will support it in the fullest. Not only is the singer, Reiko Noda, very talented, but she sings the melody with a subsidiary emotion merging tenderly with the background music. In a slightly twisted way, she reminds me of Whitney Houston. Nothing too offensive. Anyway, I'm particularly fond of the simple synth bass drum beat that jumps into triple-meter for additional effect, along with the nice string background. It's a pleasant pop ballad, and not too stereotypical in my own opinion.
The final track is, in essence, a very bland reprise of one of the lesser (but not poorer) themes on the soundtrack, "Kou Leifoh". I didn't notice much remixing at all in the track - I usually stop listening to the CD after "Forevermore" because of it.
A very important thing to note here is that the bonus track is exclusive to the domestic version of 'The Bouncer'. Unfortunately, the real original soundtrack has about eight or nine extra tracks - whether they would be worth an extra $20 or not, I'm not sure. In conclusion, I'm satisfied enough with the 20 or so worthwhile tracks on the domestic version. I recommend this soundtrack to anyone who's really into creative, adrenaline-boiling music driven primarily by eccentric electric guitars with appropriate wah effects and heavy synthesizers underlined by heavy drum rhythms. Oh, and it's great jamming-in-the-car music, too. The Bouncer Original Soundtrack is another Square masterpiece I don't believe deserves to be snubbed by any fan of videogame music and/or of electronica.