In the past year GENTLE LOVE's Prescription For Sleep records have been a strong part of my Jazz library. After forming in 2011, composer Norihiko Hibino (Metal Gear Solid) and pianist AYAKI (Etrian Odyssey) have been releasing their blend of jazzy yet therapeutic covers of popular game music under the name GENTLE LOVE. Last year, the duo released one of my all time favorite records to sleep to, Prescription for Sleep: Undertale. So naturally I was elated to find out they were releasing another collection of music featuring battle themes from titles such as Final Fantasy XV, Dark Souls, Mega Man 2, and UNDERTALE to name a few.
Prescription for Sleep: Fight for Your Dreams is currently available on iTunes, Spotify, and directly from Scarlet Moon Records.
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Veiled in Black (Final Fantasy XV)
I'm not sure if its the fact that I've poured in over 120 hours of my life into Final Fantasy XV, but this is easily one of my favorite fight themes in any JRPG. The original version of this song found in the game is massive, so when I saw this on the tracklist for a band that consists of two guys, my curiosity peaked. GENTLE LOVE turned an upbeat symphonic breakdown into a beautiful rainy afternoon with AYAKI's slowed down piano melody accompanied by a saxophone lead at the 4:55 mark. It's the perfect example of how when it comes to music, sometimes less is much more.
Boss (Mega Man 2)
Mega Man 2 is one of the crowning achievements in videogame music. How composer Takashi Tateishi managed to write the music to one of the most frustratingly hard games I played as a kid still blows my mind. GENTLE LOVE did a pretty good job covering a chiptune melody and making it their own. Honestly, if you played this to all but the most dedicated Mega Man 2 fans they would think this was just a solid piano/saxophone track. As far as a "faithful" cover goes, it's a bit hard to recognize the melody, but maybe that's a good thing?
For anyone familiar with GENTLE LOVE, you might remember that they released an exceptional Undertale record about a year ago. It's worth listening to and it made me appreciate the original score from game creator Toby Fox that much more. Now with this cover I think it would be the weakest Undertale song GENTLE LOVE has done but is still better than most covers out there. They do a much better job at capturing the mood and feel of the original track here than the previous song on the record. If you're a fan of Undertale then give it a listen.
Battle with the Four Fiends (Final Fantasy IV)
Battle with the four fiends is one of the more interesting tracks on the record simply because of its waltz like sound and dramatic departure from the original. Gone are the big symphonic booms and massive timpani drums in favor of AYAKI's piano chops. The melody sounds much darker here than the triumphant battle anthem from the game, and it gave me a haunted mansion ballroom vibe when listening to it. And yes, I too read that as "Friends" instead of "Fiends".
Those Imprisoned by Destiny (Chrono Cross)
While I compared Veiled in Black to a rainy day, Those Imprisoned by Destiny is a relaxing nighttime walk in the city. The mood conveyed from the first measure makes this one of the best songs on the record and my personal favorite GENTLE LOVE tracks yet. The jazzyness here gives the song a film noir vibe that really separates itself from the original track while still retaining the integrity of composer Yasunori Mitsuda's original art. GENTLE LOVE took a beautifully written fantasy song and gave it a dark detective story feeling. Check it out.
Mini-Boss (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
Like the game or not, I think we can all admit that Yoshi's Island has some of the cutest music ever, but I never put two and two together and realized how perfectly appropriate this song would work in Sesame Street. Mini-Boss is one of the more upbeat tracks here and I kept finding myself humming nonexistent lyrics about sunny days while listening to this track. I dare you to not listen to this and smile.
Autobot-Decepticon Battle (Transformers: The Movie (1986))
What happens when you take quite possibly the most 80s song ever recorded and cover it with a moody piano and saxophone? You end up with something that actually ... works? This song's interesting; while it's a great cover of the first song I'll play when I activate my time machine and save the future, it's such a far departure that I really don't think it works. As a jazz song limited by two instruments, it's brilliant; as a cover of this song, it's possibly a bit too alienating for someone who loves the original. Let me know what you think.
Beasts as Black as Night (Wanderers from Ys: Ys III)
Ys III features some of the best box art on the SNES with one of the most forgettable and generic OST's. GENTLE LOVE managed to turn a bland JRPG fight song into an interesting jazz lounge song that would fit in well within the soundtracks of Bioshock or LA Noir. This is a song that's well worth listening to for the saxophone alone.
Ornstein & Smough (Dark Souls)
If you don't remember this song it's okay, I was also too busy getting my ass kicked over and over again. Like some of the other tracks on this record, GENTLE LOVE managed to take a gigantic and epic song and cut it down to a somber and relaxing melody. Now if only the game could be somber and relaxing ...
I never played Raystorm, so I have no extra feelings with the song GENTLE LOVE is covering here. After a few listens, I think they nailed it and re-arranged a typical action song into a relaxing tune that will definitely find itself on my sleep playlist. Aint nothin' intolerant about that.
Mother Brain (Super Metroid)
I'm amazed at how much GENTLE LOVE was able to do with this song. In case you forgot, the original sounds ... not that great on its own. This is one of those memorable tracks that's only memorable because of the gameplay and feelings you as the player have associated with it. That being said, Norihiko and AYAKI knocked it out of the park here. A simple song that needs its game as a visual distraction to help make it good is now an awesome stand alone jazz track.
In a Better Place (Original)
We close the record with an original track from GENTLE LOVE. If you're familiar with their other albums, you'll know that this is a common thing for them to do and a welcome addition with any covers album. In a Better Place is a somber and melancholy track that lives up to its name. Grab some headphones, play this song, close your eyes, and think about your happy place. You'll be glad you did.
GENTLE LOVE managed to take the more upbeat and frantic tracks from beloved games (and one movie about a truck that fights a guy who was once a Nissan GTR) and made one of the better "slow" albums to come out this year. You don't need to be a fan of jazz to appreciate what's here and I strongly recommend this to anyone who listens to music while sleeping, needs background noise for work/study, or just wants to shut off every so often.