Zankyou no Terror Original Soundtrack 1 Review

Zankyou no Terror

Album Title: Zankyou no Terror Original Soundtrack 1
Anime Title: Zankyou no Terror
Artist: Yoko Kanno
Catalog Number: SVWC-70009
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: July 09, 2014
Purchase at:  CDJapanPlay-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. lolol Yoko Kanno 1:39
02. von Yoko Kanno (feat. Arnór Dan) 6:14
03. ess Yoko Kanno 3:36
04. saga Yoko Kanno 4:54
05. fugl Yoko Kanno 2:28
06. hanna Yoko Kanno (feat. Hanna Berglind) 4:30
07. veat Yoko Kanno 3:46
08. lava Yoko Kanno (feat. POP ETC) 4:51
09. walt Yoko Kanno 3:14
10. birden Yoko Kanno (feat. Arnór Dan) 4:45
11. Fa Yoko Kanno 5:38
12. nc17 Yoko Kanno 4:43
13. ís Yoko Kanno (feat. POP ETC) 2:41
14. 22 Yoko Kanno (feat. Ryo Nagano) 2:44
15. seele Yoko Kanno 2:03
16. lev low Yoko Kanno 2:34
17. ili lolol Yoko Kanno 5:41
18. bless Yoko Kanno (feat. Arnór Dan) 3:11

Review: One thing I really love about Yoko Kanno’s compositions is just how varied they all are. From sweeping war pieces (Turn A Gundam) to digital soundscapes (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex); from rushing jazz beats (Cowboy Bebop) to idol chart holders (Macross Frontier), she loves to experiment. That’s always a scary idea for her fans though. Will the new soundtrack be too different? Isn’t this something I’ve heard many a time before? Yikes, this is way too odd for my liking! And for me, I thought she was recently getting too caught up in the Macross Frontier sound. The music was fantastic, but it all became a little too homogenized and that carried over to Genesis of Aquarion: Evol. Her music in the much-anticipated Kids on the Slope by Shinichiro Watanabe (of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo fame) wasn’t fantastic either. I was worried. Had Kanno reached a peak?

After watching Zankyou no Terror, a Watanabe anime involving two kids’ rebellion against society, and listening to this soundtrack, my answer is a relieved no. No, nada, in your dreams. This is Kanno at her best. It’s an experiment in design, one that still retains much of what we love about her music.

To gain inspiration for the soundtrack, Kanno went to Iceland and even recorded at Sigur Rós’s studio. What resulted is something of a hybrid of all things Kanno.  For example, “fugl” and “walt” feature a fluttering piano backed by flowing strings which bring a strong poignancy and drama to the pieces – something Kanno excels in conveying.

walt

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“saga” brings in the jazz with pulsating drums and a furious driving bass. The piano starts playing fugue-like arpeggios as an electric guitar begins a solo, building on that quick beat before the strings come in to finish the song. The build-up is fantastic and the playing very tight.

saga

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Kanno uses a lot of electric guitar in this soundtrack, mainly to create a harsher sound. “lolol” makes use of strong distortion to open the soundtrack while the penultimate song, “ili lolol,” uses the same distortion but offsets its angry tone with gentle harps to create something more dreamlike. In one of my favourite pieces, “nc17”, a piano plays a rhythmic series of notes that sets the backdrop for the piece. Guitars and other instruments come in one after another to build but dissipate not long after, leaving the piano all alone. But after a short period of unsure silence, the drums and electric guitars come in and everything changes. The heavy, militaristic sounds provide more optimism and resolution to the track and the way that flows makes the initial build up all the sweeter.

nc17

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Then, you have the vocal pieces. The singers featured add a lot to the overall atmosphere. Hanna Berglind’s vocals in “hanna” are tender and convey a certain innocence, especially when paired with a ridiculous drummer whose insane solo brings the background instrumentals to a euphoric high and finish. In “ís”, US indie group POP ETC provides quiet vocals amidst lazy guitar strums for a more introspective feel. And Ryo Nagano from Japanese group Apogee lends his voice to “22”, but its hazy structure is a miss for me. Nagano does do great harmonies in this though.

hanna

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is

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But it’s Icelandic singer Arnór Dan that strongly impresses here. His voice, fragile and delicate, soars with the guitar in “birden”, rides on to more dizzying heights once the drums and strings crash in, and bookends it all by reprising that fragile delivery. However, it’s in the song “von” where the combination of his vocals and Kanno’s music simply astounds. There, a loop is made of his voice and piano before he comes in, singing in Icelandic with Kanno’s lush strings in accompaniment. A chord change in the middle and the driving loop create an underlying tension both quiet and desperate which grimly holds on until the end. It’s unique in the way it creates its own space and see-saws between ideas of heartbreak and acceptance. It really is an exquisite piece and my favourite of the album.

von

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As a side note, Zankyou no Terror was a flawed series. But it was also beautiful to watch and a great ride from beginning to end. While the story did become very messy, it was made up of fantastic moments that moved me emotionally, showcasing Watanabe’s perfect use of Kanno’s music. “nc17” and “ís” really resonated in the motorcycle scene, and the use of “von” definitely made my 2014 list of anime moments. They are tracks I’ll go back to repeatedly.

What does this mean? Well, barring a few mediocre atmospheric pieces (“veat” and “Fa” were too much background noise for me), this is vintage Kanno. Borrowing Icelandic traits, Kanno has created a collection of tracks that juxtaposes loneliness and uncertainty with peace and introspection, all amidst sparser ideas of space. It’s different in style to the rest of her works yet familiar in intent, and a great return to form for her.

Rating: Excellent

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.

3 thoughts on “Zankyou no Terror Original Soundtrack 1 Review

  • March 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm
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    Great writeup for a great soundtrack :)

    For Kanno’s fantastic, pensive piano moments, I’m surprised you didn’t mention “fugl” as an example of introspective pieces. During my listen of the soundtrack, it was this piece and its motif which stood out the most for me (For reference: https://youtu.be/VJKH_1v7D1k)

    The quiet way it broods, builds, and finally relents is fantastic. I also enjoyed how the “fugl” theme was reused in other tracks with different instrumentation and moods throughout the soundtrack, like in “seele,” and some others.

    Reply
    • March 16, 2015 at 7:56 pm
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      Thanks for that! Yeah, I did merely mention “fugl” in passing even though it had a great underlying theme and varied so much in moods. I guess in terms of the piano/string pieces, I wanted to highlight a track (walt) that had a greater idea of drama and scope needed for the paragraph. I really liked the way the piano just dances with the strings to create something very Kanno-esque.
      But ‘fugl’ is a fantastic song in an album full of fantastic songs. Wish I could just place the entire track list on it.

      Reply
  • March 16, 2015 at 10:39 pm
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    Wow, I’m in love with this soundtrack now! Totally going to go listen to full the soundtrack! 😀

    ~Jamie

    Reply

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