Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Yoko Kanno Reviews: Sousei no Aquarion OST I

After just finishing The Rock Reviews, I now bring you a brand new series of music reviews based around one of my favorite composers, Yoko Kanno. I've reviewed quite a bit of her work on this blog and most recently, I sent my Driving Mixmania match and Jim at Patriside a 3-disc set of her work. This series will consist of reviews of the following soundtracks: Sousei no Aquarion OSTs I & II, Ashura-jo no Hitomi OST, Wolf's Rain OST 1, and Be Human from Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Three of these reviews, including this opening review, will be exclusive to this blog and not cross-posted anywhere else.

The first soundtrack reviewed as part of this series is Sousei no Aquarion OST I (Genesis of Aquarion in English). For this soundtrack (as well as the second one), Kanno is one of two contributors. Credit for this soundtrack is shared between Kanno and Hisaaki Hogari, a composer with roots in electronic music who has provided music for several anime himself. According to this link at the Yoko Kanno Database, Hogari composed four of the 18 tracks on this first soundtrack.

Ever since Escaflowne, Kanno hasn't really done a soundtrack that has completely matched it in feel. In the pieces she has composed for Sousei no Aquarion, Kanno seems to have gone for a feel that is very close to her work for Escaflowne. "Aquarius" is a song in the tradition of Kanno's Escaflowne work. The song has a suitably epic feel due to the collaboration with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. The fluttery strings and woodwinds stand out in "High Spirit" and "Brown Horses" has an ethnic feel and melody as simple and memorable as the classic "Shadow Of Doubt" from Escaflowne.

In addition to the orchestral works, there are other types of songs to be found. "Sousei no Aquarion," which shares its title with the show itself, is an upbeat pop song with nice vocals by AKINO. "Becoming A Bird," with vocals by Aoi Tada, is a smooth, relaxed pop song that floats along. Then there is "Kikaitenshi Aquarion," a song with an excellent combination of the electronic and the organic as chorus vocals are melded to a strong, upbeat electronic track. The link I mentioned above credits Kanno solely for this song, while I have also heard that it is really a collaborative effort between Kanno and Hogari. Either way, it is a great song.

While I've been focused on Kanno's contribution to the soundtrack, I am not about to forget the great contributions of Hisaaki Hogari. His songs are dramatically different from those Kanno contributed, but they never sound out of place with the rest of the soundtrack. "Macho Battle" is a wonderful techno song with elements of rock as well as some Kanno-esque vocals. "Max Bomber Girl" is a light, breezy electronic song. "Michelle" is a light pop song with vocals by an artist who lends his name to the song (I have to wonder if Michelle is as much a real artist as Gabriela Robin is...). Ethnic influences can be heard in the upbeat techno of "Dragon Reika."

As a soundtrack, Sousei no Aquarion OST I has a sweeping, epic feel. The orchestral pieces by Kanno are some of the best she's done since Escaflowne and much of her work here is very similar in tone to her soundtracks to that show. However, what sets this soundtrack apart from Escaflowne are the great electronic contributions from Hisaaki Hogari. They fit the overall feel of the rest of the album even while they are the polar opposite to the orchestral pieces. I enjoyed much of the music on Sousei no Aquarion OST I and when the show comes to America, I hope the soundtrack(s) do as well.

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