Today marks the release of a new album titled PERFECT SELECTION Dale North, Vol. 1. It’s my take on the kind of collection album that Japanese composers and game publishers release (I’ve always loved these), and it kicks off a series of albums of this type for me. In between bigger games and projects I’m doing lots of smaller ones and it occurred to me late last year that I’ve written more than 100 pieces that haven’t been released anywhere outside of these projects. Compiling them into an album has proved to be fun and I can’t wait for the next one!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First off, the album is available everywhere: Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Google Play, and more. Thanks in advance for your purchase or stream. It means a lot.
Given that this album is a collection of various songs from several projects I figured track-by-track liner notes would be good to give listeners some background. In writing these I realized that there are some pretty interesting stories. Honestly it took me through a bit of an emotional journey!
So here are the liner notes. I hope you enjoy them!
Engines of Innovation (from “Sparklite”) (Unused)
This was the first piece of work I did for Red Blue Games, on their gorgeous upcoming adventure roguelike Sparklite (webpage, Steam). It was rejected. Normally I’m quite okay with rejection, revisions, and all other related versions of sending my work back. And I was in this case too. But it was one of the more rare cases of me feeling like I wrote exactly what they were asking for (in this case a trailer-style piece) and, well, as you’ll see later in the album absolutely none of it was kept. But I really loved this one and wanted to share it, so here we are.
It’s a Secret (from “Hush Hush”)
I was hired to write the title track for Hush Hush, an upcoming sequel to the massively popular visual novel/dating sim Crush Crush, which was played by more than a million people. This serves as the game’s introduction, which is fully animated, so I scored it to animation roughs. It came out nicely and has served as not only an intro but also in the game’s marketing and promotion.
Levitate and Navigate (from “VR Walk & More”)
I wrote this piece for Japanese developer ship of ELYN for their virtual reality experience VR Walk & More, which was used at several video game and VR trade shows such as Anime Expo, Tokyo Indie Fest, and Japan VR Fest. The music was supposed to convey a magical feeling.
One Shot (from “What’s Good Games: Video Game Podcast”)
As they were just starting their now hugely popular podcast, the creators of What’s Good Games asked me if I would write their theme song. Of course, I was honored to be asked. When I delivered the final work, which was supposed to convey energy, excitement, and some videogame-ish tones, all parties involved save for the individual that decided to hire me were sold on the song. But they kept it and now fans of the show are constantly saying how much the like it. There’s even one really great fan dance video out there.
Pensive Ink (from “SumiKen: Ink Blade Samurai”)
Endless runner SumiKen: Ink Blade Samurai looks like it was created with an ink brush and paper, and uses Japanese imagery of the samurai days to send players on a journey. I wanted to do the same with the music so I wrote a mystical, emotionally swelling title track.
Crucial Ink (from “SumiKen: Ink Blade Samurai”)
This is the level music for SumiKen which uses Japanese drums and rhythms to keep the tension up.
Reclaiming the World (from “Majula Frontier: Reclaiming the World”)
This piece is from one from a multi-game/book collection, and for this specific use it was supposed to be laid back and enjoyable and kind of groovy, which I hope it is. Sharp listeners will notice that it references main themes from the Majula Frontier main game’s score, which you can read more about here in this interview with Hardcore Gamer.
Instant Peril (inspired by “Kill the Dragon”) (unused)
First off, this track was rejected. But I suppose that’s for the best because it has become almost legendary in my reel since then. It all started when the developer hired me to write a title track for his game. It would also be used as a bit of a test to see if I would continue on and write the full soundtrack. They stressed full creative freedom and encouraged me to put my own ideas on top of their gameplay. While I actively avoid writing in set styles in my work, if someone encourages me to do what I like it’s probably going to involve synthesizers, romplers, orchestra, and funky bass lines at least (or it’s going to be a heartstring-pulling ballad), and that’s exactly what I did here, trying to match the frantic gameplay. And while the client liked it, he said he wouldn’t use it in the game. I was paid and thanks were exchanged, but that was it.
