Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Yoko Kanno Reviews: Wolf’s Rain OST I

In the anime series Wolf's Rain, a group of wolves who can disguise themselves as humans find themselves on the run as they help a mysterious girl and try to find the mythical Paradise. This music for this series fits the story well as composer Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell: SAC) uses everything from orchestral pieces to Brazilian-style jazz.

Most of the music contained on Wolf's Rain OST I has a relaxed, sometimes somber pace. Very few songs are close to being fast-paced. The album's opener "Stray" (which is the show's opening theme) is among those few. Steve Conte seems to sing from the perspective of the main character as he sings "Is there a place waiting for me?/Somewhere I belong/Or will I always live this way?" Conte's other contribution, the acoustic guitar-driven "Could You Bite The Hand?" has a dramatically different perspective: "Do you still think that we're not brave if we don't bleed?/We've seen so much blood and violence already, how much do you need?"

The instrumental pieces show some variety. "Requiem" and "Paradiso" (the album's closer) are both moody, piano-driven pieces. "Requiem" combines the piano with strings for a song that sounds both intense and flowing. "Paradiso" has a more dramatic effect as many of the same themes from "Requiem" are combined with saxophone. "Pilgrim Snow" has a light feel dominated primarily by an interesting harp melody. "Shiro" is a very nice and memorable string-driven theme. "Tip Toe Waltz" and "My Little Flower" were recorded in Poland with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and it shows. There is a wondrous power in these two short songs that stands out from the other instrumental pieces. Both songs sound absolutely beautiful. Then again, I doubt that anything played by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra would sound anything but beautiful.

However, the highlights of the album were, for me, the songs recorded in Brazil. This soundtrack (of all things) was my first exposure to Brazilian-style jazz and I enjoyed every minute of it. "CORAÇÃO SELVAGEM" is one of three songs to feature vocals by Joyce. She sings in what is likely Portuguese over a soft, smooth melody. On "Dogs And Angels," Joyce just scats her way over a wonderful array of sounds that include piano, strings, and acoustic guitar. "Run, Wolf Warrior, Run" has Joyce singing in English in a song that features wonderful vocals and excellent lyrics by Chris Mosdell. The imagery contained in them adds to the wonder of the song: "Are you hunting for mystic mountains/Where the air is like liquid laughter?" My favorite song from the Brazil sessions (and by far my favorite song on the album) is "Strangers." Raj Ramayya provides the vocals for this smooth jam that is easily among the best songs Kanno has done. This is a song that hooks you at the beginning and doesn't let go. Every time I listen to this album, I always listen to this song.

Over time, I've begun to appreciate Wolf's Rain OST I more and more. One of the reasons I really like this album is because it introduced me to a sound I had not heard before. Even if I find that the songs recorded in Brazil are lackluster compared to "real" Brazilian music, I'll have a fondness for them because they were what I was first exposed to. Even without the Brazilian songs, the rest of the album stands up for itself whether it's the jazz-inflected pop of "Valse de La Lune" or the somber piano-driven sounds of "Gravity." This 2004 Annie Award-nominated score is excellent and another notch in Yoko Kanno's long list of musical achievements.

Right now, only this, the first soundtrack, has seen a domestic release. The second soundtrack, Wolf's Rain OST II, is only available as an import.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:54 AM

    congratulations, great review, greeting from brazil