∀ (Turn A) Gundam Original Sound Tracks – Review

Album Title: ∀ GUNDAM ORIGINAL SOUND TRACKS
Anime Title: ∀ Gundam
Artist: Yoko Kanno, Asei Kobayashi, Hideki Saijo, Shikyoh Iwasaka
Catalog Number: KICA-473
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: July 23, 1999
Purchase at: CDJapan


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Spiral re-born Yoko Kanno 1:02
02. Principle of the Abyss of Earth Yoko Kanno 5:19
03. Memory of Military Boots Yoko Kanno 4:58
04. Springing from the Earth Yoko Kanno 2:37
05. The First Advent ~ The God’s Sneer Yoko Kanno 2:11
06. The Second Advent ~ The Shore Touched
by the God’s Claw
Yoko Kanno 2:08
07. The Third Advent ~ The Thing
Hiding in the Ground
Yoko Kanno 2:41
08. Final Shore ~ Oh, To Meet Again Yoko Kanno 5:17
09. Moon Yoko Kanno 5:15
10. The Ceremony of Crossing Over Yoko Kanno 2:16
11. Talking Soshie Yoko Kanno 1:37
12. Days Yoko Kanno 4:20
13. Miss, a Secret Conversation Asei Kobayashi, Hideki Saijo 1:22
14. Guin Lineford’s Limousine Yoko Kanno 2:34
15. Girls rule Yoko Kanno 2:08
16. Quiet landing Yoko Kanno 4:29
17. Air plant Yoko Kanno 1:18
18. Tracing the Point of Light Yoko Kanno 2:34
19. Like a Rooster Yoko Kanno 1:57
20. When Talking of Old Promises Yoko Kanno 1:38
21. The song of a stone Yoko Kanno 3:16
22. Boys about 16 Yoko Kanno, Shikyoh Iwasaka 5:37
23. 5/4 moon Yoko Kanno 2:29
24. Felicity Yoko Kanno 3:30

Review: It’s hard pegging what “Spiral re-born” is aiming for without knowing the context since its vocals are tinged with an overwhelming sense of grief and the way they are delivered hints at some grave tragedy that’s occurred in the past. This haunting outpouring is followed by “Principle of the Abyss of Earth’s” tribal rhythm which reinforces the image of an ancient ceremony through the warlike chant. But it’s in this track that the music transitions out of that bygone era, first through a dissonant bagpipe, and then a brief, nostalgic-sounding flute melody, until the tribal beats back off completely. In the tranquil atmosphere that follows, a trumpet fanfare summons the heroes to undertake the epic journey. The melody sounds ever hopeful, and with the optimism riding high, the adventure is ready to begin!

Principle of the Abyss of Earth

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Is this really how ∀ Gundam starts out? I wouldn’t know; I’ve never seen the anime. On the off chance that I happen to be right, consider this a testament to Yoko Kanno’s ability to depict humanity’s steady march from a backwater culture into a modernized force through music. But her excellence doesn’t stop here. The remainder of ∀ Gundam exemplifies Kanno’s skill at orchestral compositions, yielding a magnificent soundtrack that takes us through the highs and lows of the anime’s conflict, from the catastrophe that arises as a result of an invasion, to the redemption and glory to be had as the survivors reassemble and successfully fight back.

That’s what we get in the next two tracks, “Memory of Military Boots” and “Springing from the Earth,” which prominently display the Wagnerian bombast that keeps me enthralled. “Memory of Military Boots” gets there through a slow, serene buildup as it takes the tranquility from the previous track and transitions to a military march which only suffers slightly from the way the two trumpets are muddled together. No matter because once the piece crescendos into the climax, the feeling is exhilarating as I eagerly look forward to the epicness that is in store. “Springing from the Earth” doesn’t even bother to wait, preferring to plunge you straight into the adventure with a ringing sendoff. In between the two awe-inspiring fanfares, this track is instilled with a heroic purpose which propels it towards the clash that will determine the heroes’ destiny.

Springing from the Earth

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Enter then, the “Advent” tracks, which show the conflict’s dark side. The “First Advent,” appropriately enough, brings out the track title’s implied religiosity through a foreboding chant with a grim orchestral layer to accompany the despair that ensues in the face of the overwhelming force. The “Second Advent” takes up where the first leaves off with a frenetic dose of action, appropriating dissonant cues to impart the imminent danger while incorporating a Russian dance form that radiates desperation in its movement. With its conclusion, the morbid doom is all too certain, and the “Third Advent” reflects the sheer destructiveness through a quiet, sobering melody, filled with heartache and sorrow. But once the bell tolls, the piece heads toward more uplifting fare, offering a supportive arm so that the survivors may endure past the pains and rise once more.

