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Study Album Of The Week: Yoko Kanno – “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Vol. 2”

Oh look, another “Ghost in the Shell” album! Yes, I know I featured two of them in my last big study album roundup. However, since my obsession for all things Yoko Kanno never wanes, I found it too difficult to steer away from this soundtrack when choosing this week’s feature study album. Seriously, it’s better than finding out your girlfriend thinks it’s hot when you eat copious amounts of Doritos and watch “Ninja Warrior” reruns for six hours.

Down to business. As you might have heard, Yoko Kanno produces soundtracks of astounding caliber for anime. You know, that stuff whose only fans are geeks who are made fun of even by other geeks. Though I am not a die-hard, foggy-glasses, nerd-raging, figurine-collectin’ weaboo, I have been known to dabble in this genre of geeky media in the past. My first exposure to Kanno was through Cowboy Bebop, which was the fantastic anime that you sat and watched on Adult Swim back when you were 13, whether you like to admit it or not. Whether you’re into the show or not, you can’t deny that the accompanying soundtrack was darn good (in fact, it made its way into my first study album roundup last year).

Being the Google connoisseur that I am, I eventually made it to Wikipedia and discovered that the “Bebop” soundtrack was, in fact, not a one-hit wonder, and that Kanno has quite the discography. In fact, she’s composed over 30 soundtracks for anime alone. In perusing her discography, I decided to try out the soundtrack to the only other anime on the list I’d heard of – Ghost in the Shell. I think that one was on Adult Swim too at some point.

There are, in fact, four separate soundtracks for the Ghost in the Shell series. One of them accompanies the single episode “Solid State Society” (basically a mini-movie), and the other three were made for the entire “Stand Alone Complex” series. This review is for the second volume of those three. In order to reduce my chances of getting some sort of RSI, I’ll now refer to the album as SAC 2.

SAC 2 is, like all the other Ghost in the Shell soundtracks, a very diverse album. It starts out with “Cyber Bird”, which I can only describe as an orchestral drum n’ bass track backed with an angelic choir. It’s actually pretty sweet, though, so don’t be a hater. It’s pretty evident that some impressive production values went into making this album, and they are showcased well on this track’s layered vocals and instrumental nuances.

Before I go on I’ll note that some of the album’s vocals are Japanese, so don’t expect to derive any sort of special meaning from these lyrics unless you’re bilingual. However, I suspect most people don’t give a second thought about lyrics when it comes to study music, as long as the lyrics aren’t something like, “Stop studying and join a gang, bro. Do it because I told you so.” (Although I would wager that I could gain some mainstream radio play were I to “spit” those over some tired beat with a gunshot sample thrown in)

Stand Alone Complex OST 2
Stand Alone Complex OST 2

Another notable track, “Ride on Technology”, will be very familiar to Cowboy Bebop fans; with it’s energetic bassline and virtuosic saxophone playing, it’s a blast of jazz that’s probably the album’s best chance at persuading you to don some sweet sunglasses and drive 100 miles per hour down a New Orleans back alley. “Idling” might convince you to do that too, but only in slow-mo.

The album has a lot of surprises in store for the dedicated listener, including a cool instrumental track with acoustic guitar and bongo drums, a track based on dripping water (it’s cooler than it sounds), and a tear-jerking piano ballad for all you softies out there. All in all, SAC 2 is a fantastic journey through more than a dozen musical genres, and it holds something for everyone willing to turn of the Ke$ha and try out an artist with real talent. Hopefully that’s you, because brushing with a bottle of Jack is sure to give you a mean case of gingivitis.

So, to wrap up, check out the sample tracks I’ve thrown up and decide if this is worth your dollar (or Grooveshark playlist, you pauper). Don’t forget to check out Kanno’s other Ghost in the Shell albums, and keep it real.

Buy “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 2” at Amazon