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Reviews for "To The Clouds"

Super moody and cinematic.
The bass has a super slow release. I'm not sure if this is the synth/sample or if it's an effect, but it works in some places better than others. When the bass moves faster (such as the rising section in 2:22), the decay fights the onset of the new note and causes a moment of dissonance between the notes creating a bit of muddiness.

In general I could use some more layers of some upper percussive layers. You have good driving motifs in the lower and mid layers, but picking out a few places to bring in some textural layers of clacks, shakers, tiki tikis, could really help accentuate some of the sections and create more dramatic shifts when you pull them out. For example, if you added some subtle layers starting at 0:30 (and suddenly shift to a different layer at 0:47) it would make the muted synth/harp section at 1:02 REALLY stand out.

The same goes for 1:41. You could build layers of activity leading up to this, and then if they suddenly dropped out for those drones/flute to take over, it would feel gosh darn epic. it's a great way to subconsciously build tension.

2:57 - after the cymbal cresecendo, I'd consider adding a bass drone an octave below the current bass in a sine wave or something to really help that section pay off. Right now the crescendo leads into something, but the texture remains largely the same as it was leading up to that point. You could go all Disney Magical Moment with it too and layer in some super subtle tinkling of a mark tree, though it's up to you if you wanted to go that route or not.

All in all, it's really great. I think you accomplished what you set out to do. The midi instruments didn't stand out, and you did a good job of balancing it with live recordings. Well done!

FYI, I'd look into the possibility of using Vienna Ensemble Pro to help offload some of the duties of your workstation if you're having trouble keeping up with running all the virtual instruments. Not everyone loves the extra layer of tech it adds, but I've found it indispensable when it comes to large ensemble work.

etherealwinds responds:

Okay okay, I finally got some time on my laptop to respond to reviews again.
Hey SFW! There is some really good advice here. I really appreciate you adding specific pointers for me to try out! I'll try them all out and see what fits and what doesn't :)

Thanks for the library recommendation also! I'll look into it.
One of my motivations to join the competition this year was actually the pleasure I got from listening to your music last year. I was real impressed.

I like the tranquil mood at the beginning and the atmosphere. The busier string riff at :16 is great, and the progression of this is really nice despite a sudden transition or two (:31, for example). I also found :46 to be a rather unexpected harmonic shift. At times, the spacious strings and bell-like instruments can be simply mesmerizing, and the vocals at 1:25 only amplify this effect. I think my biggest complaint with the piece is that it feels really disjointed. There are a lot of transitory moments in a short time, especially during the first couple of minutes, and sometimes you seem to take a Band-aid-like approach to bridging these gaps. For example, the not-too-subtle modulation at 1:40 is smoothed over only by a crash. That said, I’m really enjoying the mounting sense of apprehension by 2:20. The percussion at around 3:30 sounds really cool, and the piece comes together well by the end. I was a little confused by the entrance of the horn at 4:07. I guess I don’t usually regard introducing new melodic instruments that late in a piece as advisable. I understand that you used the same instrument earlier, albeit in a much different context. I know that it’s a tiny detail, but I still found the 4:07 entrance to be a tad jarring. Miniscule compositional complaints aside, I thought the production here was absolutely fantastic. The only thing that I would dare criticize about that is that I thought the strings on the downbeats were a bit too strong at 3:20. Still, you’ve made a really strong effort yet again, Jordi. The atmosphere is gorgeous. The sound design is beautiful. The melodic content is inspiring. Great work! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
2/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
2/2
Instrumentation and sound design
1/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.5/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
1/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
1/1
Composite score
9.5/10

etherealwinds responds:

Hey hey TL!
Thank you for taking the time to review my track. I always appreciate that! Because I was taking the piece in so many different directions, I wanted to scatter the transitions appropriately enough to highlight the changes, switching it up from orchestral transitions and electronic swooshes. This piece definitely goes a lot more places than my tracks generally would, but that was sort of my intention with this - I was having a lot of fun exploring what I could do using orchestral elements. That said, I'm excited to keep working with orchestra in the future to make less explorative pieces and solid structural pieces.

I'm not super sure I personally agree with the brass being a confusing new element in the piece, at least for me. It was quite present at 1:12 near the beginning of the piece and again at 2:49 quite heavily to change the tone of the piece. I'm feeling really inspired to go back to the piece though (which I will do) thanks to so many wonderful suggestions and perhaps the brass will make more sense in the piece when everything else comes together! Fun fact: this is actually the first time (I think) that I've ever used brass in any track of mine.

Really happy you liked my piece for the final and I'm defintely glad I entered this year!

Sounds like that harp may be mic'ed a bit too close. Also noticing a lot of instruments seem to attack at exactly the same millisecond when multiple notes are played -- humanize those ms.

