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
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.