“The String Arcade” album review – 5.0/5.0
What started as a Kickstarter project by a Bay Area composer, Dren McDonald, has now made its way to the general public. The project known as “The String Arcade” is a classical compilation of music from popular and indie video game titles. However, with the popularization of “The Vitamin String Quartet,” turning your favorite music into four-piece string harmony is not an uncommon task anymore. So, what separates “The String Arcade” from the rest of the field? Execution.
Aside from covering music from video games some of us have grown to love, in some cases, it takes the originals and improves upon them.
Here’s a quick rundown of what “The String Arcade” has to offer:
- “Grasswalk” (Plants vs. Zombies)
- “Echos of Ecco” (Ecco the Dolphin)
- “Ferdinand Wanders Out For a Late Night Haircut” (Pettington Park)
- “Engii” (FTL – Faster Than Light)
- “Sonic 2 Scherzo” (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
- “Outlaws Title Theme” (Outlaws)
- “Medicated Cow Walks the Cobbled Streets with Disgruntled Goat” (Ravenshire Castle)
- “Scurvy Scallywags Theme” (Scurvy Scallywags)
- “Scabb Cemetery/International House of Mojo” (The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge)
- “Altered Beast Title Theme” (Altered Beast)
- Optimism For an Improvement in The John Situation
- “Turret Suite” (Portal 2) Valve
- “Minecraft Title Theme” (Minecraft)
- “Tron Arcade Medley” (Tron Arcade)
- “Tango Down” (graBLOX)
- “Dance of the Space Bugs” (Galaga)
- “The Legend of Zelda” (The Legend of Zelda – NES)
We open with “Grasswalk” (also known as “The Day Theme”) from “Plants vs. Zombies” by PopCap. This is one of those examples where “The String Arcade” takes a theme from a game and makes it better. The end result is an amazing tango with the subtle moans of zombies in the background. It is a great opener and really sets the mood.
From the opening track, a story begins to unravel. It almost feels like a journey of discovery; a self discovery or a discovery of the different genres. This is emphasized through the album’s strongest tracks: “Engii” from “Faster Than Light” and “Echos of Ecco” from “Ecco The Dolphin” (where you can even hear the sounds of a dolphin being imitated through the instruments).
The journey eventually reaches its climax with “Altered Beast Title Theme,” the arcade game and 16-bit classic on the Sega Genesis. The album then feels like it plateaus and maintains a high of emotions as you listen to the rest of the music.
One of the standout tracks from the latter half of the album is “Turret Suite” from “Portal 2.” Not only is the track melodically soothing, but is also eerie as you can hear the faint voice of GLaDOS in the background during different parts of the song. It’s also a little frightening to know that something can sound so beautiful and be twisted and dark at the same time.
Of course, what compilation album would ever be complete without a cover of the them from “The Legend of Zelda?” While it has be done many times before, this version is different. It takes an altered approach in the beginning. Instead of the bold, exuberant introduction most are familiar with, listeners are treated with a more somber opening. Rather than a making a loud statement throughout the whole song, it causes us to reflect and think about the music more than anything.
Overall, “The String Arcade” is an album that video game and classical music lovers should have in their collection.
“The String Arcade” is available for pre-order right now for a special price of $7.99 from the iTunes store. The CD version (which includes two bonus tracks: “Tron Arcade Medley” and the “Altered Beast Theme”) is also available for pre-order via thestringarcade.bandcamp.com for $9.99. Most importantly, “all the proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated to the Almeda Music Project which is a K-5 after-school program launching in September.”
Besides giving gamers a new way to enjoy beloved classics, ‘The String Arcade’ is also poised to inspire young musicians to pick up a violin, viola, or cello.
For more information on “The String Arcade” then check out their website here. The opening track, “Grasswalk,” is also available to sample via soundcloud.
The album will be released on February 11.
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