Crudely comparing her with video game music composer Nobuo Uematsu, one cannot garner much in the way of analyzing the musical style of Yoko Kanno. Yet comparing the two reveals a similarity in the way they are looked at by their respective fans. What Uematsu is to the video game music genre, Kanno is to anime music. Her compositions have often been heralded as masterpieces, and series such as Vision of Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell & Cowboy Bebop showcase her stunning work.
The aforementioned Vision of Escaflowne was popular on release – and is still very highly regarded. Three original soundtrack cds were released – with a fourth album Lovers Only
capturing perhaps the most significant songs from throughout the series. While the album title may suggest an album designed to satisfy diehard fans only – the reality is the opposite. Lovers Only
provides a broad overview of the best of Escaflowne, and includes some songs that the original three unfortunately missed.
A quick survey of Kanno’s most frequently referenced work highlights a diverse style, very much catering to the series itself. Some may prefer her futuristic electronic styling in Ghost in the Shell, or her jazz and blues influenced tunes in Cowboy Bebop. Yet the simple melodies of Escaflowne are astonishing. Cradle Song
inches out emotion with every note. Its warm strings do not tactlessly thrust sorrow, but overtly bring out a sense of longing. Just as the song settles, another layer of strings brings out a second wave of emotion. These stunning moments are frequent throughout the album. The television introduction Yakusoku wa Iranai
, though sweet is not drenched in sugar. The song aptly (in fitting with the series) conveys deeper emotions, yet remains very pleasant.
The album does well in covering a significant portion of the musical highlights found in the anime series. Memory of Fanelia
expresses much sadness and loss, yet does so with refinement; the delicate string orchestra making the song quite formal in its composition. Dance of Curse
uses the same string orchestral section to much different effect, the action being tense and the pace more hurried. Booming choral voices repeat a haunting chant throughout, with the song coming to a frenzied finish with much volume. The use of textures to create dynamic songs is very evident, as in Blaze
with the wide band of the deep choral voices contrasting with narrower strings, especially towards the end where the strings crescendo and increase in pitch.
Obviously as mentioned earlier the title Lovers Only
suggests an album targeted at true fans of the series. Inside the series Kanno’s work proves stunning, and the songs in Lovers Only
are those that best capture the series outside the setting of the tv show. Yet looking into songs like Arcadia
highlights that Kanno’s work is not restricted to fans of the series. Arcadia
shows her incredible skill at composition, the song stretches out its build up. Working towards a climax, the soft (often dampened) strings and female vocals seem to fade towards despair and loss. Kanno skillfully works from section to section in the song – bringing the vocals back out of silence and inching closer towards the end.
It should not need to be said that the fans of the tv series will better be able to reap the rewards from Lovers Only
than new-comers. Yet outweighing this are the beauty and simplicity of songs such as Cradle Song
, with the album very rarely dipping itself too much in sugary sweetness. Kanno’s composition wins in the end, and the minimalness of many of the melodies produce strong and rich emotion.