Thursday, August 23. 2007
So today I received the OP single to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, by Eiko Shimamiya. Considering that the CD was officially released in Japan this very same date, that is freaking fast. The title song, 奈落の花 (Naraku no Hana, or "Flower of the Abyss") is pretty much exactly what I expected out of it - a long (5:01) version of exactly the same thing the opening is. It has an extended intro consisting of some more filtered, reversed sounds (actually the reverse of the ending few seconds of the long version, it seems), which is pretty creepy-atmospheric. Some segments in the longer version that remind me a little of the first Higurashi OP - at least, moreso than the TV size version does. That's a good feeling. There's also what's almost a solo of the extremely synthetic sounding guitar lead (I suspect it's just very filtered, not actually "fake") which leads into a wonderful breakdown with just the chorus over some slight pads. It works beautifully to provide a refreshing pause before the climax of the song. I was also impressed with the strength and quality of the bass during the second verse. Overall, the song is still quite what I expected, in a very good way.
What I didn't expect was how interesting it would be to listen to the "instrumental" (read: karaoke) version, which omits not only the main vocal track, but the reversed versions of the old Higurashi intro. There's a lot of interesting audio texture and composition going on here that's lost behind Eiko Shimamiya's (admittedly wonderful) vocals. There's a lot of good string composition, some generic but nicely played, quiet background guitar, a few more filtered sound effects that I didn't notice, and an overall different feel - the emphasis goes on different beats and it feels much more laid-back when just the kick/bass/sfx groove takes over during the verse or the pads take over during the bridge.
The B-side, "FLOW", is not bad, but it's not up to par with Naraku no Hana, in either incarnation. It's getting closer to traditional J-pop, with an upbeat and totally overdone chord progression - though it doesn't develop into much else, as huge chunks of the song are spent switching between only two chords repeatedly. It has a nice, slow-attack, rhodes-esque synth lead laying down the main melody, while the stereotypical J-pop guitar riffs over drums, which are so obviously sequenced it's painful. There are some interesting effects here and there, but the song doesn't do much by comparison, and the instrumental / karaoke version really doesn't go anywhere, without Eiko Shimamiya's vocals.
As for packaging, aside from the cover which looks like it's trying to be Henry Matisse, the back is a picture of Rika and Hanyuu back to back, apparently naked except for a bed of flowers and flowing hair. The inside of the booklet is plain, just mostyl red, grey, and blue, with some inversed flower pictures and the lyrics; the CD is a nice texture and shade of plain, empty grey, except the title written in small red text. There's also a "Character Card" inserted in the pack - I don't know if they're all the same, but mine has a couple images of Hanyuu on one side, and part of a larger picture on the back: I got most of Rena plus what looks to be Shion's hair and a bit of her cafe uniform. Honestly, the card is not worth really noting, despite the sticker they put on the packaging proudly advertising its inclusion.
Overall, it was quite a tasty album, and the karaoke version of Naraku no Hana is a pleasant surprise, but the main point of the single is the one, title track. And when shipping (¥2000) is almost twice as much as the already-pricey CD (¥1200), that means that this song comes at a very dear price to fans. Is it worth it? Probably not. But is it good? Oh yes.
Thursday, July 26. 2007
My El Cazador CD arrived via DHL today. Well, at this point, it might be more accurate to say yesterday. It came in just before noon while I was at work. "El Cazador Original Soundtrack 1", as it is labeled (not getting creative like they did with the Tsubasa Chronicle "Future Soundscape" OSTs here) contains 17 tracks for a total of 51 minutes, 1 second of
Overall, this first El Cazador soundtrack is very solid quality, with Yuki Kajiura sounding a lot less restrained than in some of her other recent endeavors. The level of traditionalism and experimentation is about on par with her Madlax soundtracks, which is high praise. Many of the tracks, such as #1, "Maxwell's Witch", are sort of less interesting songs that get used often in the background of the anime; #14 ("hotel del sol") and #13 ("small fry") are all passable quality but not worth frothing over. There are a number of subtle but good tracks, such as the mood-setting acoustic guitar solo "ennui", the haunting pan-pipe piece "murderous intent", the rocking "hit it and run!", and the bluesy "ballad of a bounty hunter", each of which is definitely worthwhile in its own way - but it cost me $50 to import this thing (international shipping on CDs still feels like banditry to me). Thankfully, there are three songs of such incredible quality that I don't regret it at all:
Anyway, the gist of this is that if you're familiar with Kajiura, you probably don't require this review to decide whether or not you want the soundtrack. However, it's up to you whether you're willing to import it at that price. Roughly $30 for the CD plus $20 in shipping adds up to highway robbery (heck, for that price you could get an entire season of Emma), but for a soundtrack like this, I'm willing to suffer the cost.
