.hack//SIGN Original Sound and Song Track 2

Yushiro (Former Staff) — November 5th, 2002
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There is little more I can say about .hack's music that I haven't already stated in my review for the first OST - the music is exceptional and Kajiura continues to live up to my expectations. The tone of the album does rather diverge along two paths from the happy medium found on the first OST - there are a few songs that are on the softer end of the spectrum, and a few more grittier songs, the latter of which I was quite happy to come across. Kajiura can craft some lovely melodies, but the lack of songs with a bit more bite has always left me wanting, until this album, which sated it a bit.

Of the four songs that characterize this 'rougher' style, Cyber-Slum is probably my favorite. It isn't abrasive, but just a cool groove of a song. Most of the song retains this "groove", but towards the end, there is a small moment of unleashed fury when the violins screech out a more rapid rendering of the tune played throughout the rest of the song, which gave the song a somewhat superfluous, but still quite good, climax. Limits goes a step further, removing the melodic strings and focusing entirely on a fast-paced electronic beat, making it the best 'action' song from both of the albums. Useless Chatting is another excellent use of a quicker pace, but it is also far more staccato and used more traditional percussion-like rhythms, which gives it a unique personality. The last of the songs, Secret Project, again takes up the strings and just lets them glide over a more complex and filling background. Overall, I was most pleased with the more menacing side seen on the album.

As I said, though, the album also lends itself to the more mellow side of Kajiura's music. This is most readily seen in the several gentle piano/violin pieces like Say Goodbye and Broken Wings. In Your Mind is a bit more interesting, in that it still uses a reserved piano, but it also has a heavier background and uses distant percussion accents. There is nothing too spectacular in the quieter outings, but they are still a pleasure. To Nowhere could be lumped into this category as well, though it adds Emily Bindiger's lovely voice and a chorus to the music. It's more appealing than the instrumentation-only pieces, and attempts to have a moving quality to it, though it is only mildly so.

One other noteworthy style used in the music is the use of more southern European influences, whereas the first and most of the second feels far more northerly. The best example of this is in Bear, with its heavy accordion lead and acoustic guitar backup, which make a very pleasing duo. Strangers also has elements of this as well, though not to as large a degree as seen in Bear. I was pleasantly surprised to find these songs - this album is very good at making me pleasantly surprised, I have noticed.

There are a handful of vocal songs on the album, mostly done by Emily Bindiger, who appeared a number of times on the first SIGN soundtrack, but there were a few songs and choruses done by Yuriko Kaita, who worked with Kajiura on Noir. Das Wandren is probably the most notable of Kaita's appearances, where she takes languidly sings over a lone piano. Thankfully, the voice is rather distant so I wasn't too annoyed with it - if you haven't read so already, know that I did not enjoy Kaita's performances from Noir in any way, shape, or form. Ms. Bindiger, however, I enjoy a great deal. One performance worth mentioning is the song In the Land of Twilight, Under the Moon. The song applies her lovely voice, along with some inspired lyrics, to a fairly quickly paced techno beat. It is no Key of the Twilight, but it is a more than agreeable piece.

The song Mimiru is also worth mention, though it is perhaps improper to label it as a vocal song, as it is merely Yuriko Kaita, with a far more lilting and higher-toned voice, humming and "la"-ing her way across the melodies and background, to a unexpectedly beautiful effect. As I said, I normally have a fair amount of distaste for Kaita's voice, but when she pitches it properly (and, I suppose, doesn't actually sing words, but just sounds), it can be quite lovely. The instrumentation is wonderfully done as well, with a free-form sax ( providing the main melody, set to a very light percussion beat. (The sax is played, quite skillfully I might add, by Kazuo Takeda, though he only performed for this one song, and not the rest of the album.) Tis definitely one of the more memorable songs from the series.

Last, but most assuredly not least, the record also includes a song that I just might like more than Key of the Twilight - Open Your Heart, also by Bindiger. And there are actually two versions of the song included, at that. I find myself preferring the vocals and lyrics in Key, but Open Your Heart has a lovely main melody - not nearly as ethereal-like as Key, but with a degree of depth. There isn't much difference between the original and the reprise of the song (the first and last songs on the album, respectively), other than that the reprise picks up a bit faster, focuses on the vocals more so than the original, and that it has an added accent in a mildly somber saxophone making appearances at key points in the song - a beautiful touch. Aside from the sax, the instrumentation is nearly identical, which I don't mind at all, but it would have been interesting to hear a full-on remix of the song, rather than a reprise.

One notable feature about this soundtrack is that the first pressing of it was bundled with a collector's box to house the four soundtracks for the .hack anime - the two SIGN OSTs, the Liminality OST, and the Extra Soundtracks. A sticker on the front of the box had the same image as the cover of the second OST, which can be seen above, though an image of the box may be found here. A nice little bonus, to say the least.

The second .hack//SIGN OST is just as much a joy to listen to as the first, and though there are very slight leanings in what each album focuses on, I'd be remiss to say one is better than the other, and I can't say as I prefer one to the other. I'd much rather throw all of the songs in one long play-list and let everything just blend together. If you liked the first one, I see no reason why you wouldn't like the second. And if you're like me, you'll find a few things you may not have expected from .hack or Kajiura.