This haunting score ties in beautifully with the spirit of the Japanese animated film Ghost in the Shell, based on the books from Shirow Masamune. Composer Kenji Kawai serves up a chilled platter of deep drums, gongs, shakers, bells, female vocals, shimmering keyboards, and vaporous ambience. A somber and powerful rhythm dominates most of these tracks, but percussionist Yuhki Sugawara maintains emotional content rather than mere drum exercises, as he pounds, taps, palms, and skips across a wide array of instruments. At times this album is bleak and sparse, but always engaging. Gongs float upward from the depths like huge jellyfish, female choirs run chills down the spine, and keyboards breathe softly in the distance. A curious finale to the disc is an all-out pop song entitled "See You Everyday," also written by Kawai, with upbeat female vocals from Fang Ka Wing. Certainly this song breaks the spell the rest of the album has cast on listeners, and this overly sweet piece of candy seems very much out of place (indeed, the CD producers list this as a "bonus track"). Sadly absent from the album, however, is a piece featured in the closing credits for the theatrical release -- "One Minute Warning," performed by the Passengers (aka U2 and Brian Eno). This would have made a superior closing to the CD, by maintaining the darkness and intensity that makes this still such a great soundtrack. ~ Ken Tataki
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