Scoring a movie that is (ostensibly) a rumination on the human soul and it’s place in an increasingly mechanised world, is no small order. Especially when you have big shoes to fill.
The score to the original manga by Kenji Kawai is a classic of the genre, if not necessarily beyond that. It perfectly captures the mystery, drama and surrealism of the movie. Somewhat unsurprisingly the Western remake that came out last month has proved controversial. However few can dispute the quality of the accompanying soundtrack.
It fucking rules.
Now while I admit the dubstep elements are horrible shlock, that opening theme sounds absolutely incredible. The Eastern chant and tribal beat are a perfect vehicle to this imagined world. Steve Aoki’s tacky dubstep noodling notwithstanding, its a remaster of a piece that can still set your hairs on end.
From there, it’s an all-star cast of evocative weirdos. There’s Jonny Jewel, who made his name with The Chromatics (he runs their label) and particularly their contribution to Drive. His tracks carry the same lo-fi tension, only here the allusion to analogue machinery in a world far removed from Kratwerk, makes for an interesting contrast in tone.
DJ Shadow, whose love of sci-fi has been plain since his writing for UNKLE in the late 90s (Psyence Fiction) contributes a soporific, spaced-out track called ‘Scars’. Given the action thriller it soundtracks I’m surprised Shadow didn’t hammer the turntables a little more; something like ‘Organ Donor’. This isn’t as cerebral as Shadow can go, especially given the unique opportunity to soundtrack something as far-out as Ghost in the Shell. In any case ‘Scars’ has it’s own distinct quality, an ode to abstraction and loneliness that fans of the turntable master will know well.
The trip-hop vein runs ever deeper with Tricky (of Massive Attack fame) also featuring. There’s also a goth-rock remix of Depeche Mode’s classic ‘Enjoy the Silence’. Though we all know Trevor Something did it better.
All in all it’s a pretty killer selection and that’s not even touching Clint Mansell’s haunting score. I would have liked some more grass-roots talent on this, especially given the NewRetroWave scene which is absolutely mad for manga, robot ladies, synth music and all things Japan. But then I can’t remember the last time there was a Hollywood soundtrack with this kind of clout that didn’t have a big pop single on it.
Fans of sci-fi atmospherics and gloomy soundscapes ought to check this out.