Donkey Kong Country – “Aquatic Ambiance” (David Wise)August 7, 2010
“Aquatic Ambience” is quite possibly David Wise’s masterpiece from Donkey Kong Country (1993). It is the only song from a Western composer to be featured in the venerable Game Music Concert series (played very emotionally with strings, clarinet, and harp) and is by far the most heavily-remixed tune from the game (and I have at least a half-dozen others from vgmix 2.0! Sadly, none of the ones I have are terribly interesting). “Beneath the Surface” from Kong in Concert (2004) is one of the best with smooth sax, drums, and piano. Monkey Kong’s “Dolphin Ride” is also worth a listen, with a nice transition from calm to smooth rock and back. Now I’ve already posted a joke version of this song (actually, it was created using a game code so this is the actual engine producing it), but this here’s the real deal.
The underwater levels are some of the most gorgeous in the game, with beautiful water layering effects over the game’s then-cutting-edge prerendered sprites that put the SNES graphic chip to good use. The original version of the song has a more mysterious tune than most of the excellent remixes out there, with a liquid synth-line rather than piano that sounds almost vocal. A coupling of long, exotic guitar notes with strings supports a lazy melody, with a glowing, wave-like quality and a synth line that just seems to take you by the hand through those blue depths (actually, it also plays in the polluted waters outside the BP plant). The woodblock percussion is added at just the right place – a cross between water drops and sonar blips. I especially like how the piano fades out into the guitar. The instruments and style of this song really define what the Donkey Kong Country series is all about.