Noir - Blanc Dans Noir

Yushiro (Former Staff) — November 5th, 2002
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The third, and likely to be the last, album released for the anime Noir is a far different affair than the first two soundtracks. Entitled Blanc Dans Noir (in French), or Koku no Naka no Shiro (in Japanese), or White in Black (in English), it looks largely to the one area of music that wasn't featured all that prominently on the original soundtracks : vocal songs. The first disc is even subtitled as such, and is largely comprised of 'image' songs, whereas the second disc is an eight centimeter mini-disk 'outtrack' collection of extra instrumental material not included on the previous releases.

The first disc opens with another song by the group Ali Project (who did the opening to the show, Copelia's Coffin) - Aka to Kuro, with vocals and lyrics by Arika Takarano and music by Mikiya Katakura (who together are the members of Ali Project). While the infectious opening song to the anime became a somewhat tiresome song, Aka to Kuro (Red and Black) is actually an rather enjoyable song, and remains so. Takarano spills out the lyrics in an unrelenting fury of quick rhythms that just exude rapid movement, and elicits, no, requires it from your body as well. The instrumentation keeps up with her every step of the way, fading in and out electronics and percussion at the precise moment to accent the vigorous tone of her voice. The duo certainly have a brilliant style that they infuse each of their songs with, and I happen to think this song captures the best qualities of the style, whereas their other songs... well, don't always manage to seem as refined as Aka to Kuro does, such as on a number of songs on their album Erotic and Heretic, as well as in Copelia's Coffin. Nevertheless, this is a more than worthy song to open the record with.

As mentioned, this is largely an image album, containing songs performed by the voice actors (rather, actresses...) from the anime. More than half of the songs from the first disc are performed by the cast, though there is one song that is less performed than it is... spoken. Koto Mitsuishi's (Mireille Bouquet) one and only appearance is on a 'dialogue remix' of Canta Per Me, which is more or less snipet quotes of lines from the show that were spoken by Mireille. (I guess she either can't/doesn't want to sing or wasn't available to.) The song is an interesting creature, to say the least. From what I make of them, the quotes don't really have much of a continuity, but they do sound fairly good set against what is basically the same instrumentation of the original, though a bit askew and with a grating electric guitar chiming in every once and a while for a 'gritty' effect. And, of course, the trademark Italian chanting is present and has been remixed slightly, to good effect. Overall it's a decent remix of Salva Nos, but the spoken dialogue is rather jarring, as far as making it worthwhile to listen to; as I said, the 'vocals' and music don't clash too badly, but it brings down the melodic quality of Canta Per Me overall. It would have been much better if Mitsuishi had done a small amount of singing or, even making quotes for the song that are better suited to be set directly into music.

Houko Kuwashima, also known as Kirika, on the other hand, makes two appearances on the record (and yes, she actually sings). First is a rendition of Canta Per Me, one of the trademark songs of the series, though sung in Japanese. The lyrics themselves are sung incredibly gracefully and with a fantastic quirk of being quite powerful, yet still being reserved and demure in nature, as the character of Kirika (and, from what I've seen, Houko) is. However, considering the more upbeat nature of the song, her voice seems a pale shadow of the energy being exerted all around it. And, to be perfectly honest, the European style of the song clashes with the Japanese lyrics more than it really should, furthering the sense that the two really do feel out of place with each other. (I think they even turned down the volume on the song in comparison to the rest of the album to try and get them to work better together.) It can be a very pretty song, but I find myself dragged down by the contrast too much to enjoy it as much as the original or Kuwashima's other song.

The second song Houko performs is an original, which is written in katakana as "Emu Moa". I believe this should be transliterated to Emu Moi, which is French for "Touched Me". (Though, I see no indication of this one way or the other, in the lyrics or otherwise, so I may very well be wrong... but I don't think so.) This track is actually quite similar to Canta Per Me, in that the lyrics are sung in Japanese and placed in a very much French-influenced style of light eletronica (with the addition of more traditional instruments, of course). However, unlike Canta Per Me (the Japanese version, that is), it actually works together, and remarkably well. The two compliment each other, rather than clash, which is infinitely better off for the song in the end. Canta Per Me was a novelty piece whereas Emu Moi fully realized the proposition it was trying to impart. Kuwashima's voice is more vibrant, more alive in this composition, as she allows the music to wrap itself around her melodies. Still reserved, like the last, but with a markedly more passionate tone. A fine piece of work indeed.

Himitsu (meaning secrecy, or if you prefer, mystery) is performed by Aya Hisakawa, Chloe's incredibly talented voice actress. Chloe is also quite reticent, like Kirika, throughout the series, but with a certain intensity and, if you will, mystery about her, which this song happens to portray quite vividly. It is no less than a perfect match to her character, and a exceptionally lovely song as well. It starts with her child-like voice practically whispering sweet sounds alongside an almost indiscernible violin's long chords, slowly building with the addition of a piano, then later a quiet electric guitar. Finally the song breaks out fully with Kajiura's keyboards and a flute leading the way. There's a beautiful chorus performed by Yuriko Kaita and, somewhat surprisingly, Yuki Kajiura herself that weaves its way through the background and under Hisakawa's main lyrics. Then the song slowly deconstructs the elements that went into the rising action of the song to take you out. A gorgeous song all around, and very well constructed.

