Consistency in life is something to treasure. A flash of greatness? That happens. It’s glorious, but it can happen to any of us. But consistency, that’s the real prize. If you can be great day in and day out, you’ve mastered your craft. Data Discs is there. There have been no missteps, no filler releases, only consistent quality. Nothing changes with their last two releases, Streets of Rage 2 and OutRun.
Both of these releases are stone cold classics of the SEGA arcade and console era, both in gameplay and soundtrack, and that both these releases, and all previous releases from Data Discs, are from SEGA is no coincidence said Data Discs founder Jamie Crook.
“We really enjoy working with SEGA and have built a great relationship with them. It’s a very productive and easy partnership,” said Crook. “I feel that as far as music goes, SEGA probably has the most interesting and diverse back catalogue of any single publisher.”
Streets of Rage 2, for me, stands out as a crown jewel, not only for Data Discs’ discography, but for the entire Genesis/Mega Drive era from SEGA. In particular, side 1A is just makes me want to go out and beat up crime syndicate members in a dystopic future (which I think is sort of the point). The mastering of the entire record, but especially these tracks, is impeccable. The synths are warm and provide addictive melodies that worm into your head as that bass just kicks you in the ass.
The mastering is never an afterthought for Data Discs and they have an in-house team that does most of the releases to unparalleled standards for the genre.
“My brother is our in-house engineer, he has a lot of experience and we always work closely together on the mastering,” said Crook. “The process varies between releases, but it’s always very laborious! In fact, pretty most all aspects of the label are done in-house, meaning that we can retain an obsessive level of control over the products. For certain releases we also use an outside engineer with outstanding results.”
“We signed up the rights to the whole trilogy in early-2015 and started working with Yuzo Koshiro shortly afterwards. The mastering for Streets of Rage 2 was extremely complicated. We used three different sources – two Japanese Mega Drives (with different motherboards) and the original NEC-PC88 files supplied by Koshiro-san. We chose the best source for each individual track, depending on its unique requirements, how well the audio was suited for the vinyl format and how cohesively it fitted in with the overall album. We produced at least 20 different mastered versions, using different combinations of sources before settling on the final one. It was then sent to Koshiro-san for approval.”
So yeah, it should go without saying because of Streets of Rage 2 ‘s legacy of as an all-time banger of a soundtrack, but make sure you buy this record. Don’t mess around. Go buy this now before it sells out and you have to wait for it to be reprinted. There’s also reprints of the first Streets of Rage up for sale now, and per my previous recommendation, go buy that too. If you like video game soundtracks on vinyl, this is it. Classic game, classic music, re-mastered. It’s perfection.
Data Discs’ most recent release, OutRun, is another legendary SEGA soundtrack that has been lavished with love and care from Data Discs.
As a kid I remember playing OutRun in arcades and I’m not sure there’s a game that I associate the soundtrack more with the experience of playing. Sitting in the arcade machine and hearing that music as I drove through the sunny beaches in the game, it’s visceral. That music is burned into my brain. The game is the music, the music is the game.
You’ll be happy to know that the music sounds even warmer, crisper and enjoyable than you’ve ever heard it before on this release. That’s the magic of Data Discs – they take soundtracks you love and somehow make them better. That’s no small feat.
On OutRun, side 1 is all music pulled directly from the 1986 arcade boards and side 2 are all “bonus” tracks from the Mega Drive and 3DS releases of the game. This is a huge for fans of the game because while the arcade tracks are immediately recognizable and what you came to expect, the Mega Drive/3DS tracks were done by three different composers and are on the same level. They really are lesser known treasures and added to both of those individual home releases. Once again, no matter where you played OutRun, the music was inseparable from the experience of playing.
With both OutRun and Streets of Rage 2, the packaging is on point. Not barebones, but not loaded with extras, the packages provide beautiful art, small flourishes like lithographs and excellent color variants. For the sake of this review, my Streets of Rage 2 was on transparent/black smoke vinyl and OutRun was on the limited tri-color (green, mint, pink) variant that has since sold out. Both are absolutely gorgeous and I can say without hesitation the tri-color OutRun record is easily one of the most beautiful in my collection.
Data Discs takes notice of the importance of offering different variants, while still keeping their records in print and available to consumers (and taking care to make them sound great). It’s a refreshing approach that other labels should take note of.
“We usually produce three different editions – a ‘limited edition’ for the collector types, a single colored edition for distribution and long-term sales and a classic black edition,” said Crook. “All editions are exactly the same apart from the vinyl color, so we’re able to cater for everyone. Of course, we want to make our releases as widely available as possible and promote this often under-appreciated music to new audiences. We do sometimes repress our releases (obviously not the limited editions though), but it depends on the perceived demand. However, it’s becoming increasingly impossible for us to keep our entire catalogue in print, so inevitably some releases will get deleted eventually.”
“The primary value should always come from the record itself, but people do enjoy having a few extras thrown in too. We’re die-hard record enthusiasts, so the sound quality is the most important thing for us. However, our customer base is very broad and people buy records for many different reasons these days. So we try and cater for as many people as possible, hence our different editions. With regards to the artwork/extras, it’s entirely dependent on the assets made available to us – most of these titles are very old and resources are often extremely limited. It’s always a challenge to produce something that has a perceived value to everyone. There’s a trend at the moment to make vinyl releases as ‘deluxe’ and ‘definitive’ as possible, which is not really what we’re about. If you include too many fancy extras, liner notes etc. then a release can quickly become bloated and overpriced – we prefer to take the middle ground, but it’s always a difficult balance.”
Looking back, I’ve adored every Data Discs release I’ve written about, and they’ve earned every single ounce of praise I’ve heaped on them. I really do believe Data Discs is at the top of the game right now when it comes to releasing video game soundtracks, and they keep getting better. This space is flooded right now with releases that vary in quality of the actual soundtrack and quality of mastering. Support the companies that do it right. Do business with Data Discs.
A writerly writer guy who writes about music, basketball and writing. He now writes here, but has written other places too. He also writes for a big fancy company as his 9-5. Writing, writing, writing. If you want to read his basketball writing (or listen to his podcasting, which isn’t writing but you know).