Monday 27 July 2020

Hip Hoppin' Be Boppin'

Great news over the weekend for music accessibility. After what feels like forever (and some drip feeding at the start of quarantine), the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack has finally appeared on streaming platforms everywhere. I was hopeful after Yoko Kanno's Ghost In The Shell stuff appeared not too long ago considering she worked on both but I wasn't expecting it to be so soon.

While not wholly electronic it's a damn fine soundtrack to a damn fine series, it stands well enough on its own that you don't need to know anything about the series to dive right in, and while not all of it is available to stream there's still plenty to get your teeth stuck into. If you're looking for some Jazzy vibes for your Monday morning this is supremely what you're looking for. I'll be covering a couple pieces that I dig and also once again sharing some of the Remix album that has some very interesting artist choices on it. Really, I'm just super stoked that people can access the OSTs more easily, makes discovery (and you know, actually talking about them in post format) much easier indeed.

Starting with a bit from OST 2, playfully subtitled No Disc (though it was also on Vitaminless which has been on Spotify for longer!). If you're at all familiar with Drum & Bass (especially around the late 90's / early 00's when Bebop was around) you'll know that the combination of Jazz and Drum & Bass isn't an incredibly farfetched one; the E-Z Rollers and Flytronix were both doing similar around the same time. The Bebop OST flirts with this combination a bit here and there and even goes full Jungle for a minute on OST 3. Fantaisie Sign takes a more Lounge slash R&B style to the proceedings but the Jazz influence is still very much there, I've loved this track for a long time, but those background pads are really doing it for me today. Slightly unrelated, the combination of driving brass and sultry French vocals reminds me in a roundabout way of Thievery Corporation's Saudade, though that LP took a lot more inspiration from Bossa Nova.

Moving swiftly away to something more fitting for the electronic side of things. There's also an entire remix album called Music For Freelance that I've written about extensively before but I will take any excuse to bring it up again. It's a veritable who's who of the electronic music world of the late 90's, starting with a mix of the opening theme Tank! by none other than Luke Vibert. Vibert's mix doesn't actually do much to the main body of the song (which is more of a testament to the strength of the original opening tune itself rather than a critique of Vibert's mix). It's not the most altered version here, but Vibert's additions are still pretty evident, I love the little breakdown he added around the midpoint too.

I was originally planning to cover every remix on here but in hindsight I think that'll be a little too long. Skipping over Fila Brazillia's remix this time and diving into DMX Krew's mix of Cats On Mars. I wonder if the artists got to choose which track they remixed, because the slightly goofy sounding original Cats On Mars seems like it would be right up Ed from DMX's alley, given his penchant for cheesy electro and all. The end result is stripped of pretty much every element of the original save for Yoko Kanno's nonsense vocal, the rest replaced with cool twinkling synths and an expectedly DMX fat electro bassline. An odd choice but a very fine remix, Ed's personality shines through and it brings some nice variety to the roster of remixers.

Taking things downtempo with Mr. Scruff for the next mix. Once again another choice that would make sense if the artists got to pick which track they wanted to mix, the original Cat Blues sounds like it would be an absolute goldmine for Scruff's style of sampling. And that is definitely true for the mix itself, Scruff takes all the bits and pieces and makes a lovely hip hop style tune out of it. Totally transformed from the original, it doesn't even re-use the melody, a remix in the truest sense of the word. I do think it suffers a little bit from long plateaus of sound like there should be a vocal or something but that's the extent of my complaints (Well, that and the fadeout at the end seems a little sudden). By the time it starts to grate those bombastic opening samples slide back into the mix once again and I can't stay still.

Next is an interesting one from DJ Vadim. Firstly because the track being remixed, Fe, wasn't actually available on any of the OST releases around the time of this remix album, only appearing on the Cowboy Bebop CD Box in 2002. And compared to the original, Vadim's mix is quite different indeed. We're no stranger to the mixes not resembling the originals by this point but Fe is on another level; going from a Spy-suite style piece to a full on lumbering trip-hop number that has more than a smidge of Portishead influence. I love the slightly spooky turntablist style it brings, it again feels like it should have a vocal or something, but that could just be a casualty of me looping it 3-4 times before writing.

Finally, playing us out is a Remix of Fantaisie Sign by none other than Ian Pooley. It's at this point I realised there's a conspicuous lack of full on house on this remix LP, I could very well see the original getting a Stardust or Modjo style makeover given the style of the time. What we get instead is ironically more in line with the Thievery Corporation Bossa Nova I mentioned in the initial paragraph, not like that's a bad thing but as I mentioned above, the whole album seems to have this downtempo streak and it would have been nice to have one or two dancefloor friendly pieces here. Still, not complaining. Get a load of the bassline on this one.

And that wraps us up for today, again while not strictly electronic definitely check out some The Seatbelts' stuff because it's a great listen and fantastically produced throughout, hopping through multiple genres across the 4 or so OST album for the series. Speaking of, I highly recommend Cowboy Bebop as a series as well, it's a fantastic production and very, very accessible if you've never seen or are generally not a fan of anime; there's no lore or anything you need to know before going in either. I'll stop myself there because that could be a whole other article in and of itself. As always, stay safe and enjoy the music!


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