Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Yoko Kanno Reviews: NHK China Special Chuugoku OST

The last Yoko Kanno review I did was of the soundtrack to a live action movie that hasn't even been released in America yet. Now, I continue to dive into the obscure with the NHK China Special Chuugoku soundtrack.

As the name suggests, this is the soundtrack to a Japanese TV documentary on the country of China. It's actually a surprise that this even got released on CD at all. Although this soundtrack isn't to something as well known or as high profile as much of her anime work, it's a solid addition to her discography.

The album begins with the rousing "Main Theme" which gets reprised in three different versions later on the album. The original version is a nice orchestral piece that sets everything up nicely. "Mugen" features traditional-style vocals from Wuyotana. This song marries what sound like traditional Chinese instruments with modern production. I love the song's bass heavy sound, the piano (likely played by Kanno herself) and the interesting breakdown in the middle of the song. "Koma" is a nice combination of acoustic guitar and piano and reminded me a little bit of pieces heard in Wolf's Rain. Piano and vocals work together on two different tracks. "China" features the vocals of Gabriela Robin and is kind of quiet and mellow. In comparison, Wuyotana's vocals on "Hibari" are a bit more intense as they seem to convey longing.

"Yama" fits into that "old-world" style of tracks that Yoko Kanno has done on the soundtracks of shows like Escaflowne and Sousei no Aquarion. What sets it apart, though, is the leanings into jazz that start midway through the song. The "duet" version of the "Main Theme" is really a nice instrumental reprise of "Mugen." The piano version is nice as well but the standout track of the "Main Theme" alternates is the percussion version. There are no big drums to be found here. There is only light percussion that gives it an interesting sound. "Sayonara" is a wonderful acoustic guitar-driven piece that reminds me of some of Air's work on their album Talkie Walkie.

Overall, the soundtrack to NHK China Special Chuugoku is very good. It's just another example of Yoko Kanno's versatility. Whether she's scoring a futuristic sci-fi action series, a romantic fantasy/action series, a live-action samurai film, a video game, or a TV documentary, Kanno is able to create compelling and memorable music that fits the work perfectly.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:26 PM

    I LOVE THIS ALBUM! Just discovered it while exploring music on iTunes. Gives me goosebumps. Thanks for writing this review, so I could learn more about the music and the incredibly gifted composer!