Tamas Katai – Slower Structures (2016)

Known for his work in Thy Catafalque, Tamas Katai’s Slower Structures is a little bit different. Here we’re exposed to several mostly piano-based compositions which will also include violins, contrabass and electronics. Of these moods, several seem to elicit different qualities. My love for the soundtracks used in Japanese based visual novels certainly reflects pieces like “Music For Breakfast” which somewhat feels like something we might hear in one of those. It’s a bit bright, but it also has some rather dark sentiments, so it would have been used in a much more serious visual novel. “Raining This Morning” seems like it could illustrate a more saddening or suspenseful scene. It is certainly morose, I could certainly see it illustrate the scene of what one might call a bad end. Trust me, when you read these things and hear such sad and depressing music as this (Tamas, this is nothing) while you’re reading (then it just ends – returns to the title) you kind of stop, pause for a second and kind of reflect on what just happened. This is the kind of piece that tears at your heartstrings, which is why you don’t want to hear it during any sort of “game over” in a sense. It makes you feel bad, and can even ruin the rest of your day. “Slowing Waters” actually changes things a bit (and still fits in the context of a visual novel) and feels like it could illustrate a deep, or rather contemplative scene. I wouldn’t mind hearing this piece on a loop and it’s a certainty that fans of these soundtracks will find something here. As Katai is offering this record for free, I will definitely link it for fans of that kind of work in various channels, allowing for an unexpected amount of exposure for the release. “Colour Positive” flows in much the same way, with it’s ethereal vibe. This flows right into “Color Positive” and “Tea In The Museum” which includes the sounds of various people talking and things moving the background. In works like I mention, this sort of atmosphere is good for the reader. It would give them a sense of being there during the read. “A Midday Storm In Marchmont” seems to furthermore embrace the atmosphere I’ve already come to enjoy a bit, seeming like a more active piece, yet still very moody. That’s one reason I find that work like this would be better fitted to a visual novel than something like full on soundscape, as pieces like that aren’t used so often, this being the norm. “Waltz For Niau” matches the whole baroque and classical feel that we might hear when reading about gaudy mansions and their many inhabitants, not all of those leaving us with a happy note. Yet after that, things start to change quite a bit and in ways that we do not expect.

It is “Polimer C90” that throws us into more electronic, steely and perhaps even frightening atmospheres. Yes, even these kinds of pieces appear in visual novels, especially when you don’t expect them to. You might be hearing something like “Music For Breakfast” and then all of a sudden you hear a sound and this track starts playing, as you come upon the face of a mangled corpse. The combination of such grotesquerie combined with such a horrifying sound (the first few nodes after the girl’s voice will make your hair stand up on end) is just enough to make your blood run cold and fill you with an essence of fear. The piece takes a different turn as it continues however, leading into a slightly more contemplative nature, even though we’re most certainly being exposed to what I’d consider horrific howls from the dead. “Hydrangea Blue” seems a bit out of place on the record, as it more or less seems like it fits in with the piano-based pieces at the top of the disc. “Thermal” brings in an icy chill that doesn’t fit the visual novel soundscape. It can of course, with the right scene, but it feels like the kind of music you might hear while walking through a place of sanctuary. Perhaps a desecrated holy place in which one saves their progress in the midst of a ruinous maze. There are demons and monsters outside, but here you are safe. “Visage” has a world-music vibe to it, which is a little more sparse for visual novels and I couldn’t consider it there. This is more towards the kind of actual meditation pieces that one might hear in an effort to reach some sort of oneness, or suchlike. It feels like a sort of “aum” and seems to carry through in just that kind of zen-like fashion. The final piece we have here continues the icy feel of “Thermal” and subtly seems to carry us through a bit of a cold and icy cavern, which is not where we begin. Think of it as traveling through a dark Japanese influenced town, where we’ll soon enter a castle, discover a bit of a murder, find a holy place within some ruins, achieve a sense of zen and then walk through an icy cavern. It’s safe to say that you’ll want this in your collection, and though it isn’t metal music, it is definitely worth listening to for fans of Thy Catafalque’s more atmospheric moods.

Because he’ll no doubt be reading this, I feel that I should also address a concern that Katai might have about this review. Comparing your work here to that of the soundscapes in visual novels should not be seen as any sort of detriment. People over the world have loved these pieces for their soundtracks and have even paid hundreds of dollars to personally import and play these pieces in their own home. What you’ve done here, is to capture the same spirit of some of the more mature soundtracks in that regard, and in it, there’s a masterpiece. What some would pay hundreds for, you’ve offered here for free. That says a lot about how much you believe the world needs to hear and appreciate these pieces. I am sure that other reviewers will have their own comparisons and that I probably won’t be the only one to compare them to game soundtracks. But today’s game soundtracks are incredible at times, awfully moving and worthy of appreciation in their own right. When I started reading visual novels a few years back, I was first exposed to pieces like these as I’ve never really heard them anywhere else prior. Very few mediums combine piano pieces with electronics in the way that the medium I’ve described does. As with any novel in the medium, it depends on what you read, but I was fortunate enough to have experienced some of the best soundtracks from what the medium has to offer, and I daresay that the music is my favorite part of those particular experiences. I hope that you will continue this solo work alongside the Thy Catafalque material, as both are equally brilliant and no matter what I compare them to, they’re always inspiring pieces.

You can find the album on Tamas Katai’s Bandcamp page, where you’ll also find the work from Thy Catafalque. Please give this a listen if you think that it’ll be up your alley. Once again, fans of passionate video game and visual novel (there’s still a debate as to whether or visual novels are the same as video or computer games) soundtracks will certainly find something here in Slower Structures. I’d certainly recommend it to lovers of music in general.

(13 Tracks, 38:00)

9/10

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