Hitting the High Notes - Sonic Wanderer

by Andrew Merman Fisher

First of all a Happy New Year, and welcome to the new HITTING THE HIGH NOTES article. Did I really start writing this before Back in Time Brighton?

This time our victim... I mean, subject, is the one and only SONIC WANDERER. The 16 tunes available on RKO show that it's wrong to label him as just a dance remixer.

I have decided to review the tracks in chronological order, allowing me to comment on how he has progressed as a remixer. You could also consider it to be an album from SW, although the track order may be different if he chose to release them like that.

1. Cybernoid Remix (Short edit) 4:00
We kick off with a Jereon Tel classic that sounds very close to the original, with a nice bass beat. The lead is really good, recreating the feel of the guitar solo. (Note that this tune was released under the name Acarid AKA Sonic Wanderer).

2. Ball Blasta 2:36
A very nice intro leads us into another good remix with some authentic sounds. The rock drums come in at 0:57 and drive the rest of the tune along.

3. Operation Wolf (Touched by the 80's remix) 3:19
As the name suggests, 80's synths are to the fore in this one. I really like the descending riff at the end, although what it really needs is something more dramatic to make it stand out.

4. Last Ninja - The Palace (128bpm Freestyle mix) 2:41
How to discuss this one without referring to another famous remixer and his Ninja tunes? It's got a good beat with some nice riffs, and it works really well.

5. Breaker 3:34
Another one that sounds very 1980's (a bit like early Depeche Mode/Vince Clarke), it does get a bit repetitive after a while.

6. To Be On Top tune 2 (Smooth earcandy edit) 3:57
The gentle intro gives way to a strong bass sound. As the name says, the whole tune is very smooth with a nice piano sound over the top.

7. Beyond the Zero (Re-entry) 4:10
Pounding drums kick in at the start, with a Pet Shop Boys style bassline. Nice vocal samples add a lot of depth to the track.

8. X-mas Paranoimia (C64 Megamix5 Intro) 1:43
This one is dominated by a sleigh-bell sound, and is OK.

9. Ocean Loader 2 (Dance X-periment) 3:53
The very cool intro was written by SW himself, and then the thunder sound brings in the drums and the more familiar riff with some echoing arpeggios. The vocal sample is a bit predictable, but the whole tune works well as he improvises around the main theme.

10. Tai-Pan (Jumpin J remix)
This one reminds me of Das Glockenspiel, a nice house/dance remix at a higher tempo than the original. It could also be the theme tune from a Japanese video game - which is what I think SW was aiming for.

11. Ocean Loader 4.5 (Feel the beat) 4:27
The strong beat and piano lead work very well. The improvisation towards the end of the theme is excellent. SW is now getting into his stride, building bigger and better soundscapes without blocking out the melody.

12. Druid II Enlightenment 3:48
Now this is a little controversial, because Sonic changes the familiar tempo of the notes and gives us a very heavy beat. The spooky vocal samples sound at home here, and the latter half of the tune works well. However, it's not my favourite among his work - you may have a different opinion.

13. Boing! (FutuRetro mix) 3:29
Another nice dance mix, as the title suggests it also has a retro feel to it. There's plenty of depth, and some great drums.

14. Last Ninja Wilderness 4:54
Building up nicely over the first minute, this is an epic take on a familiar classic.

15. Great Giana Sisters (Pedal to the metal distortion mix)
This one drew a lot of praise on the Remix64 forum, reminding people of the Machinae Supremacy version by using distorted guitar sounds. While it doesn't have the same impact as that classic, this is a very good remix in its own right.

16. Wrath of the Demon (Aphelion of Solitude)
David Whittaker's atmospheric soundtrack for this cartridge game contains many gems - and Sonic gives us a superb rendition. Starting with the chiming sound of the lead (with some subtle alterations in the original's tempo) and the deep bass notes, it builds with a restrained drumbeat and closes with those ominous deep notes again. All in all, it could be from a film soundtrack.

Sonic could also throw in a couple of bonus tracks. TRANCEYLVANIA is not a remix; it's an original work in a trance style. And VOCODED XMAS is worth a listen, even if only for a laugh.

So, Sonic has covered a wide range of composers and styles, has put a lot of effort into every track and continues to try to push the boundaries. Long may he continue to remix!