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I like the beats at the beginning and the creative use of sweeps. The piece is a little slow to progress, and I would’ve liked to hear some more creative drum patterns at some point. The production quality is strong, and the sound design fits well in context, even if it is a bit cliche at times. The snare was a bit far back in the mix for most of the piece, but otherwise the mastering holds up well. The piece flows really smoothly, and by around the 3-minute mark the meaning of the theme of the “angel’s voice” is clear to me. I was itching for some more dynamic melodic content at some point, and I think the climax into 5:23 was a bit of a missed opportunity for that. The second half of the piece is quite repetitive, and much of the foregrounded content is rhythmic/chordal in nature. That said, I really like the atmosphere and rich texture here. The composition could’ve been a bit bolder in places, but the production makes up for that imo. Keep at it, TerraNation, and thanks for coming out to the NGUAC! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
2/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.5/2
Instrumentation and sound design
.75/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.25/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.5/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.5/1
Composite score
7.5/10

Very creative and experimental approach here. The vocals at the beginning have a few mic pops and crackles, but that may be on purpose. The dense rhythmic content at :14 reminds me of György Ligeti, and I do like the jazzy e-piano pads that pop in occasionally - they help ground the listener in some moving notes amidst the chaos of the rhythmic and vocal sections. The section at 1:15 was probably my favorite part - the light, airy tone and rich atmospheric texture at 1:30 are really nice, and I like how the vocals continue throughout that section. The dramatic pause right after the curse at 2:00 is a clever way of transitioning back into the frantic percussion riffs. The heavy and somewhat exotic-sounding texture at 3:05 is probably my second-favorite part of the piece. I feel like you could’ve used a conclusion that wrapped up the “narrative” element of the track. The vocals are the main thing giving this piece a sense of “story line,” so I would’ve liked to see them tie the piece together a bit more at the end. I also think the piece could’ve used some smoother transitions in places, at least between the vocals and rhythmic/staticky noise. As an experimental piece, I really enjoyed it for the variety and creative thematic elements. As a stand-alone track, I might’ve liked to see you integrate the various motifs better and also find some way of resolving the tension in the piece. Still, this is a stand-out track for me in a lot of ways. The sound design is superb, and the production and balance on the rhythmic sections is really well-done. Really creative and evocative work, SnaresWorks! Thanks for coming out to the NGUAC this year. It’s been a blast. ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.5/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
.75/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.25/2
Instrumentation and sound design
1/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
1/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.5/1
Composite score
7/10

SnaresWorks responds:

thank you for your review! a lot of people have been saying that this track stood out to them, which makes me really happy! i tried doing something different than what everyone was going for, and i agree with most of the points that you made, i definitely could've sat a little more and changed up some things to make it have a better overall narrative :)

im definitely joining the nguac again next year, thank you for the review!

I like the quirky sound design and angsty vocals. Some of the instruments sound a tad harsh in my headphones, especially the kick and the bass - maybe the panning/stereo enhancing is a tad too strong? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on without seeing your mixer, but that’s my hunch. Anyway, once the texture starts filling in more the harshness bothers me less, and I’m captivated by the well-balanced frequencies and rhythmic content. The chorus at :55 is a bit bland, though - some more melodic interest or dynamic instrumental harmonies would’ve been nice there. You use a lot of stop-start transitions (:53, 1:56, 2:26, etc.) which gives the arrangement a bit of a choppy feel. The “I’m going to win this” at 2:30 was a fun variation on the chorus, but overall the lyrics could’ve been a bit more creative in places. “Fake it to make it” is kind of a trite saying, and there’s a lot of repetition in the vocal lines. The synth solo at 3:24 was probably my favorite part of the piece, but even then it had a bit of a square rhythm, and didn’t introduce any particularly new contour or sense of development in the piece. Overall, I really like the sound design, and the execution on the vocals themselves was quite good. Some of the compositional details might’ve needed to marinate a bit more - the melodic patterns and lyrics both seemed a bit stale. That said, besides my minor complaint early on, the production quality is really good, and I also enjoyed the atmosphere and texture of this one a lot. Solid work overall, Shifterhead, and thanks for coming out to the NGUAC this year! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.75/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.5/2
Instrumentation and sound design
1/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.75/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.5/1
Composite score
7.5/10