Saturday, March 3. 2007
This is a bit of a follow up to a couple entries ago. Basically, starting at episode 20, Death Note has new opening and ending themes by Japanese metal band Maximum the Hormone. They're already drawing praise and criticism for the style, which is much more hardcore metal than the previous pop-rock themes by Nightmare (Thanks for the correction, Souzou!). Personally, I like the first pair a little better, but there's definitely something exciting about the blood-pulsing energy of the second opening. The visual style of the OP sequence is pretty interesting, too. Ryuk and MisaMisa are totally awesome in it. Take a look:
Edit: Youtube link moved, since the first one went down.
As for the ending theme, "Zetsubou Billy", I'll just give you a 30-second demo download.
Death Note 2nd Ending Theme Demo [.mp3, 742kb]
Sunday, January 28. 2007
So anyone who's anyone these days is following Death Note, the hit-manga-turned-hit-anime about a college student who finds a notebook that kills anyone whose names are written in it. Though some people will tell you they're only reading the manga, I'm here to tell you that watching the anime is totally a better experience because it has the power of incredibly dramatic music! They finally put out the soundtrack to the anime, not just the live-action movie, and it really is great, but it gets so intense, it's almost (almost) silly. I am serious here - this is the sort of OST that makes eating potato chips a matter of life and death. If you're looking for the most dramatic songs yet used in the anime, Kyrie is the sad, tense choral melody used when Light is being particularly evil; and Low of Solipsism is the dramatic song used in the potato chip incident. Both of them are heavy-handed orchestral themes with plenty of choir action in there. And then there are so songs that are so extreme, they haven't even been used yet (so far as I know) in the anime - such as Death Note Theme and the Sephiroth-killer Domine Kira, or as I like to call it, "One-Winged Light". There are plenty of other gems in the soundtrack that I'm sure I'll discover in their full right after a few days of listening, such as L's Theme and Shudder (Senritsu), both of which utilize a nice grainy electric guitar and a piano, and have pretty awesome melodies.
Overall, I'm quite impressed with the audio quality that Yoshihisa Hirano and Hideki Taniuchi have come up with here. It's not only an incredibly atmospheric soundtrack, setting the mood perfectly for the show - it's also quite listenable and with some songs that can really literally make anything intense. So next time you eat potato chips, you know where to turn.
Update: I have gone back and uploaded all the old fileden stuff to Dreamhost, so if you had any problems about downloading files from us before, there should be no such problems now - things should be consistent and blazing fast, too. If the RSS feed seems out of order, that's an unfortunate side-effect of all this. To celebrate our ability to host more stuff now, I've also uploaded a 30-second demo from the Death Note anime soundtrack:
Tuesday, January 23. 2007
Last night I finished one of the best anime I've seen recently. It's called Mushishi, a very mystical, fantastic anime about these things called Mushi. In a way you can call them spirits, or tiny little angels and demons. Some of them are good and some of them are bad, and sometimes they affect humans. Some humans can even see the Mushi, and a Mushi-shi is one who hunts Mushi. The story revolves around a Mushi-shi called Ginko, a man with white hair and a single green eye who is always smoking a strange cigarrette. The anime itself is not actually a single story, but 26 different stories about Ginko and Mushi, all of which I enjoyed. A pleasant surprise was the music, which sets itself apart from most soundtracks by not sucking.
Here is a small sampling of the music.
The moods it creates are about half of what makes Mushishi so good - the other half would be the art. They did a pretty good job showing all these different unique kinds of Mushi and this nature that surrounds Ginko, and the music completes the feeling of mysticism and intrigue. The wonderfully relaxing OP theme is "The Sore Feet Song" by Ally Kerr, a Scottish singer-songwriter. His website can be found here. However, the rest of the music is by a Masuda Toshio, not to be confused with Masuda Toshio the director. Masuda also composed music for another anime you may have heard of, Naruto. Or Mahoromatic. Or Digi Charat. Or Ai Yori Aoshi. Maybe Excel Saga. Though those anime, maybe not Naruto, but definitely Excel Saga, have an almost entirely different sound. The kind I mostly do not like to hear :(
What I do like to hear, though, is music like this. It's a relaxed and doesn't get too active, just like most anime music I enjoy, but like the series, much of the music is serious rather than playful. I find the music very pretty but it can get pretty ominous!
Speaking of anime with soundtracks I love, check out what I discovered on YouTube:
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou with Ally Kerr's song over it. Works pretty well!
Ally Kerr's song is fantastic, and Masuda's work fits the show like a glove. I fell asleep listening to OST 1 last night! I recommend it for standalone listening as well. Also, everyone should watch Mushishi someday :) it is a neat experience.