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SqrtSigil – Materia

11.18.19 by Ryan Masteller

It’s been a long time since I’ve played “Final Fantasy VII,” but I’ll never forget the endless hunt for materia and the boundless joy of figuring out how to properly equip it to deal damage to monsters prone to the opposite effect or to absorb damage from monsters attacking me with the same effect. I was really good at “Final Fantasy VII,” but so was anyone, probably, who had their trusty strategy guide on hand. I found all the good stuff, in order, and I was able to prepare myself properly for Sephiroth and his infernal accomplices. Although Emerald Weapon always gave me trouble. I don’t think I ever beat Emerald Weapon.

SqrtSigil is like a mana spring you stumble across in some remote place early enough in the game when you can’t just fly your ship or whatever to restorative locations. Maciek Jaciuk, one of the founders of the Plaża Zachodnia label, weaves field recordings into his bubbling ambient textures, emerging with melodic textures that wouldn’t be out of place at some sort of remote monastery hospital, where benevolent monks and other clergy administer healing balms after you’ve faced some sort of tragic fantasy trial and come out with your life. Hey, sort of like a mana spring in “Final Fantasy,” or Lothlórien. 

“Materia,” then, is health magic equipped to your traveling armor, where at every step a micro amount of health or strength returns (and there are in fact items you can equip in the games that can help you do just that). The tiny fragments of sound are woven together and progress through their iterations until a full picture emerges, like when you get real close to an impressionistic painting, where the paint is all muddled and weird and you can’t make anything out, and slowly back up until the painting itself becomes clear. I swear to god those Monets look bizarre when your nose is touching them, but you won’t be able to dwell on it too long before museum security ushers you back out into the rainy alley you snuck in through. 

Where was I? Oh right – “Materia” is a perfect soundtrack for those miniature moments in games like “Final Fantasy” when you find yourself in a secret, safe place. Edition of 25 from Sweden’s Purlieu Recordings (only 9 left!).

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