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Sound Decision
Little Big Muddy

by Jonathan Mays,
It's been an interesting weekend in Ellisville, Missouri. The craziness started a few days ago when I found out that Lake Chesterfield, just a few miles from my home, had turned into a mudslide. A crack had opened on one end of the lake, and within just a couple of days, all the water in the 23-acre lake was gone. And oh my, does it smell. It's on private property, too, so I bet those homeowners won't be too excited to pay the repair bill.

The wackiness continued Sunday afternoon when I tuned in to the Cardinals/Rangers baseball game. To see the Cards winning 13-0 in the third inning was enough of a surprise, but in the bottom half of the inning, things got really wild. Rangers outfielder Garry Matthews, Jr. hit a pop fly into the third-base stands, and a fat old guy dove over some seats and kicked a kid in the back in order to retrieve the ball.

Now, this kind of behavior always invites some boos (and rightfully so), but when your team's down by thirteen runs, it becomes the center of everyone's attention. A sideline reporter for a local Arlington television station came down to interview the old guy for a few minutes. Fans chided the man mercilessly, and after a little while they began chanting, "Give him the ball!" The man stubbornly refused, stuffing the ball into his shirt pocket. As the inning came to a close, fans streamed towards the kid, offering him all kinds of baseballs as condolences.

And then it got even crazier.

Cardinals right-fielder Reggie Sanders had the day off, so he decided to put his free time to good use. He grabbed a ball and one of his game bats, summoned the kid and her mother near the dugout, and handed both to the kid. The crowd of 41,000 gave him a standing ovation and chanted, "Re-ggie! Re-ggie!" It was probably the most bizarre bleacher incident I've ever witnessed.

The Rangers later gave the kid a bat and a Nolan Ryan baseball, too. According to the St. Louis broadcasters, it was the kid's first game, and he was leaving with two bats and several balls. He won't take home as many souvenirs after his next game, but I think his mother would prefer it that way.

Wolf's Rain Original Soundtrack #1 —Bandai Entertainment (2004-05-11)

I think we're quickly reaching the point that it's best to describe new Yoko Kanno soundtracks in terms of her other works. Not since Macross Plus has she created anything but exceptionally inspired music. That's almost a decade of brilliance. Other anime composers occasionally put together a single disc that outshines Kanno's latest soundtrack, but comparing entire bodies of works is another story. Kanno simply blows everybody else out of the water.

Anyway, Wolf's Rain is very much like Kanno's Arjuna soundtrack. In recent years she's tilted away from full orchestral scores and spent more time with jazz and South American/African ethnic styles. The trend continues here. Kanno's opening requiem and "Tip Toe Waltz" are definitely inspired by Romantic music, but those are the exceptions. Mostly this disc is about drums and a vicious guitar.

The two major differences between Wolf's Rain and Arjuna are the (welcome) absence of angry chanting and the (also welcome) addition of Steve Conte's vocal talents. Wolf's Rain takes the "frontier" approach to the post-apocalyptic world design, so the scrambling improv guitar parts are as fitting as they are fun.

Even with twenty-one superior tracks, two definitely stand above the rest. "Valse de la Lune" is a French-language soft jazz number that's very easy to picture in a Paris salon. And "Coracao Selvagem" beautifully blends its Brazilian and Spanish influences into a saucy dance piece.

A few weeks ago I wondered aloud whether Taku Iwasaki might finally be in Yoko Kanno's league. I won't make the same mistake again. Right now nobody else commands so many styles with such mastery. But be warned, Ms. Kanno: Stay in this folk guitar box and somebody will catch up to you eventually.

Nami Tamaki says:

Sound Wave of Stellvia Geneon Anime Music (2004-08-04)

Stellvia is a good soundtrack. It's nothing amazing or innovative, but it gets the job done competently in a way much like that of Fruits Basket. The makeup is a very traditional full orchestra, which composer Seikou Nagaoka uses to make a few light string pieces, some short piano solos, and a small helping of goofy brass numbers.

I think the main attraction of Stellvia's music is its simplicity. The 42 tracks are brief but usually memorable. It's not quite New Age music (there's more variety than that), but the minimalist piano pieces certainly have that feel. "Absence of Mind" and "Strain of Silence" are appropriate titles. By the time tracks like "Hard Operation" roll around, we know powerful music isn't Nagaoka's forte, but he's in good control for the rest of the album.

The opening and ending themes are fascinating, though probably not for the right reasons. "Atsuko," the vocalist, has a lot of trouble reaching the high notes, so she resorts to a shallow glide whenever things gets tough. It sounds almost like she's yodeling, which doesn't fit the rock backbeat of "Brilliant Road to Tomorrow" at all. Fortunately the closing number, "The End of the World," is much less of a stretch.

So, is Stellvia worth your time and money? Maybe. The anime won't be out until September, so it's a cool sneak peak of what I've heard is a wonderfully innocent series. Simple stories are best with uncluttered soundtracks. Keep your expectations level, and you'll probably be able to relax and smile—or maybe sniffle.

Nami Tamaki says:

Neon Genesis Evangelion Original Soundtrack #3 Geneon Anime Music (2004-07-06)

Thank goodness Mahoromatic didn't become a worldwide phenomeon. I don't think I could've handled two billion remixes of "Shikiko's Eroticism." As it is, Gainax has taken the once-novel "Fly Me to the Moon" ending theme and milked the thing to the bone.

I know this is their shtick, but come on, does anybody honestly want fourteen more remixes of the song Geneon calls (almost sardonically) "that timeless ballad"? To make matters worse, we get two versions courtesy of poor Yoko Takahashi, who crosses up her FRYs with her SPLINGs.

Setting aside that third of the disc, most of the first 22 tracks are fine additions to the Eva library. I don't particularly care for the two image songs that open the CD, but that's mostly because we got similar tracks on the first two CDs. The instrumentals are lined up in chronological order with the series, so of course they grow in intensity before reaching the apex with Eva's famous chanting numbers. The major problem? You can't buy two-thirds of a CD.

Eva fans and music fans alike should skip this one. Even the instrumentals are mostly rehashed versions of earlier songs. Eva completionists will pay no attention to this review, and that's fine. I hope you imported this, too.

Nami Tamaki says:

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