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Sound Decision
Takeoffs and Landings

by Jonathan Mays,
For most, airline travel is a frustrating, time-consuming but necessary nuisance. For me it's an aesthetic experience. I loved flying when I was five, and I love it just as much today. Perhaps it's simply because I'm the child of an F-14 Tomcat pilot, and I've spent far too much time around planes my whole life, but I never tire of the sensation that accompanies cruising thirty thousand feet above sea level, comfortably wedged between several layers of clouds. It's especially remarkable at dusk, when there's just enough sun visible to turn the entire sky a warm red. Yes, the experience is simply heavenly. Most of the time.

Two weeks ago I had a great window-seat view of the world, but the moron who sat next to me almost managed to ruin the entire experience. One of the reasons I always liked flying Southwest was that I'd have at least a modicum of control over who'd be sitting in my row. Alas, American Airlines flight 2929 did not offer me this luxury, so I got stuck with a big, loud nutcase for a couple of hours. It's gonna take a lot more than an obnoxious jerk to ruin my love for flying, but I must give him credit for the effort.

To the dingbat from Denver: Hey, dude, I know I only take up like two-thirds of a seat, but that doesn't mean you get the other third. The legspace is mine, too. I would've been more than willing to hand you the sports section, but when you take it out of my hands, I kinda lose the opportunity. By the way, do you ever shut up? Or do I need to ask more than four times? It took the flight attendants about five minutes to figure out that pretending you weren't on the flight was the best way to preserve their sanity. So why did I get stuck with ya?

Fortunately, the flight back restored my faith in humanity when I ended up sitting next to a music director from Louiville University. And he was a violist! Surely fate was smiling upon me that Sunday afternoon. We talked about orchestra and Romantic music for about half an hour before I finally fell asleep, exhausted by the anime convention but filled with contentment.

So I was one-for-two on the Denver trip; maybe I'll bat a thousand in New York this week. But while my immediate future may be left up to the whims of Chance, you, my fellow reader, need not worry. If it's anime music you want, read on, and leave chance out of the picture.

Princess Nine Original Soundtrack #2 —Animetrax

Alright, I give up. How can I knock Schubert? The guy is (er, was) awesome, and the second movement of his Piano Trio in E-flat Major is quickly becoming one of my all-time Schu favorites. Even if the two Schubert tracks were surrounded by undiluted aural poison, I'd still think about giving this soundtrack a thumbs up. Fortunately, Masamichi Amano makes the decision even easier, as he actually shows up this time around, erasing all memory of that rancid first collection. The inspiration that was sorely lacking in album one finally emerges from Amano's consciousness, bringing with it a brilliant line-up of themes, variations, and wild experiments.

"Baseball Field at Dusk" is a capable leadoff hitter, but things don't really get started until "The Counteroffensive," a sweeping rendition of the opening theme. (I swear I'd like this show a thousand times more if they went with this instrumental instead of those awful OP vocals.) "The Ultimate Manager" bats clean-up, and oh maaan, this Gershwin-like piece knocks it waaaay outta the park. Like the other soundtrack, Amano seems just a tad obsessed with variations on the main theme, but when they're as delicate and heartfelt as "Catch Ball of Sorrow" or as ominous as "The Flaming Magic Ball," the repetition is just fine. Even if you passed up the first soundtrack—which I hope you did—this one's a must-buy. It's really that simple.

Best used as: designated clean-up hitter.

Giant Robo Original Soundtrack #2 —Animetrax

The second installment of the Giant Robo OST gives us more Amano goodness. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more technically impressive OVA score, and most of the music sounds straight out of a 1950s Hollywood movie. As a side benefit, it's actually fun to listen to, too! Gone is the operatic pretension, leaving in its place a more relaxed classical soundtrack laced with modern melodies and cool stuff like "western cowboy nuance, by request."

"Rush! Issei and Youshi" may not be the best track on here, but it's certainly the most memorable. The horn/string interplay is extremely lively, exaggerated almost to the point of parody. A number of tracks wrestle for the standout label, but I think the best one has to be "The Darkness Covering Beijing Sky," for the unorthodox rhythm patterns and hilarious Jaws influence. Another notable one is "Conversation Under the Water," which...well, why don't I let Amano explain it himself:

"Conversation Under the Water" was a fix it piece that had to be written the day of its recording. I had absolutely no time, so I just made it a "contemporary style" tune.

The piece...is awful. But points for honesty. If you tend to shun classical music, this probably isn't the best place to begin cultivating a love for it, but everyone else owes this one a listen, especially Amano fanatics.

Best used as: Amanomatic.

Go. Scat. Buy. See ya next time.

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