The Third Advent ~ The Thing Hiding in the Ground

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With “Final Shore,” the action tracks subside for a time, allowing Kanno to showcase some of her less intense symphonic tracks. “Girls Rule” is a beautiful example. Its short violin phrases are pleasantly charming in the way it cultivates a playful tone before soaring to great heights as the sweeping melody conveys freedom and happiness. “Quiet Landing” is no slouch either, taking the tranquil aura associated with the vastness and emptiness of space and slowly unveiling a marvelous sight, adding more instrumental voices (including a chorus) so that it blossoms into a dazzling orchestral display. And then there’s “Talking Soshie,” which shows what Kanno can do with a smaller ensemble. The piece is carried by the woodwind section which combines well with the violin to produce a light, whimsical melody that reminds me of Kanno’s score for Napple Tale and provides a nice contrast to the heavy-hitting orchestral pieces.

Quiet Landing

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But while I can revel all day in Kanno’s orchestral broth, its her emotionally moving themes that make ∀ Gundam such a gratifying listen. “Moon,” in particular, is absolutely unforgettable as its ethereal, serene delivery slowly transitions through the percussion to become a heartrending display of human endurance as the survivors struggle against all odds. “The Song of a Stone” also has that heartfelt touch, packing a feeling of loftiness through a hauntingly beautiful chorus part that could easily have been an extension of “Angel” from Kanno’s Escaflowne soundtrack.

Moon

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The Song of a Stone

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Finally, for those not fond of her orchestral flavorings, there are a few offbeat tracks like “Air Plant’s” New Age guitar work that’s mixed with a smattering or rock music. The chants do get an opportunity once more in the “Ceremony of Crossing Over” and “When Talking of Old Promises,” the latter of which sounds funereal as it grows louder all the while. Kanno does stick in a J-pop ballad in “Boys about 16,” and while Shikyoh Iwasaka’s singing and expressiveness is decent, its staying power lies in the catchy, uplifting chorus. Still, when speaking of the non-orchestral tracks, nothing beats “Guin Lineford’s Limousine,” which engrosses me through its lively Celtic flavor, and “5/4 moon,” which captures “Moon’s” beauty while adopting a more nostalgic tone through its folksy melody.

Guin Lineford’s Limousine

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When Yoko Kanno arms herself with her orchestral brush to score a series, the result is an engaging, evocative work. Of her soundtracks that I’ve let simmer and marinate on my playlist, ∀ Gundam is my favorite as of this writing. Through her efforts here, she unleashes an unforgettable, orchestral delight that, once again, demonstrates why she’s oftentimes so favorably compared to the film maestro John Williams.

Rating: Excellent

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

7 thoughts on “∀ (Turn A) Gundam Original Sound Tracks – Review

  • March 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm
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    Loving the orchestral sounds~ So grandiose at times and emotionally serene at others. Also, I really like “Moon”.

    Reply
    • March 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm
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      @Yi
      Yeah, the way the music is put together is absolutely beautiful and I guess the extent of being able to enjoy this album lies in whether you like the ethnic chantings. The orchestral is just gorgeous!

      Reply
  • July 7, 2011 at 3:12 am
    Permalink

    I’ve just recently started listening to the turn a gundam ost and I have to say there are big expectations I have for this one,
    World edge theory was an excellent starter to my listening on youtube the tribal war chants and beat were quite addictive, Spiral Reborn was a spine tingling chorus of women chanting HEHEYEHHEHYEHEHYEHEYEHYEHEYEHEYEHEYEYE and Girls rule along with Blond had such wonderful violin melodies that make me feel……alive
    Yoko Kanno is always FTW

    Reply
  • November 24, 2011 at 10:37 pm
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    Albi
    Yes, Turn a gundam has one hell of an orchestral soundtrack, though some of the tracks in the later albums leave a bit to be desired though
    final shore is freaking epic

    Reply
    • November 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm
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      @some random guy
      That’s sort of the feeling I got from what other people have told me. Doesn’t change the fact that this one is most excellent however, and I love the variety of music it brings as well as the sheer quality of the orchestral tracks.

      Reply
  • December 26, 2011 at 11:03 pm
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    @zzeroparticle
    Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked some of the experimental tracks on some of the other albums. Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of ALFA and OMEGA and Barbarian from OST 2 but tracks like Puff the pussy Puzzle, Heavy mechanics and Spirit of the Moon made wonder what on earth Kanno was thinking when she wrote them.
    But then again, to enjoy the soundtrack is to understand what sort of feeling she’s going for in the anime.
    Tracing an axis of light is probably my favorite on this OST.

    Reply
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