n this series, clicks’n’cuts dilettante Francis Henville describes his descent into the netherworld of Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean commercial pop. Track by track, he navigates deeper into the genre, searching for ever-more-toothsome morsels with which to satiate his jaded appetite…
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex O.S.T.
I came across this track last year as I fell slowly and delicately in love with the animated TV series Stand Alone Complex, loosely based on Masamune Shirow's Ghost In The Shell mangas. So don't let the half-English, half-Russian lyrics fool you—it's definitely a J-Pop track.
Intelligent drum'n'bass—that's what this track takes me back to. The atmosphere is drum'n'bassy but in a minimalist way, as though some elements are missing. Heavy distorted acid synths plummet from the sky among percussive raindrops. The raindrops are caught in a triplet-pattern delay, and give the track an urgency it cannot do without.
Origa's voice comes in processed at first, fading in among the distorted chunks of synthesis. It sounds ominous and threatening, but as she heads into the upper part of her range for the pre-chorus, her tone arcs upward into sweetness and light.
And as she reaches the chorus, well.... I don't know exactly how she does it. She makes it sound easy. She sings a root and then glides up to a note a fifth above. But in that portamento she changes the vowel that she's singing in a subtle way, giving the syllable a hollow resonance. It's probably augmented by a bit of reverb witchcraft, but as far as I can tell, it's not purely a studio effect but just the natural resonance chamber of her chest.
Swirling behind Origa is an assortment of drum'n'bass effects that fit the mood of the piece perfectly. They add another layer of spookiness to the whole patina. Distorted TB-303 lines flit past sub bass sines dissappearing below five Hz. Synth pads unfurl their huge black wings and circle over the futuristic city below, brooding.
At exactly two minutes in, every piece of instrumentation evaporates. We're left with nothing but a Rhodes in a void. Absolutely chilling. This chunk of orchestration never made it onto the anime theme, but it’s a welcome inclusion here. Although the Rhodes isn't exactly an unexpected instrument in a d'n'b track, the sudden break down definitely comes as a shock.
Although this track came from an anime I watch repeatedly, I've never managed to get bored of the theme. And despite an interesting and varied soundtrack, this track is clearly head and shoulders above its brethren. Even in the original anime opening version, at only a minute and thirty seconds, this song retains its unique ambience and catchy spooky melodies. If you like your music intelligent, look no further.
By: Francis Henville
Published on: 2004-11-11