Saturday, 12 September 2009

Various Artists 'Samurai Champloo Music Record - Impression' (2004)

The ronin-themed hip-hop soundtrack thing is just a happy coincidence and after this it will definitely be out of the way, honest...
Recently I was tickled pink to discover that Shinichirō Watanabe (director of hands-down the greatest anime series of all time Cowboy Bebop) had completed another acclaimed series a few years back called Samurai Champloo, which maintained his propensity for fusing kinetic storytelling over approximately 26 episodes with purdy musiks - to spellbinding effect. And by fusing I mean the initially unholy, but soon completely natural marriage of Edo period Japan and, you guessed it, hip-hop. A historical revisionist take on the chanbara genre (there is an episode with beatboxers), like Bebop it raked in the glowing reviews for it's soundtrack of which several discs were released. 'Impression' is by far the strongest though so here it is.

The album is split into three parts, first third is produced by Japanese DJ duo Force of Nature, second by another Japanese producer of immense talent called Nujabes and the final part by brilliantly-named American DJ Fat Jon the Ample Soul Physician. The last track is an R&B song by a chick called Minmi, which actually wraps things up rather nicely. Except this one and the track listed in kanji 'Impression' is all instrumental glory, and it quickly becomes apparent that goood music is alive and well in Nippon. The track with vocals is obviously nonsensical to me, but it's surprising how the language actually survives the journey into Western musiks unmangled, and the meter isn't totally off kilter. I would never begin to try to deconstruct foreign language hip-hop, but I highly doubt it's as the internet says - that Japan doesn't have a significant black minority population and therefore has nothing to say. Apparently food is a hot topic... None of this is important!

The beats are fucking sick, so sick they will probably make you sick in your ears, and it just gets better as it goes along, like a snowball made of fucking sick. None of it suffers from OST out-of-context syndrome because it's just a bunch of appealing vomitus thrown haphazardly over the show, the soundtrack was probably written beforehand! While most tracks are in hip-hop tempo, there are tons of surprises, like 'Nightshift' being indistinguishable from funk (which is ironically where it all began) or funk with a drum quintet(?) on it. There's just an awful lot going on - particularly satisfying is some of Nujabes' loungy-jazz-cum-deep-house material and all of Fat Jon's Eastern-tinged stuff. Even raga gets a look in!
It's interesting to note that, judging by the Youtube viewing figures and the popularity of this album on sites like RYM, the show's soundtrack is something of a sleeper hit, and deservedly so. I will never use the word 'chillout' seriously in a sentence as long as Moby has breath in his body and the Tesco album charts thrive on lazy compilations for dull people, BUT elements of this album might be considered to have a therapeutic or relaxing quality on the heavy head. But it's got the aforementioned boom-bap, it's also cool, otherwise I wouldn't be posting it here would I because that wouldn't be a cool thing to do on my little blog would it? Just think about that. In all seriousness, in the strange and scattershot world of instrumental hip-hop, this is as good as it gets. This and the other albums I am posting.

On the Dee Elle

No comments: