Gasaraki OST 2

Yushiro (Former Staff) — September 3rd, 2002
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The second soundtrack release for Gasaraki, Gasaraki Densyo Ongaku II, was destined to be lesser compilation than the first, which was a perfect compliment for the series, containing the cream of the crop, as it were, of the music created for the series. Which, in the end, leaves the follow-up album with a feeling of being an add-on to the first, containing whatever didn't make the cut. I'm going to make this clear from the start : own the first album before considering this one, and if you like what heard, by all means read on.

The second OST is some ways a bit more diverse than the first, due largely to a number of compositions by composers other than Haishima, which is certainly a good thing. But before one gets to those, which are generally clumped towards the end of the album, one must first wade through the standard orchestral pieces. The record opens with Ga Sa Ra Ki, the standard 'evil' theme; heavy on long, drawn out brass and almost tribal percussion, along with noises on the side which will sufficiently creep you out. This piece does almost set the tone for the orchestra presence on the album, which tends to steer away from the militaristic theme seen on the first, with the exception of a few songs like T·A and Strap Down. They are undeniably well crafted songs, but considering some of the more unique offerings on the album, they feel drawn to the background while the others are placed on the forefront. One song that does set itself apart from the mold is J-ideologie, in that it is a truly sinister work. What the rest of these songs danced around, J-ideologie summons to the surface from a dark chasm in the earth. It isn't as riveting as the rest of the songs in this style, as it has a much slower pace, but it is an extremely potent piece of work.

Noh theater music, Nohgaku, makes a return in two songs, Mi and Mari, both of which are purely traditional, without any of the modern instrumentation that was seen on a number of the Nohgaku songs on the first OST. These two are certainly interesting to listen to and are in keeping with one of the major themes of the series, but to be honest, I would have been interested in hearing more exploration of applying modern influences to the style, electronic-based in particular, as was done remarkably well done on OST I. Rather, it reinforces the feeling that the darker songs on the album, to lump the Nohgaku and orchestral themes into this group, are merely supplemental to the first album, and to be excessively harsh on them, almost like filler for the more appealing songs on the album, which feature a number of remixes and exploration of different styles. So yes, I was disappointed with generic feeling of the more traditional (Noh music included) offerings on the album, which brings down my opinion of the album as a whole quite a bit.

To move onto "the good stuff", one of the songs that truly stands out on the album is Message, the song that was used during the episode previews. (Which was incredibly well used in the anime, by the way - it really made what was to come more intriguing as a key character in the story made vague remarks about the forces swirling about them set to this beautiful song.) The song effectively combines several elements, including tinny synth, a lone violin, and Noh-style percussion, in a stunning harmony. There is an extended crescendo of sorts, as the song passes the half-way point, which isn't seen in the anime's preview clips (I should think the voice-overs were sufficiently dramatic), which adds its own rising tension. It truly is a beautiful tune, which I somewhat find remarkable as the song tries very hard to set itself out as a more enigmatic creature - not to be admired, but wondered upon.

One of the two vocal songs on the album (if you don't count cult-like chanting and the Nohgaku's utai as vocal), is Vanity, performed by a singer by the name of Seema. To be honest, I wasn't too thrilled with this song. It feels out of place, as it trys to combine her rough voice with a blues-like piano, which later goes into a small jazz-influenced ditty in the middle of the song, a very traditional violin, and towards the end of the six and a half minute conglomeration, an Asian flute, along with other influences. The bottom line is, the song tried too hard to combine sharply contrasting elements, and stretched it out far too long - to the point that the transitions between style are complete stops of the previous style and a moment of unnecessary silence. I don't ever recall hearing the song in the anime itself, so I think this was just an outside project that somehow got attached to the series. Personally, I could have done well without it.

Next, the first remix that the album features is a song by the name of... Song. This little number takes the elements of Tomoko Tane's gorgeous ballad Love Song, and transfers a certain aspect of it into some other form of instrumentation. The main vocals become some kind of stringed instrument that I can't quite discern, the main music line into a very light tinny noise (which I believe to be a xylophone), along with further very high pitched, yet low volume noises. Quite lovely, but it isn't nearly as moving as the original and more of a novelty piece.

Finally, the last track on the album, and the second of both the remixes and vocal songs, is the incredibly gorgeous and ridiculously short electronic remix of Message #9, labeled 'Type M'. Those who have seen the anime are already familiar with the song, as it is the one that plays during the alternate openings (well, aside from the fact that the opening alters every two episodes - I mean the really alternate ones) to the 'past' episodes, 14 and 15. It is a very interesting take on the song, making it ever-so-slightly lighter than the original, yet still carrying a tragic weight. But as I said, it is absurdly short, fitting itself only to the time it takes to cover the opening sequence. This ultimately leaves me unsatisfied with the song, as good as it is, as I can only imagine what a full length version of the song could have been. (Though there may very well be one, as it is also labled "TV Version", but that leads me to wonder why THAT version wasn't included rather than this short snippit).

As an aside, the packaging on the album, as well as on the first, is rather disappointing. The second album features the mask Miharu wore during the opening visions, rather than the ugly kugai's visage on the front of the first. There is a bit of artwork in both of the packages and a few tiny screens from the series. Simplicity is key in the design, but they unfortunately carried over this theme to the actual content as well. Lyrics for the vocal songs are included in single sheet inside both albums... and that's about it for liner notes. I really would have been interested in hearing what Haishima has to say about the Noh influences in the series, what Tane thought of her songs, and heck, I'd even like to know what was going through the mind of the composers of Vanity when they were trying to make the different styles fit. I'm just frustrated at the misuse of potential for some truly interesting content in the packaging, especially considering how intertwined the music is with the anime and vice versa.

This album focuses more on the darker sounds to be had from orchestras and very traditional Nohgaku, with the notable exception of certain beautifully crafted songs - Message #9 remix, Message, J-ideologie - which makes it less appealing than the first OST. I would recommend that someone interested in this music first look into this album's predecessor. If you highly enjoy it, and I stress highly, then by all means get this fairly good supplement. In my opinion, this would have made a far better two disc set, rather than having segregated the two, and making the second feel like a 'leftovers' album with a number of unique inclusions interspersed with traditional filler songs. Unfortunately, three truly wonderful songs does not a great soundtrack make.