’ve known about Cowboy Bebop for years, and I’ve written and funked to it’s soundtrack for as long as I’ve had access to Youtube and since p2p sharing was invented (OK, maybe not quite as long as all that) but as far as I’m concerned, long enough to call Yoko Kanno 菅野 洋子  my (aural) friend.  Since all that time, I’ve been on the look-out for the anime series with little or no luck. My animator friend had lost his collection in a burglary and release on the live film version has been on hold since 2011. However, one tempestuously busy Saturday washed out in ennui and another geek-film-fanatic-friend produced two dvds containing the first 12 episodes of Bebop from the back of his collection along with 3 albums worth of soundtrack. Bliss!

Yoko Kanno, front (wo)man of The Seatbelts is the OST composer of not only Cowboy Bebop, but some of the most prolific Anime films including, Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell. Her sassy compositions add super-swag to the crazy popular anime series which, for the most part, contains copious amounts of film noir meets existentialist sci-fi kungfu macho.

Music forms a huge part of the series as several episodes are titled by specific genre or albums. Amongst my all-time favourites is Tank which, lucky for me, is also the opening theme. Listening to this track, performed by The Seatbelts, will make the name of both theme and band fairly obvious as they practice no restraint in the feverish performance of pure gangster  jazz. Which is just the perfect fit for director  Shinichirō Watanabe and writer Keiko Nobumoto’s creation which draws inspiration from Lupin III,  American Westerns (think Billy the Kid), the Blaxploitation (think Shaft) films of the 1970’s and Star Wars (think Yoda).  While the style pays homage to many Film Noir elements, featuring the cop gone rogue bounty hunter, Jet Black, and the slick Spike Spiegel with a backstory that weaves through the entire series in strong contrasting shadows, dramatic Bladerunner rain and of course, lonely listlessness.

Kanno explains her eclectic style by stating that genre is not as important as mood.  Space Lion‘s mood/ ethnic feel is in strong contrast with jazzy tracks ranging from feverish Tank and Piano Black to the laid far back delta  bluesy Felt Tip Pen all of which are continually juxtaposed with  the innocence of the  music box themes, Memory and Stella by Moor and the classical adaptation in Car24.

Ah … I hear everyone talk about how many genres [I work in] like classical, jazz and others, but personally, I don’t divide music by genre when creating. I don’t create by saying, ‘I must create a classical piece here,’ or ‘I must create a jazz piece here.’ When I create music, I don’t consider at all which genre I like best, but what the scene or the anime calls for, like a love [theme] or a mood. There isn’t one genre I like more than the others. I find all of them satisfying and all inspire me in different ways.

[Wikipedia, Yoko Kanno]

Kanno studied at the  Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Danse in  Paris and professes to prefer French to English. She often works under the pseudonym Gabrielle Robin, and according to Tvtropes she is the master of Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly. Whichever way I look at it. She’s the perfect way to navigate through traffic in a hurry and the perfect artist if you’re looking to get your groove back on.

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