* This is an official NGUAC 2017 review *
Generally speaking, good stuff! I liked it.
Mixing, Mastering, & Production: There was nothing dramatically off here, but there were some volume issues. The flute is pretty overpowering, and the percussion has some inconsistencies between the instruments. The timpani is much louder than the snare or kick, for example. Having that volume consistency across the track would help to unify everything. The piano had a beautiful sound.
The tambourine and the toms stuck out to me because they were obviously virtual. This is as opposed to where you had virtual instruments playing, but they were reverbed and EQ'd to fit in well with the atmosphere of the piece. When the tambourine or toms played, all I heard was "Oh, there's a virtual tambourine/tom playing', not 'ah, a nice addition to the piece'.
Having the ambient sound added a lot to the atmosphere of the piece and it was leveled and mixed very well. Generally speaking things were reverbed nicely. The mastering was decent as well - things got clearer and crisped up. I felt like the mastering suffered in the bass - earlier in the piece it's too quiet and later in the piece it's too intrusive (the timpani especially). I had a couple surprises from the mastering in the terms of volume - one was at 0:31 where the acoustic guitar and drums kick in. To me it was too loud of an entrance, not by virtue of performance but simply of volume. The piano probably could have been a little louder to accommodate where the piece was going, which was to a louder place later on.
All in all, decent production. There are no serious flaws here, and practice will make perfect!
Composition: To me this was a track that aimed not for the stars, but for something more modest, and it achieved that goal with mostly success. The harmonies and texture are good, and I was drawn into the piece as a whole. Where it lost points for me was in structure, progression, and originality.
They're all sort of tied together. For the chords, there's nothing wrong with a 4-chord song; some of the greatest works in history have been 4 chord. However, when you take away a creative element from a piece (in this case, having only 4 chords) you have to compensate with other aspects of musicality to keep things interesting. If my interest isn't being constantly piqued by new chords and harmonies, the next places my brain will hop to to try and enjoy the piece are structure and melody. For His Last Departure, you start with a solid, basic, melody. And then that melody repeats. And then it repeats. And then it repeats.
You do have some variations of it in different instruments, but for the most part it's just those same 4 chords with that same melody in that same tempo for three and a half minutes. I kept hoping for more, for variety, but the chords, melody, and structure were all fairly static.
In terms of instrumentation, I liked all the instruments individually, but after a couple listens and a look through your instrument list, I had to ask myself "Why is Blue using these specific instruments?" This set of instruments include a great many that would never normally play with each other. A bansuri and a timpani, a piano and a sub bass - these are strange blends. I'm all for originality in choice of instruments, and sometimes strange mixes result in amazing music, but for His Last Departure I felt like it was more a case of you picking a bunch of different instruments based on how good they individually sound without a lot of regard for how they work together as a group. It resulted in a sort of dissociation when I listened to His Last Departure; I kept being surprised with a brand new instrument and kept having to work to try and get back in the atmosphere of the song.
Ultimately, not a bad piece! You have a lot of potential. I would say you have the talent to be more daring - try weird new things, try new time signatures, try to push yourself. I think you'll be surprised (in a good way!) at the result.