January 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Music composed and conducted by Toshiyuki Honda
  Available on Milan Records (France) (74321 94857-2)  
Running Time: 59:16


Metropolis is a soundtrack album brimming with a marvellous sense of vitality, the perfect compliment to any self-respecting Manga adaptation. This, a future-noir following a young boy's relationship with a servile android, comes from an obviously fine stable. Inspired by the late Osuma Tezuka's artistic reaction to director Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece, Katsuhro Ôtomo (the creator of Akira) and Shigayuki Hayashi (Tezuka's long-time collaborator) have sought to capture the wonderment that the original Mangas possessed, some half-a-century since their initial publication. In doing so their efforts have been ably supported by another veteran of Japanese feature animation, acclaimed film composer Toshiyuki Honda.

The first thing that strikes you about Honda's score is the attention to detail that it receives. This is keenly exemplified not only by the distinctive pastiche of pre-Depression New Orleans Jazz running throughout, but also by the adept orchestrational flair of the score's traditionalist highlights. They add to the impression that the music has been lavishly crafted with a genuine respect for the original source material. Take then, for example, the composer's introduction to the young boy's world. "Metropolis" begins in a burst of colour with an infectious walking bass willing the jazz ensemble ever onward amidst a flurry of screaming trumpet wails, clarinet flourishes, and uplifting banjo strumming. You'd be forgiven for thinking that you were sipping Mint Juleps and revelling with the Deep South's most ardent party-goers. But you're not, and it's not to long before the composer demonstrates the extremities of his dramatic technique, in part thanks to the versatility of the Metropolitan Queens Orchestra under Katuaki Nakatani's reliable baton. A Neo-Romantic air pervades "Ziggurat", dominated by a marvellous principle motif for trombone and French horn that captures the need for "foreboding" (the observant might notice that one disjunct interval prevents this motif from becoming the evil step-brother of the "This Is Your Life" television theme). The rest of the score contrasts purposeful strict functionality with Honda's unique and enjoyable jazz fusions which, aside from the more conventional Dixieland callings of tracks like " Zone 'Rhapsody' " (whose harmonic basis owes much to "Play a little song for me") and "Snow", are complemented by fantastic action cues such as the pounding "Run" and "Fury".

When analysing the work of any Eastern composer, you become immediately aware of how the artist reacts to Western influences and, indeed, whether these are actually appropriate to their real voice. Tracks like "Sniper" and "Judgement" seemingly demonstrate an awareness of European musical literature in Honda's writing, but equally recurrent album playing also reveals nuances that draw greater comparison with contemporary American composers. Yet, despite acknowledging this, it remains extremely hard to ignore the composer's dominant voice, itself unmistakably rooted in a background of solid performance ability.

The soundtrack album offers a generous sixty minutes of music with excellent sequencing allowing great scope for the disparate stylistic elements to co-exist. As a result the disc provides a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit unusual listening experience.

Glen Aitken

**** 4

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