Madlax Original Soundtrack 1 – Review

Album Title: Madlax O.S.T.
Anime Title: Madlax
Artist: Yuki Kajiura
Catalog Number: VICL-61319
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: July 21, 2004
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Galza Yuki Kajiura 2:57
02. Nowhere FictionJunction YUUKA 3:41
03. Limelda Yuki Kajiura 2:13
04. Calm Days Yuki Kajiura 3:17
05. Midnight Yuki Kajiura 2:02
06. A Pursuit Yuki Kajiura 2:02
07. Elenore Yuki Kajiura 4:22
08. The Story Begins Yuki Kajiura 3:01
09. Vanessa Yuki Kajiura 2:02
10. To Find Your Flower Yuki Kajiura 2:23
11. No Mans Land Yuki Kajiura 3:04
12. The Day Too Far Yuki Kajiura 2:17
13. Calm Violence Yuki Kajiura 2:41
14. Cradle Yuki Kajiura 1:52
15. Battlefield Yuki Kajiura 2:49
16. Quanzitta Yuki Kajiura 2:00
17. Enfant Yuki Kajiura 2:09
18. In a Foreign Town Yuki Kajiura 3:15
19. Flame Yuki Kajiura 2:33
20. Dawnlight Yuki Kajiura 2:03
21. Peace in Your Mind Yuki Kajiura 2:00
22. Margaret Yuki Kajiura 3:16
23. Hitomi no Kakera (TV Size) FictionJunction YUUKA 1:35

Review: Yuki Kajiura, judging by her top position on the recent composer’s poll, commands a style that’s universally appealing. So appealing in fact, she can afford to allow diversity to remain the exception and not the standard in her music. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your point of view) the Madlax soundtrack is not an exception.

With the usual medley of beat-driven action, mysterious choruses, and ethnic atmosphere, the soundtrack possesses little to no unique traits that set it apart from Kajiura’s usual fare. As expected, several of her signature vocal tracks are scattered through the disc; “Nowhere” is the highlight, with a background chant that maintains an atmosphere of mysticism. The singer’s voice has a marked sense of liveliness and urgency that does a good job of immersing the listener in the intensity of the song. Through its energy, it becomes easy to visualize a close encounter with some immense arcane power or a breathless escape from thick volleys of enemy fire.

Nowhere

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The other vocal pieces are pleasant but for the most part fail to distinguish themselves. “Cradle” is a simple but soothing lullaby which isn’t memorable aside from an interesting pronunciation of the title. “Elenore” manages to be better. It pulls off a simultaneously moving and calming atmosphere that for some reason reminds me of music by the artist Enya. However, it’s precisely this vague similarity that makes it difficult for me to recall the track, as my memories end up being repeatedly obstructed by choruses of “sail away, sail away, sail away.”

Elenore

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The instrumental part of the album is just as much of a mixed bag. On the positive side, I found myself greatly enjoying “Galza” and its distinctly medieval character. Beginning with some compelling percussion, the track evokes the image of an unfaltering wanderer possessed by a single-minded purpose. “Battlefield” also succeeds at creating a vivid depiction of the scenery suggested in its title by presenting the desolation of war with a slow theme depressed by the weight of reality.

Galza

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Nonetheless, what sets the Madlax soundtrack below Kajiura’s better stuff is the number of tracks that border on ambience. “In a Foreign Town” sets up an engaging atmosphere with a Middle Eastern flavor but disappoints by remaining largely static throughout. “Quanzitta” and “Midnight” go down the same route with repetitive, ethnic themes that are rehashed a few times too many. Similarly, “Calm Violence” doesn’t do much. The rhythms take the forefront of the scene, yet after two minutes and a half minutes without significant development it becomes difficult to stay focused on the music.

In a Foreign Town

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Calm Violence

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The trend only continues in “Calm Days”. Here the melody is held by disproportionately soft synthetic strings that compete with a keyboard layered with audio effects. It’s very likely that Kajiura attempted to mask the flat synth with the decidedly less artificial-sounding piano, but the melody becomes too overpowered as a result. Then there’s the disappointment that is “Vanessa”. After hearing actual strings at the beginning, I let my hopes rise, expecting Kajiura to show off what she’s capable of wringing out of physical instruments. Instead, the track decides to blather off into a section reminiscent of infomercials and elevators. Whoever Vanessa is, I hope she isn’t as bland as the infomercials I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Vanessa

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This album’s general weakness lies in its tendency to repeat some motif ad infinitum without much development. Even the tracks which I found myself initially enjoying began to bore me as they wore out their welcome. Part of the problem stems from how Kajiura comes to rely too much on the rhythm to carry the music. While she may be very adept at creating an engrossing pulse (perhaps part of the reason she’s so popular), it’s not enough to prevent the tracks from becoming stale and faceless after repeated playthroughs.

I wouldn’t call this album bad, but it frequently skirts the line bordering ambience albeit of the high-quality kind. Unless you’re an ardent Kajiura fan, I would pass up the Madlax OST up for something she’s put more effort into.

Rating: Good

About the author

Yu A musician with a fondness for anime, I love listening and talking about the music accompanying the shows I watch. I'm fond of classical styled music, but any piece regardless of genre can tickle my fancy. On the other hand, I'm awful at discussing anime because I'm so terribly easy to please.

6 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Rhythmroo says:

    “This album’s general weakness lies in its tendency to repeat some motif ad infinitum without much development”

    This seems to be case with a great deal of compositions from soundtracks. Complex or simple the motif/melody may be, if you don’t do something interesting with it you have a bland sound that could deter listeners from being engaged in the music. Thankfully there are usually, not always, gems that sparkle in a composer’s mine shaft. Who knows, sometimes there are some rough pieces, with a little closer observation, that may be gems with their own value outside the soundtrack’s collection.

    • If there’s anything that Madlax can be noted for, it’s seeing some of the influences that this OST has exerted on her future works. “Galza” in particular does have an intro that sounds really much like the one you’ll hear if you ever give the Xenosaga soundtrack a shot even if the resulting melody is a tad different. Beyond that, yeah this is pretty much what I’d consider to be an “average” Kajiura soundtrack. Which isn’t a bad thing; her average music is still good when the entirety of anime music as a whole is taken into consideration.

  2. Yu says:

    @Rhythmroo
    Exactly. It’s harder to get away with blandness if the music is of the standalone variety. Soundtracks are there mostly to provide some atmosphere and composers can usually get away with mediocre music, but it still makes a huge difference when an anime has been scored well.

    @zzero
    I’ll have to check out Xenosaga sometime. Most of her compositions share some relation or connection, so you could say that any of her works are influences on her later stuff. I’m being too cynical. :P

  3. Aftershok says:

    As well as she did in the poll, I wouldn’t call Kajiura’s style universally appealing. She is a composer who writes music that is consistently enjoyed by a core fanbase. It’s just that many of the people in that core fanbase just happened to have voted in this poll. She’s a very like-it-or-you-don’t proposition. In any case, this was a great read. I would never watch the show (you know how I am with Bee Train), but it looks like there’s not much to get excited over the OST either.

  4. Yu says:

    The thing is, I don’t have any evidence that allows me to call sample bias. Conversely I don’t have any evidence to claim that there wasn’t any sample bias. You’re right that universally probably wasn’t the best word to use. It would be like saying Justin Bieber is liked by everyone because he did well in a popularity poll.

    Thanks for reading :P

  5. Yi says:

    I really enjoyed this soundtrack with Nowhere being one of my favorites. It’s very classic Kajiura-esque down to the chant, but nothing wrong with that.

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