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There’s a Ghost…in the Shell.

In my 3rd year of college, psasidhar, then in final year, was The guy in the CSE department. He had the right contacts, an unshakeable reputation, and consequently, unlimited access to the (extremely slow) College Internet Line. He didn’t abuse this power, no sir. Except for the short time when he diverted all outgoing mails to trash while his script to download the complete Calvin and Hobbes strips from a site ran on the server and ate up the complete bandwidth, and I would hardly call that abuse.There were other such scripts, of course, the most notable one being a script that downloaded a CD-load of Windowmaker themes. I hardly used Linux even then, except for finishing weekly assignments, and that was a rare occurrence anyways. But Sasi’s themes forced me to use Window-maker, if only for to check out the cool wallpapers that came bundled with them.

Ghost in the Shell

And one of them was this, a sexy-looking woman with loads of attitude. As a little googing ( Yes, we did have google back then, a new curiousity that was waaay faster than Hotbot and Yahoo and all those trashy search engines that we depended on) showed, the lady’s name was Motoko Kusanagi, a character from a manga called Ghost in the Shell ( which I had vaguely heard about, right after The Matrix was released) by a guy named Masumone Shirow, and made into a movie by Mamoru Oshii.

I happened to watch Ghost in the Shell recently, after years of reading about its greatness, and about the influence it has had on mainstream movies like The Matrix, and the influences it has borrowed from cyberpunk traditions ( William Gibson, Bladerunner). I was not disappointed. Stylish without being overtly violent, with genuine “Oh-my-god” moments. As usual, it was the road to the movie that was more memorable. I got the comics from a Bandwidth-rich junior, then the soundtrack album a year later when I got my connection at home. Then the soundtrack to the sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Followed by the soundtrack of the TV series. Then found the DVD of Innocence, a version with terrible subtitles, in The Market. Then, a couple of weeks ago, the movie.

The soundtrack of the movie deserves a seperate post in itself. Kenji Kawai, the composer, uses a striking theme for the opening, called “The Making of Cyborg”, which is a choral piece in Japanese, backed with booming taiko drums and chimes. The chorus is hypnotic – I am left wondering which parts of it is synthetic and which parts sung by real people. “Ghost City” and “Reincarnation” play on variants of the same choral-drum theme. The second track is like just a bass drum playing a single beat, slow, evocative.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, also by Kawai has almost the same soundscape, with minor differences in tone and intensity. Brilliant, is all I have to say. So are the soundtracks to the TV series, which are composed by Yoko Kanno, the lady best known for her Cowboy Bebop compositions. As expected, these are tracks that cannot be slotted into a single genre, a single track might hop from a Big-band orchestral arrangement to spanish guitar music and then, as you are gasping for breath, move into heavy metal mode.

Trivia:

1) The title “Ghost in the Shell” comes from Arthur Koestler’s book The Ghost in the Machine, which also lends its name to an album by The Police. Koestler himself borrowed the term from a British philosopher named Gilbert Ryle who coined it to refute the Descartian ( or is that Cartesian) principle of seperation of mind and matter.

2) The US dubbed version of the movie had a track called “One Minute Warning”, with music by Brian Eno and U2. While this is nowhere to be seen on the official soundtrack album, I found it on a CD called Passengers, at a sale in Hyderabad. This was even before I got the manga.

Ironic Nostalgia Moment of the Day: This post, dated May 2003, where I mentioned the shock value associated with discovering a DVD of Ghost in the Shell at Music World. I did find it in Music World two years later. (not the genuine Music World, this is the shopping centre at Basheer Bagh that shares the same name) Now is that prophetic or what?

P.S: Some of Sasi’s wallpapers are now part of RECian legend – they were used (without any form of acknowledgement whatsoever) as backgrounds for the brochure of Trivium 2001, our very own Quiz Fest. Not the GITS one, much to my regret.

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ATC, Akira – vol 1, and Medulla

Bamp babamp.

