Posts Tagged ‘David Wise’


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.

Donkey Kong Country – “Aquatic Ambiance” (David Wise)

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.


Donkey Kong Country – “Theme” (David Wise)

July 17, 2010

The “Theme” to Donkey Kong Country, while not one of the most memorable game tunes of all time, deserves a listen due to its history (and it’s actually kind of fun). The track is an arrangement of the “Title BGM” to the NES Donkey Kong by Yukio Kaneoka (Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, F-Zero). Even if players were unfamiliar with the NES version, they would make clear connections with the 8-bit opening, the arcade-era I-beams, and the old, grizzled monkey representing the last generation. David Wise thus successfully connected the original Donkey Kong with Rare’s reimagining of the classic, arranging Kaneoka’s theme to match (what was then) hip.

Donkey Kong Country – “Theme” (David Wise)

In the intro, Cranky Kong (the big ape from the original Donkey Kong) is playing his music on an old record player when suddenly, his nephew, that poser, Donkey Kong, leaps from the top of the screen carrying a massive boom box that smashes Cranky’s world into smithereens. Diegetic and non-diegetic music cleverly mix because while the music appears to be coming from Cranky’s record player and Donkey Kong’s boom box, the music is simultaneously illustrating the events of the scene (we can’t really believe that a record player sounds like an NES, can we?).

Incidentally, this concept of record player as analogous with 8-bit sound was repeated in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia when players collect records containing 8-bit music from the original Castlevania. Toy Soldiers, on the other hand, for XBLA, uses audio filtering that sounds like the music really IS coming over an old record player or radio.


8-Bit Mondays: Battletoads – “Main Theme” (David Wise)

April 19, 2010

Another classic from Rare, Battletoads (1991), that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired game about three ‘toads, their girlfriend (Princess Anglica), their trainer (Professor T. Bird, a vulture), and the evil nemesis, The Dark Queen and her evil rat army (boo, hiss!). Yup, this was back in the day when you could get away with making just about any kind of character, so long as the game was good. This late-gen NES title is probably best remembered for its brutal difficulty – made even harder by the fact that players can (accidentally or otherwise) hit each other. The game also has a few memorable tracks, particularly the “Title Theme”. There’s a nice website devoted to the series that is still updated.

Battletoads – “Main Theme” (David Wise)

The “Main Theme” is fairly amphibious, with nice long, mellow notes that hop easily across the scale. It opens with a long, descending note echoing the opening sequence where the ‘Toads’ spaceship lands on Ragnarok. The track then has a middle section with a thick bass line and jazzy melody, followed by an even deeper bass echo. This clip of the intro has an odd – but incredibly awesome – effect with the drums. The third section has some nice surfer thrashing, a perfect grungy feel for the crude attitude of the characters. It’s a fairly short loop (about 30 seconds), but nice and catchy, which is what you need for a game soundtrack. The three long, full notes composing the main melody and three sections of the song fit nicely with the theme of the three Battletoads. Sing it with me now: BAT-TLE-TOADS! (DUH-NUH-NUH-NUH-NUH-NUH-NUH!).

The Battletoads “Main Theme” has an excellent arrange in Battletoads in Battlemania (1994), with a nice trumpet intro followed by grunge guitar and synth piano. Awesome. UK grunge rock. Surprisingly though, there seems to be few remixes of the main theme. World of Battletoads has a remix album, but that doesn’t really do the original tracks justice. Zellig’s “Metallitoad” is ok, but the midi and synth guitars beg for an actual fully developed guitar mix, say by Dwelling of Duels. C’mon, guys! There’s more to Rare and David Wise than Donkey Kong Country!

I can’t say I’m a fan of most of the other Battletoads music though, but hey, the Stage 2 theme where you descend in helicopter backpacks into a pit is pretty cool. In fact, it sounds a lot like Donkey Kong Country 3.


Donkey Kong Country – “Aquatic Ambience” (David Wise)

April 2, 2010

The most prestigious track from Donkey Kong Country, “Aquatic Ambience” captures the calm and serenity of underwater ocean currents in pristine coral reefs. The calming melody can help you drift off to sleep in warm ocean waves. “Aquatic Ambience” has been remixed dozens of times, but this original rendition by David Wise’s Monkey Choir is by far the best. This was the one song by an American composer that was picked for orchestration in the Game Music Concert series. But just how can those apes hold their breaths for so long?

Donkey Kong Country – Aquatic Amience (David Wise’s Monkey Choir)

David Wise’s work was previously featured in the impeccable “Jungle Groove“, the Donkey Kong Country main theme. Here is the full soundtrack for your listening pleasure. You will need to download an SPC Player for it if you haven’t already (I recommend Winamp on PC and Cog on Mac. Even though this is a blatant lie, Linux should have it as native support). This game is fun to play, but you can have more fun with this pro action replay code: 7E001011.


Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business – “Rare Respite” (arr. Patrick Burns)

March 19, 2010

Another massively long post title for a massively long remix project. Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business is OCReMix’s latest project, a complete remixing of the entire Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995) soundtrack – which is one of the best vgm albums ever composed. It’s all the more astonishing that the original was composed by only one guy, David Wise. There are over 2 hours and 20 minutes of music in the entire three-disc set, with an incredible amount of variety – every single track has its own unique style that once again redefines how we think about vgm. It’s about enough to make a DKC fan go apeshit. I haven’t had time to dig through the entire thing yet, but one track in particulary caught my ears as I strained to listen to it on my failing earbuds. Now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it using some real equipment, I have to say that “Rare Respite” is so far my favorite piece on the album.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Business – “Rare Respite” (arr. Patrick Burns)

“Rare Respite” is a remix of David Wise’s “Jib Jig”, the theme of the windy rigging stages where players climb through mazes of rigging and masts soaring high above in cloudy mists. Patrick Burns’ take on the piece is a Celtic sailor’s tune with a bewitching flute, pure piano, and bright guitar supported by a harp and a deep, booming drum; it’s astonishingly beautiful and incredibly calming. Patrick Burns also integrates sound effects halfway through the theme (1:55) and again at the end, something that David Wise does in all his Donkey Kong Country pieces, making it a perfect match for his style. This almost seems like how the track might have sounded if it were composed today. Burns gives us some perfect music for sailing under blue skies and misty clouds, Celtic sailors on calm seas. Each second of the piece is full of calm and joy, and is a great way to end the day.


Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Stickerbrush Symphony” (David Wise)

February 18, 2010

Out of all the tracks from Donkey Kong Country 2 (1995), “Stickerbrush Symphony” has to be my favorite. The entire game had such a great soundtrack, but “Stickerbrush Symphony” stands out for its invocation of an idyllic lazy summer afternoon: eating blackberries beneath pure white clouds drifting against a sky that’s deep blue. At the same time, the bramble fields in the game are dead – there are no berries here to eat, just flying hornets and spikes (or if there are berries, Diddy and Dixie aren’t interested in them). For me too there is a sense of nostalgia – not only for the simpler times of lazy summer days but also the days I worked to earn money for this game when it first came out – Donkey Kong Country 2 was really the first videogame I purchased with my own money, and this was back when the $65 a cartridge cost could get you a lot more than it does today…

Donkey Kong Country 2 – “Stickerbrush Symphony” (David Wise)

This theme is built around several simple melodies that are woven together to create a very rich, bubbly texture like blackberry champagne. The combination of instruments – sax, pianos, trumpet, strings, among others – builds a great atmosphere and sense of depth. Instruments are introduced one at a time, each playing a new part of the theme, with the piece really developing around 1:08 with the addition of a drumline and 1:28 with piano. The trumpet and sax run a nice duet throughout the entire piece, really coming together at the end of the loop. Again, another classic from David Wise.

There have been several remixes to this song, the most notable being Michiko Naruke’s (Wild Arms, The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Roadrendition from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. It’s a pretty good remix, but I feel it misses the feeling the slower beat of the original possesses. Protricity has a techno mix, “Brambles in the Breeze”, that is decent, and even uses chiptunes. For a more depressing yet majestic version, there’s Radiowar’s “Lanterns“. Blue Magic’s “The Delay“, which combines “Stickerbrush Symphony” and “Hothead Bop” is the remix most worth the listen – it also feels like it came straight out of Metroid Prime 2.


Donkey Kong Country – “Gang-Plank Galleon” (David Wise)

February 4, 2010

One of my favorite vgm pieces and one of the best boss pieces out there. This is a nice continuation from the previous David Wise piece, and the finale to Donkey Kong Country. This is quite possibly the best pirate music ever to appear in a videogame. Here we have a big, giant, fat king Kremling (a kind of crocodile) who sails over from pirate isle to lay siege to Donkey Kong Island. From pirate shanty to pirate metal, this track is amazing. I was actually saving this one for Pirate Day, but figured it was so awesome I just couldn’t wait. THAT. GOOD. Play it loud.

Donkey Kong Country Trilogy – “Gang-Plank Galleon” (David Wiss)

“Gang-Plank Galleon” takes place on the deck of a pirate ship (though if you ask me, it looks more like a raft on the map screen). The ship will sail closer to the island with each area you clear, which is pretty cool. The song starts off with a sea shanty played with accordion, which is pretty silly, but also great pirate music. However, after the first verse of this, some heavy drums come in along with a killer guitar that makes for some perfect pirate pillagin’. With its amazing, hummable beat, “Gang-Plank Galleon” would later become the backbone for many tracks in Donkey Kong Country 2 and make it one of the most memorable Donkey Kong Country tunes out there. (Oh yeah, they also brought the soundtrack to all three games in one album through Nintendo Power Supplies Catalogue back in the day, but they’re very hard to come by now).

An interesting thing to note about this song is it is perfectly composed to align with a perfect play of the boss fight. For the first part of the song, K-Rool appears on the screen Read the rest of this entry ?