Kenji Kawai – Ghost In The Shell, 1995

A few days ago, poor Steve Aoki revealed his remix of the iconic 攻殻機動隊 (Ghost in the Shell) theme for the forthcoming remake. The remix is the EDM equivalent of trying to embroider lace with a power drill, and incensed anime fans have flooded the comments with rage (as well as with links to the also-iconic theme from the Stand Alone Complex series). Rather than adding further insult to injury, I wanted to share the original soundtrack, as it’s one of the best anime soundtracks (and arguably one of the best soundtracks, period).

To make the aforementioned theme, scoring giant Kenji Kawai combined Bulgarian choral harmonies and traditional Japanese vocal techniques into a wedding song with lyrics in the ancient Japanese language Yamato Kotaba. The theme is repeated in three different variations, all of which should give you goosebumps. The rest of the soundtrack is gorgeous, murky atmospherics: submerged keyboards, sparse taiko, synthetic strings, ominous clanging, a lone (Spanish?) guitar. If you haven’t seen the movie, song titles like “Nightstalker” and “Floating Museum” should be able to paint a sufficient picture. The real curveball is the closer, sometimes listed as a bonus track, which is a bubblegum pop sung in Cantonese. Many reviewers complain about the inclusion of the jarring closer, but I think a slightly psychotic ending makes sense in the context of a movie about fragmented personhood in a cyberpunk dystopia. Bonus round: here’s a very beautiful live performance of the theme.

Jacques Dudon – Lumiéres Audibles, 1995

“In his ‘photosonic’ process, Dudon shines light through a series of semi-transparent, rotating discs that slow and modify the light waves’ frequencies; the resulting waveforms are picked up by photoelectric (solar-power) cells connected to standard analog amplifiers.”
– Kala Pierson, review in ‘The New Music Connoisseur
“I discovered these very particular waveforms from the beginning of my disk experimentations. Their sonorities, both complex and transparent, are among the oddest, reminding those of inharmonic tones or hisses. Their audition is often accompanied by very powerful psychic effects, the ear recognizing precise textures, paradoxically without being able to give them any determined fundamental pitches. This comes from the fact that graphically, and by analogy with the fractal images, these waves are generated by laws of geometrical development, putting in action the same organizing principles whatever the scale they are being observed at. The synthesis, on a disk, of a white noise, sets a very interesting mathematical problem, which can’t be resolved by shapes thrown in a hazardous way, neither by other aleatory parameters, which would only produce a buzz, while a white noise is the undifferentiated mixture of all frequencies. Fractal waveforms are up to this date what I found the most successful for a white noise imitation. In this CD are explored three of these fractal waveforms, with their related intonations: the “Clar” fractal waveform, and its first developments, in “Hexagrammes” (track 8); the “Phi” fractal waveform, starting point of “Fleurs de lumière” (tracks 1-2-3); and the “Mohajira” fractal waveform, at the basis of “Sumer” (tracks 4-5-6-7).”
– Fractal waveforms (excerpt from the “Lumières audibles” booklet)

Harold Budd & Hector Zazou – Glyph, 1995

An underheard record from two masters. Trip hop feels like a radical genre departure for both Budd and Zazou, and yet it instantly makes sense upon first listen. Both leave their stylistic fingerprints all over Glyph–Budd’s melancholia, Zazou’s sinister sensibility–weaving haunted ambient jazz into fizzed out drum loops. Trumpet arrangements by Mark Isham, guitar by Barbara Gogan (with whom Zazou also collaborated on a very good trip hop full-length that I’ll be posting at some point), and poetry recitations by Budd. Attains startling heights of opiated beauty (“Reflected in the Eye of a Dragonfly,” featuring a wash of pedal steel guitar courtesy of BJ Cole; sinuous grooves on “Pandas in Tandem” and “As Fast As I Could Look Away She Was Still There”). Does exactly what good trip hop is supposed to do, and then some.

Love, Peace, & Trance – Love, Peace, & Trance, 1995

Apart from the Discogs entry which lists its participants, I can’t find any information about this house-influenced 1995 release produced by Haruomi Hosono. It sounds as if it was stitched together from a month-long experimental jam session somewhere amazing. Synthesizers, thick references to Indian classical music, and feathery vocals dominate, with flute, sitar, thumb piano, and gentle samples drifting in and out. Ambient and dreamlike, with slow building of beats. Other notable participants include dip in the pool‘s Miyako Koda, vocalist Mishio Ogawa, and Yasuhiko Terada, a recording engineer who worked on countless Yen records releases. An underheard release from an under-celebrated but prolific era in the career of the great Haruomi Hosono!