Zuntata, Taito's in-house band, releasing 25th-anniversary album set

Zuntata, the name of Taito's sound and music division, has been involved in gaming for some 25 years, originally "debuting" in 1987 and since being involved in everything from game sound to album production and live performances. 12 current and former members of the team are contributing tracks to their 25th-anniversary album: COZMO, a two-disc set combining a best-of disc with a complete set of original songs.

The project is being led by Katsuhisa Ishikawa, long-time Zuntata member and the main guy behind soundtracks like Darius Gaiden. "I think, when you have 25th-anniversary releases like this, they tend to be best-of albums with maybe a few arrangements," he told Famitsu magazine in a roundtable interview published this week. "One of our aims was not to do something like that. Also, just because we're at a quarter-century doesn't mean we're done yet at all, so I wanted to do more than just look at the past."

What Ishikawa did was give each of the 12 contributors a loose theme and let them play around with it. "Usually we're creating music based off of project documents or game images," commented Yasuko Yamada, an eight-year Zuntata veteran who worked on stuff like The New Zealand Story and Bust-a-Move. "For this album, the only order from high is that the theme has to be space. So I started thinking about space, as well as what sort of tracks I can make, and somewhere along the line I had a beer in my hand. So I started drinking while thinking about this, and eventually the voice of God came into my mind, so to speak and I let that guide me as I composed. I go into more detail on this process in the album jacket, so you'll have to buy it to get the whole story."

The contributor with the most experience is probably Koji Sakurai, a freelance composer who joined Taito in 1987 as someone with next-to-no music experience and quickly went on to write music for early arcade hits like The Ninja Warriors. "I was a little leery about taking this job," he said, "because even today Zuntata has its own color that isn't tied to the past, so I thought I'd be in the way of that. You have all these people contributing, though, so it's really more of a festival atmosphere. There are few themes of mine in here, including a second shot at something that I tried way back in 1987, when I was building a test portfolio to get into the sound department. I was asked to write a track about 'the four seasons' for the test, but I hadn't even touch a musical instrument at the time, much less composed, so I just threw a whole bunch of sounds together. Somehow I passed with that, but I've always been peeved that I couldn't do better, so I'm trying again here."

"It probably sounds like everyone had a lot of trouble," Ishikawa added, "but that was part of my aim. It's resulted in this really impressive set of music, and it's something that really gives you insight on the current state of Zuntata."

COZMO comes out October 31 in Japan in two-disc and four-disc versions.

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