So…. it is no secret that I hold no love for Toby Fox’s music on Undertale. I find it the most musically immature score I have heard recently. Its 100+ compositions are underdeveloped, lacking depth, and emotional resonance. I did NOT click with it. BUT something happened when Doug Perry and his team of arrangers from the Materia Collective chose to arrange music from this game I so abhorred.
I listened to it just to give it one last chance… and I am quite glad I did!
The album opens with an amazing track called “Home” featuring the wonderful voice of Saskia Kusrahadianti and some really smooth electro beats. It takes me back to the more old school soulful electro beats of 90s pop song from the likes of Whitney Houston and Paula Abdul.
This has to be a fluke right? Well just when I asked myself that, I hear “Detritus” by Sean Schafianski and I really love the groovy mix of instruments. You have percussion, glockenspiel, sax, flute, piano, bass, clarinet, marimba, oboe to create this complexity that the original did not have.
Ok but this can’t be right?!
Track after track, I find myself enjoying what I am hearing. Even Bonnie Bogovich’s arrangement “Inner Monologue of a Bird Waiting on the Edge” holds some comedy with it’s Henry Phillips like lyrics. Or David Peacock’s “Another Medium/CORE” which provides so much lyricism and modern classical textures using strings, harp, and winds.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention Doug Perry aside from the opening paragraph…
Doug’s “Undertale Variations” is a full on marimba arrangement greatly expanding on themes from the score and providing a complex and experimental departure. It also shows how skilled Perry is as a marimba performer.
There is even world music on here! Laura Platt’s “The Last Soul” is a nice combination of world stylings with its exotic percussion and wonderfully arranged wind leads. Like a call through the ages, this song hits all the world buttons. “Waterfall” by May Claire La Plante is another world styled piece and has a nice ancient folk sound. It really sounds as if water is cascading down into a tranquil lake. I love the part when the piece picks up a bit adding Asian instruments and some monk-like vocal accompaniment.
The acoustic guitar is getting some love with “Brazilian Home” by Matheus Garcia Souza. I love the Bossa Nova sound of this guitar piece! The chords are so delicious! Jobim would be proud, Matheus! And keeping with worldly textures, Felipe Salinas gives us some nice Latin beats with “La Historia de Abajo”. I love the samba-like style here and it really can brighten up a gloomy afternoon! “Spear of Justice” by Daniel Romberger has a mariachi sound to it and I absolutely LOVE it! “Hotel (Cafe Version)” by Tim Rosko is another good Jobim-like arrangement but more centered around some great vocal work! I love the smooth direction of it!
As if it didn’t already sell me, I hear “Garbage Dump Stomp” by slambob. I love the toe tappin’ nature of this song. Right from the Golden Age, this song really gets you going. I am a jazz and a fan of trumpet (mainly because I play one) and this has some FINE trumpet licks. “Wrong Enemy” by Virginia Pettis is also a cool piece with some good trumpet and trombone parts and the 1812 Overture at the end is very unexpected. “Dummy” by Thomas Kresge is a nice New Orleans jazz sound! Love the musicianship here on this amazing arrangement! “Tem Shop Bluz” by slambob is a nice blues track, but I don’t know why I am reminded of Ralph Stanley here. “Swung Down” by Marty Strauss is quite a bright song. This is one of the few piece I enjoyed off of the original score and my enjoyment of it intensifies as the music is brought into Swing very nicely.
Abruptly changing gears, there are some very interesting metal pieces on this album. “ASGORE” by Ferdk is very well done. It has the right mix of deep bass and heavy textures. He really highlights the melody well here and gets me to enjoy it! “Run! Dance! Fall!” by Jordan Chin has quite an awesome mixture of styles. I am hearing jazz, pop, rock, metal, electronica and that might not even cover it, but Jordan meshes these so seamlessly and effortlessly that it seems a whole new style on its own. Darby Cupit and Lauren Liebowitz do an amazing arrangement and performance with “Child of the Light (Asgore’s Heartache)” which is quite catchy! “Metal Crusher” by Andrew Filipski, “Song That Might Play When You Fight Sans” by Tiago Rodrigues, “Undyne” by ToxicxEternity, “Premonition of a Flower” by Wyrgan, and ASGORE by Ro Panuganti are good metal worthy mentions too!
There are so many styles represented in the album! There is a tickle for every fancy with FALLEN. I mean, you even have more classical sounding pieces which feature an amazing group the ETHEReal String Orchestra (Andrew Steffen and Andrew Stern) who performed a great deal of music for this one. Fredrik Häthén has a few entries starting with “Alphys” which I really enjoy as it has such a strong character and direction. The strings build nicely and offer such warmth and depth, whereas the winds give such light textures. “True Determination” by Fredrik has a nice emotional quality and swells with it. I love the lyrical melody in the clarinet and the overall orchestration is solid! “Asgore” by both Fredrik and Felipe Salinas is also one of my favorites! I love the string and percussion part at 1:05!
Finally, I’ll end with my favorite track on the whole album… this is without a doubt such a great piece that I can’t stop listening to it and that is “It’s Raining Somewhere Else” by John Robert Matz. He collaborates with some amazing musicians here from the strings right to the winds. This jazz noir style evokes all the nostalgic feels that sound like it takes inspiration from Jerry Goldsmith’s “Chinatown” score. That trumpet line at at 2:41 is just sexy and the swagger in style at 2:52 gives me chills.
There are just so many contributors to this project and so I couldn’t mention everyone, BUT you all did one helluva job convincing this skeptic that this music can be good given the right people to handle it. Doug, I know you must be terribly proud of all that you have achieved and of your amazing team!
WHICH brings me to why I wrote this whole thing in the first place… Part of being an adult is knowing when to admit you are wrong. I still do not like the original, BUT what Doug and the Materia Collective have done here was made this music accessible to someone like myself who did not understand the hype over the music to begin with. And THAT is truly magical and why arrangers are so awesome because they can reinterpret a piece of music to reach a new audience that the original could not. Materia has shown time and again this very idea since we started with FFVII little more than a year ago.
Anyway, go buy FALLEN: An Undertale Tribute! You can find it at all the links below! Please purchase this album to support a great many artists who put their heart and soul into this! It really is a steal for $14.99 (Loudr price) for so much good music :).