Wolf’s Rain Original Soundtrack 2 – Review

Wolf's Rain

Album Title: Wolf’s Rain Original Soundtrack 2
Anime Title: Wolf’s Rain
Artist: Yoko Kanno, Maaya Sakamoto, Ilaria Graziano, Franco Sansalone, Steve Conte
Catalog Number: VICL-61280
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: April 21, 2004
Purchase at: CDJapan


Tracklist

Show »

Track Title Artist Time
01. Heaven’s Not Enough Yoko Kanno, Vocals – Steve Conte 5:14
02. Shiro, Long Tails Yoko Kanno 3:23
03. Cycle Yoko Kanno, Vocals – Gabriela Robin 4:32
04. Beyond Me Yoko Kanno 2:39
05. Mouth On Fire Yoko Kanno 2:57
06. Hounds Yoko Kanno 3:32
07. Rain Of Blossoms Yoko Kanno 1:19
08. Separated Yoko Kanno 4:10
09. Escape Yoko Kanno 1:28
10. Face On Yoko Kanno 2:14
11. Tsume No Suna Yoko Kanno 2:06
12. Flying To You Yoko Kanno, Vocals – Ilaria Graziano 2:21
13. Night Owl Yoko Kanno 3:41
14. Shi No Mori Yoko Kanno 1:56
15. Indiana Yoko Kanno 1:53
16. Amore Amaro Yoko Kanno, Vocals – Franco Sansalone 2:29
17. Friends Yoko Kanno 3:54
18. Tell Me What The Rain Knows Yoko Kanno, Vocals – Maaya Sakamoto 1:41
19. Float Yoko Kanno 1:40
20. Trace Yoko Kanno 2:51
21. Sad Moon Yoko Kanno 2:19
22. Cloud 9 Yoko Kanno, Vocals – Maaya Sakamoto 5:01
23. Go To Rakuen Yoko Kanno 5:25

Review:

and heaven does enough
you think you know it
and it uses you

I remember when a friend showed me the first episode of Wolf’s Rain all those ten years ago. The fairytale of wolves traversing a bleak landscape in search of Paradise, facing adversity after adversity, and finding tragedy and loss, was an emotional, dramatic series that, though flawed, had me wrapped in its grey tones. Fresh off finishing the soundtracks for season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, composer Yoko Kanno created a diverse score that echoes the characters’ trials, their relationships, and more beautifully, their emotions encompassing sorrow, fear, love, longing and peace. Two albums have been released, but the second one, Wolf’s Rain OST 2, captures the essence of those emotions more successfully.

The first two tracks paint the tone for what is to come. “Heaven’s not enough” is a slow-burning song featuring Steve Conte’s world-weary vocals. I love his previous works with Kanno, and this one, paired with Tim Jensen’s lyrics of life’s disappointments, really depict this desolate world and hit it home for me. “Shiro, long tails” comes in straight after with powerful strings, showing the magnitude of the harsh trials the wolves have to face in the journey. The strings keep pushing as the despair builds until the timpani releases it all for a dramatic and stellar finish.

Shiro, long tails

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That push for drama continues with three tracks on the last half of the soundtrack. “Float” has one of the most original and eccentric instrumentation in the album, with fluttering woodwinds skittering amidst lush, flowing strings of glorious chords. This segues into “Trace”, where the playfulness dissipates and the strings become more foreboding, hinting at the loss to come. The loss is realized in “Sad Moon,” which initially explodes to life with the strings and horns. Those strings sway between warmth and the aforementioned foreboding, before settling into an end that hangs in the air at first, but dives into something much more ominous soon after, leaving a profound sense of uneasiness behind.

Float

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Not to say everything is all dark and depressing. High octane pieces like “Escape” feature urgent percussions and frenzied guitar work, before the strings play a flamenco-styled melody that alerts us to the danger and tension the wolves face. “Face on” starts off slow but holds the tension with a continuous distorted guitar riff as the wolves face this danger head on with steely determination, shown in the industrial-like percussions that merge with the growing strings and drive the piece onwards.

It’s in the softer pieces though, that Kanno shows her mastery over storytelling and emotions, incorporating subtle shades of colour that draw the listener in. In “Friends”, a piano starts off with a simple, poignant verse before the orchestra takes over. The piano then plays a dreamy counter-melody as a flute flies over it, which repeats the first verse and ends on a wistful note. Then, there’s the gentle guitar in “Beyond me” which takes a break from all the drama to capture a quiet contemplation, dancing with lyrical strings to also be subtly bittersweet. The wolves long for a future in Paradise, but for now, a warm fire will do.

Friends

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Kanno does enjoy her vocal pieces, and she has an eclectic mix of them in this album. Ilaria Graziano sounds absolutely breathtaking in the French song, “Flying to you”, with the combination of her sweet highs and backing orchestration reminding me of lovers lying together on a lazy afternoon. The Italian song “Amore amaro” is about bitter love, and it shows in Franco Sansalone’s Tom Waits-esque rasp. It’s weary, desperate and asks for a release that most likely will not come. Longtime Kanno collaborator, Maaya Sakamoto, rounds out this list with two songs. The shorter piece “Tell me what the rain knows” feels ethereal with its harps, and Maaya’s voice, though struggling a little with the English lyrics, still suits the song perfectly. “Cloud 9” is more Jpop fare, where Maaya, strumming guitars and a quick harmonica solo bring about a more inspired, optimistic feel to see out the soundtrack.

Flying to you

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Tell me what the rain knows

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Or does it? After all that tension, all that drama, and mixture of emotions, it doesn’t seem right to just end everything on such a light-hearted song. So there is one more: the extra, unnumbered track, “Go to ‘rakuen’”, that depicts Nature, rebirth and peace. It starts off with a familiar piano motif, that of “Rakuen” in the first soundtrack. It’s a theme heard throughout the series, one which signals that fervent wish for Paradise. The piano slowly crescendos until it changes its melody, playing a repeated two chords. Now, the strings take over the theme, this time splashed with a different colour from all the other pieces before. It’s more vibrant, more ecstatic as the piano keeps repeating its two-chord phrase and the piece increases in intensity. Electric static and sounds chime in, adding to the compelling other-worldliness of the composition. There is a definite organic feel about as the orchestra builds and the chords become stronger. Then, the piano dips suddenly, changing again to an undercurrent of running keys, supporting the main orchestra as it begins its ascent. The strings grow in intensity, rising into the air. The piano remains in the background while the strings soar and soar until the beautiful, inevitable climax. And what always gets me, is the pause at 3.59 of the piece- a brilliant absence of sound right before everything simmers down and the piano takes the main stage once more in a confident, bittersweet end. It’s there we realize that yes, everything’s ended. This journey is done. This tale of sorrow, hope and love has finished. And with Yoko Kanno’s help, we were right there with them all the way.

Go to ‘rakuen’

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Rating: Masterpiece

maskerade

I'm an avid listener of Anime Music, with Yoko Kanno my Goddess. I'm also a huge fan of jazz and have enjoyed the currents of the indie Jrock scene these past years. I'm also an unfortunate rambler and starving writer, all of which leads me to write reviews for this fair blog. I tend to stare a lot.

One thought on “Wolf’s Rain Original Soundtrack 2 – Review

  • May 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm
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    This is one of my favourite soundtracks ever! I love Wolf’s Rain, and I worship Yoko Kanno for having made it what it is!

    Reply

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