I like the melancholic mood at the beginning and the rich atmosphere. The percussion isn’t my favorite, though - the snare-equivalent sounds like you’re hitting an iron pipe with a drumstick in a tunnel, and overall the drums are a little too loud compared to the atmospheric tracks. I enjoyed the build-up at :42, and the drop had a nice, open and expansive vibe, but also could’ve been a tad more dynamic. The bridge at 1:50 was nice for some variety, but also feels a tad over-compressed. Otherwise, the production quality is solid here, with crisp drums and clear instruments throughout. There are a lot of stop-start transitions in this piece that break up the flow a bit, but I do like how you brought back the furtive atmospheric part for the outro, giving the piece a nice full-circle feel (much like the sun; I get it). Overall, the mixing and mastering are good, and the atmosphere and mood are easily my favorite elements of the piece, but the composition feels a tad formulaic, and I wasn’t a huge fan of some of your sound design choices. You’re clearly a talented producer, though, and thanks for coming out to the NGUAC this year! It’s been a blast. ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.75/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.75/2
Instrumentation and sound design
.75/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.25/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.25/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.75/1
Composite score
7.75/10

I like the gritty, distorted synths at the beginning and the ominous mood. The piano chords at :25 feel a bit clunky - it might be because all the notes are super close together pitch-wise. I’m also not a huge fan of the high-pitched snare/percussion at :37 - sounds a bit grating to me. The progression is enjoyable here, but the texture remains pretty minimal for most of the piece. The rhythmic content and sound design at the drop at 1:40 are enjoyable, although some of the synths in the piece sound a bit cheesy and unpolished, especially the lead at 3:30 or so. You also start to overuse some of the gun sound effects after a while. The mix could also use some help at times - the claps don’t come through the rest of the texture very cleanly at 2:53, and often the reverb is a bit excessive. I like the build-ups and catchy synth riffs, but at some point more melodic content or some harmonic depth would’ve helped round out the composition here. Overall, it’s a fun piece with an engrossing atmosphere and effective arrangement. Teasing out the compositional details and tightening up the mix would really help take it to the next level. Thanks for coming out to the NGUAC this year, Reddyfu! Been a blast. ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.25/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.5/2
Instrumentation and sound design
.5/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.25/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.5/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
1/1
Composite score
7.25/10

reddyfu responds:

Thanks for continuing to give feedback to everyone! I find that more valuable than winning a contest c:

I like the bright, upbeat mood at the beginning, and the vocals are beautiful. The mix is a tad quiet, although I like the post-chorus at :51. The sound design and arrangement are both a bit generic, and the vocals start to get a tad repetitive after a while, especially with the copy-pasted verse at 1:26. The piece comes together well at 2:22, with the extra harmonies layered on in the mid-treble range. My biggest complaint here is probably that the sound design, progression, and harmonic framework all sound really generic. Still, I’m enjoying the atmosphere, melodies, production quality, and how you bring out the emotional appeal of the vocals. Keep at it, RealGares and Loftt! Nice to see a team go this far in the competition this year. ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.75/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
2/2
Instrumentation and sound design
.75/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.5/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.25/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
1/1
Composite score
8.5/10

I like the gritty guitars and vocals at the beginning, but I would’ve liked to hear more of a proper intro. Instead, the piece throws the listener into the middle of the action a bit. The vocals could also be a bit more up-front in the mix - some more compression might be advisable. The same thing is probably true of the drums, actually - they need a bit of a boost in the mix at times. The frantic guitar solo at :36 was awesome, and your flow in the rap part at 1:00 is great. Throughout, I’m really enjoying the rhythmic content, although the instrumental track probably could’ve used more variety later on, and I would’ve liked to see a more creative ending than a fade-out. Overall, it’s the mixing that really keeps a ceiling on your score for me here. The composition is strong, and it’s really refreshing to hear a rap-metal hybrid in the NGUAC. Keep at it, ProjectSoary, and thanks for coming out to the NGUAC this year! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.5/2
Instrumentation and sound design
1/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.25/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
1/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.75/1
Composite score
7.75/10

