Yoko Kanno

Yoko Kanno Seatbelts Raichikyu Kinen Collection Album: Space Bio Charge

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When anime composer extraordinaire Yoko Kanno decides to release a triple best-of album, the million-dollar question is: does it make any sense from a purely musical point of view? After all, Kanno is known not just for her involvement with half of the best cult anime series produced in Japan, but also for her extreme versatility: she can work with -- and be good at -- virtually any style, from classical to hard rock, from techno to blues. But the flip side is that any Kanno collection runs the risk of sounding like a surfing session for a dozen different radio stations, one song at a time. So, unfortunately, the short answer is yes -- Space Bio Charge really sounds very disparate and wide-ranging. The cinematic lineage of these tunes ensures that they have at least a little something common in mood, but on the whole, the collection veers between vastly different though equally high-quality numbers: bombastic strings are replaced by catchy post-grunge tunes, recede into comical pop songs, and then give way to sparse vocal performances. This is overwhelming, and disappointing, too, especially because it's obvious that order could still have been imposed on this chaotic polyphony, as Kanno's compositions can be grouped into orchestral, rock, and pop batches. That would leave a good deal of diverse odds and ends, such as the hilarious pseudo-country ditty "Miwaku No Horse Riding," and in some cases grouping would be hard -- "Inner Universe" is opera pop and "Tank!" is a killer jazzy instrumental, so it's unclear where they might fit -- but even if a single CD would be left for "miscellaneous," it would still make Space Bio Charge much more structured. As it stands, for a Yoko Kanno fan -- of whom there are plenty -- this collection is Christmas come early, but as an independent musical experience, it's too slapdash, although a lot of patience and CD programming can, perhaps, bring out the abundant gems piled here.