|∀ GUNDAM ORIGINAL SOUND TRACKS
|Yoko Kanno, Asei Kobayashi, Hideki Saijo, Shikyoh Iwasaka
|July 23, 1999
|01. Spiral re-born
|02. Principle of the Abyss of Earth
|03. Memory of Military Boots
|04. Springing from the Earth
|05. The First Advent ~ The God’s Sneer
|06. The Second Advent ~ The Shore Touched
by the God’s Claw
|07. The Third Advent ~ The Thing
Hiding in the Ground
|08. Final Shore ~ Oh, To Meet Again
|10. The Ceremony of Crossing Over
|11. Talking Soshie
|13. Miss, a Secret Conversation
|Asei Kobayashi, Hideki Saijo
|14. Guin Lineford’s Limousine
|15. Girls rule
|16. Quiet landing
|17. Air plant
|18. Tracing the Point of Light
|19. Like a Rooster
|20. When Talking of Old Promises
|21. The song of a stone
|22. Boys about 16
|Yoko Kanno, Shikyoh Iwasaka
|23. 5/4 moon
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
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
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
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.
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.
The Song of a Stone
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
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.