Dynamics of the piece are already very pleasing by 0:33.

I can't tell if that's a koto or shamisen for not ever having studied the difference much, but particularly nice job with them. They sound very organic.

I could do with a bit less reverb on your bass.

Synth at 0:46 that sounds kind of auto-filtered could also come down a lot. There's nothing in that frequency range, so it ends up sounding hugely loud by comparison -- at least to someone my age who hasn't lost that 19k-24k hearing range.

1:50, I think the reverb/low end gets a bit out of control, starting to overwhelm your leads a bit. This presents a bit throughout. I think it's mostly reverb. I'm hearing a lot of low rumble, not an organic breath from either low organs or strings.

Vocals are very clean and of course distinct. I'm pleased they don't dominate the track and are tastefully interspersed throughout.

Compositionally, this is quite a journey, though I notice a relative lack of overarching melody.

2:04 to 2:07 chord modulation was unexpected and quite pleasing, as is the following development from 2:20-2:27. I'm wondering just how far you will push us before driving off the cliff -- and am disappointed somewhat not to have had a fortissimo swell anywhere.

3:06 sounds great.

4:07 to the finish line impressed me enough I didn't really mind the slightly high reverb wet signal, which of course, as you know, is every cinematic/orchestral composer's favorite cheat plugin.

Overall, awesome work. I think I've said most of what I could possibly say aside from that.

Quick note, are you sure it's your workstation struggling with the project load, or your computer? I used to think my DAW sucked until my actual computer started failing. Subsequent upgrade fixed all the problems I was having. For your sake, I really hope it isn't computer failure.

Thanks for coming out to NGUAC!

etherealwinds responds:

Hey ADR3-N, hope you're all good.
I used the Flageolet'd samples on the Concert SAM harp that I enjoy using ever so occasionally as it gives a more percussive feel, especially working with rhythms :) I'll definitely look at humanising the attacks to give a more human feel when I return to this piece.

Yes, this is a Japanese Koto - good ear! I love the sound of them - perhaps I'll own one someday.

I'll take a listen to 0:46 with some different headphones when I get my hands on them. I don't use the best headphones or have access to the best speakers, so it's good to get some other perspectives on how the sounds are coming through on their end! Thank you.

Originally, I was aiming to compose something completely different and unexpected - a comment I read from Frootza on a previous thread in reference to my last submission was 'it's nice, but is it something new from him?' - I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and not rely on my go-to methods of composing that I know work for me. That said, as it was all coming together, I wanted to beef up the choir with some layers of real voice to add to the organicness of the piece. The ethnic vocals also seemed right and actually fitted with the piece so I kept them in!

I think Xuvero put it well in the last review when they said it was an 'orchestral exploration of different elements'. It wasn't intended to be that way, but I think I was just exciting to really be tackling a genre I've never tackled before. I've still yet to attempt a fully cinematic piece - I don't think I have quite the quality of libraries needed to make something to the quality of realism and emotion that I would like but I'm more inspired to take my music down a more orchestral route. I think my lack of overarching melody and my taking it to so many different places but I did try to keep certain melodies scattered throughout - for example, the melody played by the Koto, the vocal lines at 1:25 and 3:22 and the brass part, also making sure to scatter that flageolet harp part appropriately. I think I quite like it this way for what the track is, which is really my first foray into a track that is most heavily orchestral :)

Yeah, everyone's mentioned about the fortissimo! I think in my journey of exploration, I wasn't super aware of how far to push the fortissimo but there's definitely room for more. Ask and you shall receive. That's mainly what I'll be going back to fix - I wanna take this piece to the level it deserves.

Re the high reverb wet signal, I didn't know it was but I'll be sure to remember it in the future!

Probably miswording, it's definitely my poor l'il laptop or something with the soundcard. I kept having to restart and purge all the samples and sometimes the project became pretty much unplayable. I'd have to turn my laptop off and on and hope for the best! Luckily during the end days when I really wanted to work on the track, it was kind to me.

Thanks for your review and I'm glad you enjoyed the track! <3

One amazing track, it is quite an orchestral exploration of different aspects. But as was said before, it could have enjoyed a fortissimo, a moment in which all the tension and expectation got turned into something epic.

This song is in a constant crescendo, and that wouldn't be a problem if it was in a scene of a movie (when I closed my eyes listening to it I couldn't help but imagine that), but as a song alone it misses that point. Exluding that, the song is perfect, and would have been one of the most epic and perfect pieces of music I've ever listened to should it have that climax.

etherealwinds responds:

I'm pretty new to exploring orchestral elements so don't worry, I will most definitely be going back to this in the very near future and adding more to beef out a beautiful climax. <3 Thank you for your lovely words.

Yep, all the work paid out in the brilliant music!

etherealwinds responds:

Thank youuuuu! :)