Ongaku is an album featuring arrangements and original works from wac, a frequent contributor to beatmania albums. Featuring a diverse array of vocal songs, it offers a nice look into the mind of Jun Wakita. In addition, the second disc features instrumental orchestral tunes orchestrated by Osamu Kubota. Is this soundtrack worth a purchase?
The album opens up with "I," an extremely short, but exquisitely beautiful piano piece that serves as a nice portal to the rest of the album. Following that, "Little Rock Overture" is a beautiful yet orchestrated song that features beautiful orchestral harmonies and a light rock accompaniment. The vocals by Kiyotaka Sugimoto and the strings work by gaQdan really complement each other quite nicely, while the soft choral accompaniments really add a nice touch of mood. "Pop Music Ron" is a much more rock-oriented vocal theme tune, focusing on electric guitars that give it a bit of a surfer rock vibe. Overall, a very nice performance and really makes you feel like you are at a rock show. "Omokagebashi" features a bit of a funk rock tone, but has a very poppy, bubbly overtone, particularly in the vocal performance and the lighthearted piano.
"garden" definitely changes things up on the album by going with a jazz approach. It's one of the more enjoyable vocal themes on the album, thanks in part to Rie Aono's performance, but also due to Osamu Kubota's fantastic piano accompaniment. The end result is a sultry, enticing addition to the album. "On top of the world" is one of the more fun tunes on the album, featuring energetic rock and piano licks, but I find it to be a little weaker than other entries. "Ensemble Forecast 3/28" is an interesting tune too. I'll be the first to admit I'm not a big fan of the vocal style of this tune, but the musical accompaniment is interesting as it seems to be a fusion of rock, jazz, and orchestra. It's a shame that the vocal style is more kawaii style in nature, as that can be a turn-off for some listeners. "Shounen Ripples" is another fun rock tune, but doesn't stick out amongst some of the stronger contenders on the album.
"murmur twins" is a more electronically oriented tune. While it isn't nearly as diverse as some of the other offerings, I do find it highly enjoyable. The exhilarating tempo works well with the vocalist's performance and the piano accompaniment offers a nice bit of musical texture to the overall composition. "Little Prayer" is another lovely rock piece. What I really like about this one is the atmosphere created by the vocalist's performance. At times, it's more melodically oriented, while at other times, it has a much more uplifting tone that adds to the overall mood of the piece. In addition, the electric guitar work really manages to accentuate the piece as well. The last piece on the first disc is also the longest. Titled, "neu," which is German for new, is an interesting tune. It sounds like a fusion of all the music featured on the album, but in sort of an arranged medley form. It may be a bit too avant-garde at times for some, as there are parts that sound more like a cacophony of noise rather than something the sounds clear.
While the first disc focused on a varying array of vocal tunes, the second disc is purely orchestral and instrumental in focus. Arranged by Osamu Kubota, these three pieces are by far the best things on the release. The first, "Piano Concerto No. 1 'Anti-Ares'," is a stunning representation of Jun Wakita's versatility as a composer, but more importantly, it showcases Osamu Kubota's remarkable orchestration skills. As the pieces progresses, the listener is greeted with a variety of moods, ranging from romantic and poignant to more bombastic and robust sections. The performances are also spectacular, although I feel that the piano, the star of this concerto, is played by Osamu Kubota with much virtuosity. It's hard to imagine that this piece was originally used for a rhythm game when it should have been used in an epic role playing game! The second piece, "Waltz No. 17 in G Minor 'Waltz of the big dogs'," arranged by Osamu Kubota for piano only and performed by Chihiro Tan, is another stunning piece that goes through a variety of moods. You can definitely hear Kubota's special touches as some of the passages are definitely reminiscent of his own beatmania piano compositions.
The album ends with "Ongaku," the title piece of the album. This piece, to my knowledge, is an original piece composed for this release. Of all the pieces on the album, this one is my favorite. It conveys a much more magical quality than the other tunes on the album, perhaps encapsulating the meaning of music, the English translation of the title. As with the first orchestrated tune, Osamu Kubota shows his masterful touch with the orchestra, especially in the harmonies, and of course, with his piano performance as well. The section that starts around 3:00, in particular, is one of my favorite sections of the entire piece. In the end, the second disc is a wonderful orchestral listening experience and is, in my opinion, well worth the admission price of the entire album, even if you aren't a fan of Japanese style vocals.
Jun Wakita's Ongaku is a fantastic look into the diversity of his compositions. While most of the first disc features rock in a variety of styles, it also showcases that he has some jazz and electronic sensibilities as well. The second disc, which is in my opinion, the best thing on the entire album, showcases his ability to craft classically oriented pieces that are heightened by the performance of the orchestra as well as Osamu Kubota's keen ear for orchestration. For fans of Jun Wakita's work in general, or those who are looking for some stunning orchestral tunes, I definitely recommend picking up this album.