Lastly on the image song front, Altena's voice actress, simply known as Tarako, appears in a version of Lullaby (the original being seen on OST 1) with the lyrics in Japanese, rather than English. I liked the original - Yuriko Kaita did a fine job - but I find myself gravitating to the Japanese version more, mostly because of the singer, not the language. Tarako is rather talented, like Kuwashima, at delivering lyrics with conviction yet maintaining a relatively quiet and sedate tone of voice, which I think is more appropriate than the English version for this type of song. As I said, Kaita's version was indeed a pleasure, but her voice tends to be a bit more forceful and louder than Tarako's. Though, she does almost seem to be forcing volume with all her breath, while still trying to retain a reserved atmosphere, during the crescendos which doesn't always work to her advantage. Still, an enjoyable song.

Kajiura's band See Saw is credited with another song for the series (see the Noir OST 2 review), Love, sung by See Saw's other member, Chiaki. Tis a simple song, relying almost entirely on conventional instruments, like a background trio of strings, unlike most of the rest of the album. The keyboards are also toned down greatly in this song compared to rest, and allows the strings and guitars to do the complementing to Chiaki's voice. It's a very pretty song, but it doesn't do any one thing to set itself apart from the standard love ballad stock - good, but nowhere near the true greatness I've become accustomed to from Noir's music.

Yuriko Kaita is finally given the spotlight on the album with the song Gensou Rakuen (Illusionary Paradise). She did have the lead the song Lullaby on the first soundtrack (as mentioned earlier), but she is mostly relegated to background vocals on a lot of songs, which is a shame, considering her beautifully toned voice. She sings much like a standard J-Pop singer, but her generally deeper and rather flexible voice speaks of more substance behind her expressions of love. The music is fairly standard electronic ballad fare; it's good, but nothing too outstanding. The music is more there to support Kaita than anything else, which it succeeds at doing as her beautiful vocals are the centerpiece of song, as they should be.

Prelude is a very quick song comprised of some a somewhat traditional background piece, along with a couple of singer's voices mingling together, but the two tracks are filtered through some kind of electronic distortions which produces a mildly interesting effect. There's no mention of who does the main string of 'la' sounds that takes the listener out of the song and I can't quite place it (though, I can discern Kaita as one of the other background vocalists). Nothing of real interest to be heard here.

Finally, we move onto the second disc, which is both literally and figuratively smaller than the first (being almost purely instrumental, very short, and an eight centimeter mini-disc). There's really only one song of note, which I'll get to in a moment, and though it does have some really good stuff, a lot of it clearly doesn't match the quality seen on the first two soundtrack proper. They mingle well with the rest of the songs when all three are in single playlist together, but none of the songs on this disc (aside from the one I'll get to) do anything of note. You'll forgive me if I just run through them rather quickly : Black Society is a good moodier piece from the series, and Jealously takes it a step further to be a full-on "dark" song (but again, nothing that remarkable). Family Affection in another heavily European piece, and is actually quite good in comparison to the rest. Church is a dread piece of work, heavy on deep chanting and an overall "dark-church" theme. At Ease and At Dawn are both very light synth and piano (respectively) pieces that stay in the background too much for their own good. Nice quite little songs, but not noteworthy. Last, Guests B is mostly just ambient noise...

Last and most certainly not least, what I consider to be the gem of the entire album, a song called Melody - Salva Nos ver. appears on the 8cm disc. It doesn't quite surpass the original (Mélodie, on OST 1), which I would easily consider to be among my favorite songs from the series, but it comes awful close. It's a bit more graceful in the main tune and Yuriko Kaita's reprisal of the wonderful and ever-so-slightly modified Italian lyrics from Salva Nos are beautifully done in a looser rendition. The techno beat in the background is less muted than the original, but for some reason, it's not quite as driving, not to mention the complete absence of the low bass which added a lot of character to the song. Those are really my only complaints with it, but when the two are put side to side, the original just has this certain atmosphere about it that the second can't emulate. I understand that certain concessions have to be made on both sides when combining two songs like this, but in my opinion, Salva Nos gave too little and Mélodie ended up giving too much. Still, compared to the rest of the filler on the mini-disk, it's gold. It is a fantastic song - I just liked the original more.

Overall, the album is a rather mixed bag - some really good, some mediocre, some I could do without, but nothing I really detested. On the whole, I would recommend this album to fans of the series, but anyone can enjoy it, especially some of the better songs like Aka to Kuro, Himitsu, and Melody - "Salva Nos" ver, if they don't mind that much of the album doesn't reach the musical peaks that the original soundtracks did.