ProjectSoary responds:

I agree 100%. I had submission dates mixed up, and assumed it was due on Sunday. Had it not been for your "8 hours left!" message Friday, I would have missed the deadline completely. Fortunately my spidey-senses started tingling on Friday, and I started making this track 1 hour before receiving the message. 9 hour crunch from scratch. Had to render at 11:54PM, uploaded to NG at 11:56PM to make the 11:59PM deadline. No time to listen to the render, no intro, barely mixing, just straight up raw. I'm just happy I was able submit on time, and really test myself with time constraints. Now that NGUAC is over, I highly suggest listening to the extended version of this song. Thanks for the review, and for hosting this awesome contest! NGUAC 2021 has been super fun!

I like the dreamy atmosphere at the beginning and the synth guitars at :13. The crisp drums at :28 are a nice touch, although that section really slowed down the pacing and sounded really minimal overall. I’m enjoying the melodies at :55 - I can definitely see the pirate theme coming through there. The powerful synth at 1:23 is nice, but the rhythm there feels a bit square. By the time the second melody comes in at 1:55, I’m really enjoying the cinematic flair of this piece, although at times the melodies feel a little over-decorated, so that it’s hard to follow their contours. At the same time, the main melody gets a tad repetitive towards the end, and the chord progression here is a bit cliche. Still, the mixing and mastering is really strong, and I’m enjoying the progression and sound design throughout. Solid work overall, Predator! Thanks for coming out to the NGUAC this year, and best of luck with your future tracks. ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
2/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.75/2
Instrumentation and sound design
1/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.25/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.75/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
1/1
Composite score
8.75/10

I like the cutesy melodies at the beginning and the heavier breaks at :27. Some of the synths are a bit cheesy, and the drop at 1:05 was a tad minimal. That said, the production quality is really strong. It’s a bit difficult to follow the rhythm at 1:38, as I think there might be a tad too many syncopations going on there. The harmonic variations at 2:11 were pretty cool, although I feel like the piece needed a final climax towards the end to tie it together. Some of the compositional details, sound design choices, and arrangement elements are also pretty generic here. Overall, I’m enjoying the mixing and mastering, progression, melodies, and atmosphere. It seems like the piece doesn’t quite know where to go after a while, though - you don’t really tease out the melodic themes of the first minute or so much more after that. Still, solid effort all around - it’s a catchy and fun piece, and congratulations on all your hard work in the competition! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
1.75/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
1.5/2
Instrumentation and sound design
.75/1
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
1.25/1.5
Originality and uniqueness
.5/1
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
.5/1
Composite score
7.5/10

I like the smooth pads at the beginning and the cutesy sound design, especially the mallets and plucked strings. The saxophone solo at :17 is great, and the relaxed mood of the piece is awesome. The victorious mood at 1:03 is awesome, and I like how you cycle through the mallets/piano bit and the saxophone solos. The injection of energy at 2:16 was also a welcome change, and I appreciate how you varied the main melody the second time at 2:30 and layered on some additional vocals. You absolutely nailed the blissful mood, instrumentation, production quality, and melodies here. If I had to complain about one thing, it might be the sudden ending, or maybe the occasional slow pacing or thin texture. That said, this is easily one of my favorite pieces of the entire competition - of any round. You painted a clear picture in my head of what Moon City is like, all while showing off some killer melody-writing and orchestration skills. Congratulations, Michael, and best of luck with your future projects! ^_^

Mixing, mastering, and balance
2/2
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
1.25/1.5
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
9.75/10

Michael-Flaherty responds:

I really appreciate this review. Thanks for including me in the contest!

Hi. I'm Andrew. Audio portal junkie since 2010, supporter since January 2017. I always want to improve what I do! I make music, run the NGUAC, and am active in the writing forum. I love this site, and I want to make it the best I can. :) Formerly TheDoor6

Andrew Mikula @TaintedLogic

24, Male

Policy Researcher

Bates College

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Joined on 8/16/12

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