Kenji Kawai – Ghost In The Shell

Ghost in the Shell 1995

I was aimlessly browsing and came upon the Ghost In The Shell original score on CD. Loving the film, though having not seen it in years, I knew it would at least conjure some nostalgia for a time long gone. Nostalgia is achieved within 5 seconds of the opening track. Beyond that, it gets very interesting.

About that opener: anyone who’s seen the film will be instantly transported to the iconic fembot creation opening credits sequence. To a teenage boy in 1996 this was both erotic and confusing, setting up my expectations for something which never appears.

Instead what unfolds is an enigmatic film, firing off questions about consciousness, mortality, empathy, identity, and where we’re headed as a culture. The film’s outlook is as dystopian as its ending is optimistic. The cinematography and art direction sit at the zenith of hand drawn animation, despite the smattering of primitive CGI employed in a handful of scenes. The music sits at a crossroads between traditional Japanese, Hollywood classical, and minimalist synth pads, echoing classics like Vangelis’ Blade Runner score and anything Tangerine Dream did in the 1980s.

With my tastes light years removed from whatever I was into at age 14 – remember, this was before the internet made jaded cynics out of preteens bored with Boris and Nico – I find myself slipping into boldly embracing waters with the score by Kenji Kawai (川井憲次). I now love the abstract synth sculptures of Oneohtrix Point Never, the warm tones of Brian Eno, the quickening thunder of Taiko and choral flights into pure ambient bliss. I love when an epic orchestral swell dissolves into liquid neon pools, spiking the hair on my neck. I love when an alien sound cloud whisks my conscious mind away, toward nothingness and enlightenment, and peace.

The Ghost in the Shell score brings all of this love to one compact space.

This is one of my favorite scenes in the film. There is no dialogue. Almost nothing happens. It’s the moment when the initial rush of plot subsides and the viewer truly slips beneath the surface. This is the moment the audience becomes invested in the fictional world. It is pure hypnosis.

For the longest time, you could only buy the soundtrack CD on Amazon for an exorbitant price. But thanks to the wizards at WRWTFWW Records, the set is being reissued on vinyl for the first time ever. The packaging looks lush, and if the exquisite mastering of their reissue of Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass is any indication, the sound quality will be unrivaled. You can preorder the LP on the WRWTFWW Bandcamp page.

4 thoughts on “Kenji Kawai – Ghost In The Shell

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