Since then, this song had become wildly popular among the songs in my reel and releases. It used to be in a playlist I had posted on this page of unused songs so that potential clients might hear some recent works. This song definitely helped land several gigs with other clients! And while I don’t fully understand how, an unlisted, unlinked version I later had on Soundcloud gained a very large number of listens — apparently people were passing the song around. I knew it had to go on an album somewhere!
Sunsoaked Ramparts (from “Faulty Apprentice”)
I was hired to write a pair of pieces for interactive visual novel Faulty Apprentice. They were supposed to be the music for the castle area of the game and represent the day and night time phases of exploration. If you put them side by side you’ll see that they carry the same melody but totally different feels and instrumentation.
Moonlit Ramparts (from “Faulty Apprentice”)
This is the nighttime exploration music for Faulty Apprentice.
Boundless (from “Animators vs. Games Podcast”)
Animators vs. Games is a relatively new yet already popular Let’s Play YouTube channel. Created by Dj Welch and top-tier YouTuber Alan Becker, given that they both are animators by trade, it makes sense that wanted to create a full-on animated intro for their channel. They hired me to handle the music, which was supposed to be fast and exciting and electronic. You can view its debut here. This was a lot of fun to do!
Dear Sarah (from “SOS-CC”)
I got choked up a few times writing this song and I probably will again talking about it so I won’t say much. This was for a game that was to help and share awareness for cancer, made by a husband and children of a loved one. She was able to play this game and hear this music before she passed late last year.
The Lævateinn (from “Sinmara Saga”)
Sinmara Saga is an animated short by Jason Hendrich that takes the struggles of Japanese role-playing game battles and makes them as big as they would have been in your head. I handled the music alongside famed game music composer Norihiko Hibino. I was tasked with creating an original score for an imaginary Super Nintendo game. And in keeping with my habit of taking things too far I hand crafted my own sample sound set and was even able to run parts of them through a Super Nintendo sound chip. What you hear here is the main and overworld theme for this imaginary game.
Ocean Cruise (from “Tagalong Sprint”)
I did some work for Carnival (yes, the cruise liner company) and part of that included songs for a number of games. One of the cutest ones is an ocean racing game called Tagalong Sprint, where sea turtles swim for top place. I couldn’t include all of them in this release so I picked the ones I thought were most fun. Also, the bass line is just silly and no bassist could play this without dying.
Smooth Sailin’ (from “Tagalong Sprint”)
This is from the same Carnival game and serves as the victory/reward screen. On some of the fancier cruises, namely the Medallion Class ships from Princess Cruises, players battle on their phones and then victory tallies are displayed on huge LED screens on the ship’s deck. Hopefully this tune has the winner bobbing their head with pride.
Heroes of the Crown (from “Elements of Alma: Shadows of Tragedy”)
I was asked to write a trailer song for Elements of Alma, a role-playing game with an epic story and deep lore. I wanted my piece to represent that depth as well as help build up the two minute trailer it was to be used for. It has been a long time since I’ve been able to work on a role-playing epic and this small project was a good reminder of how much I love that kind of work.
Courageous Gears (from “Sparklite”)
This album kicked off with the rejected song that I was hired to do for Sparklite, and ends with the full rewrite. It’s just as adventurous and epic, but darker and a lot more hearty. I really liked the mix of cute and quirky against grand flourishes of the first piece, but I ended up liking the more engaging second piece just as much. And I guess they did too! I wrote and orchestrated this for a full orchestra and have scores at the ready. I guess It all ends well as I’ve been hired on to work on the full soundtrack, with work beginning very soon!
You Crashed! (Bonus track)
I can’t say (yet/maybe never) what this is from/for but I can tell you it won’t be used. And that’s okay because I had so much fun creating this and related pieces. If it wasn’t obvious, my work here was inspired by one of my music heroes, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, and I used similar techniques to the ones he used in a very popular arcade racing game series.