Bamp babamp bamp bamp bamp babamp.

Ab Tak Chhappan: The Soundtrack has crawled into my mind, and now refuses to check out.

“We wanted to capture the staccato mood of the film and in the process ended up using unconventional instruments like the sitar, to chill the audiences. The music overall is a blend of Atmospheric world music with psycho rhythms featuring the Armenian Duduk and Sarangi singing a duet together.” – the cd inlay cover says, and features a photograph of the composers, grinning away to glory.

If you look at it as a whole, ATC is highly skewed. The main theme, the short riff that I sung at the beginning, pops up throughout the soundtrack, and it is good enough to overwhelm the rest of the tracks. It serves as a very good reminder for the mood of the movie – crisp, brisk, with just the hint of on-the-edge feeling. But, ah – the combination of Niladri Kumar’s sitar, Naveen’s flute, Shekhar’s cello, and the composers ( I presume!) on the piano proves its finesse on the concluding track ( “Sadhu Agashe”), and track eleven – “Nirvana” comes a close second. “Run Sadhu Run” is the only track that comes close to chaotic orchestration, but I guess the situation it. One of the main personal gripes against the soundtrack when I heard it in the theater was that it was too in-your-face, and loud, but listening to the cd does not make it seem as cringeworthy as I thought it would get.

All in all, worth listening to, even if you insist on ignoring all the bits other than “bamp babump etc”, which plays at all keypoints, on different instruments, ranging from the lower keys of the piano to vibraphones, slap bass, and the cello.

* * *

I read the first volume of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira today, the limited edition colour version that now costs a fortune ( 200$ for volume 3, last time I checked in Mile High Comics ) The book I read has “This is number 1247 of a limited edition of 2500 copies” inscribed on it, which is kind of awe-inspiring. Except of course, the copy I was reading was a digital version. Bless the guy who scanned in the 176 pages of his book.

Otomo-san, as I have repeatedly stated before, does not disappoint. The book is surprisingly unfaithful to the movie, which is rather unexpected ( he wrote the damn book! And he drew and directed the movie too), and also expected (after all, when does a movie stick to the book?) but what is strange is – the movie actually goes into more detail than the book, so far. The beginning of the book is somewhat abrupt, and the relationship between Tetsuo and Kaneda ( one looking upto the other, with a faint sense of resentment, and the other being an elder-brotherly figure), so nicely slotted in the first five minutes of the film, have yet to develop in the book.

The artwork is stunning, and the colour (by Steve Oliff) fits the dystopian look of Nu-Tokyo to the hilt. I am kind of worried, because someday I will be buying Akira, and I do not want to feel lost if I buy the Black and white versions. Otomo-san excels in scenes of mass-destruction – the level of detail has to be seen to be believed. Thank you, brainz, for getting me this ( and the Lone Wolf volume, and the Hellblazer series, and the Elektra collection, and ….wait, I need to catch my breath. )

Enough blabbering. I have a mild headache, which I am worried will mutate into something huge and of planet-shaking proportions if I loiter around the Internet too much.

But I (ahem!) forgot to say that Bjork’s latest album Medulla, which was released two days ago in the United States, and which has been residing in my hard disk for the past two weeks, is an experiment worthy of hosannas. The lady decided to have her album with voices alone, and no instruments. While some tracks ( Show me Forgiveness, Oll Virtan, Desired Constellation) are straight-out acapella songs, some (Pleasure is All Mine, Who Am I) are experimental, with voice-samples used as bass-tracks and layered to produce outrageous sounds; some (Oceania, Mi├░vikudags) are downright creepy!!! What am I saying? ALL of them are creepy – that’s why I listen to Bjork in the first place.

Note: I promise to buy this album as soon as I find it here. Feel rather guilty downloading it before it’s release date. I didn’t know it hadn’t been released yet, swear.

Sasi was a little depressed yesterday. So we went to Basheerbagh and he bought eleven DVDs. I bought four.

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