SHINODA, MOTOKAZU  Demon City Shinjuku (OST)  2 x LP   (Tiger Lab)   34.99

More spectacular sounds from the realm of classic anime black fantasy. I wasn't familiar with composer Motokazu Shinoda before this, but his electronic score to 1988's Demon City Shinjuku

An unrelated follow-up to Yoshiaki Kawajiri's seminal adult anime film Wicked City, Shinjuku is a similar exploration of what goes down when your city is infested with demons from another dimension. The story follows a teenage boy who inherits his father's struggle to fight an entire metropolis teeming with demonic beings, ultimately confronting the evil psychic who has managed to unlock an opening into Hell itself. Filled to the hilt with stylish animation, graphic violence, gritty realism, killer combat scenes, nasty body-horror elements, and loads of apocalyptic melodrama, this movie has maintained a cult following for over thirty-five years by being a simple, fun, splattery action experience loaded with imaginative, often nightmarish creature designs and a wild dystopian setting. It isn't as perverse nor as transgressive as Wicked City (or Kawajiri's other cult classic Ninja Scroll), but it's a blast. Definitely one of the iconic OVA's of the late 1980s.

And Shinoda's score matches the berserk intensity and hallucinatory violence with delectable synthesizer arrangements. It's so 80s it hurts, and man am I here for it. Searing synth and propulsive electronic drum sequencing injects an urban urgency and slick, neon-lit atmopshere to the weird proceedings, and as is usual with anime scores of the time, it's schizophrenically wild in its tonal shifts. Super-glossy 80s electro-pop / Japanese "city-pop" sounds give over to turbulent kosmische funk and analog synth arpeggios. Washes of celestial electronic pads swirl into passages of innocent, romantic piano schmaltz and rousing soundtrack pieces to youthful heroism . Weird cavernous noises and effects bathed in reverb meld with offbeat proggy keyboard arrangements. Pummeling drum-machine beats power intense action-oriented sequences. Traditional Japanese stringed instrumentation like koto, fervent ritualistic percussion, and ancient-sounding woodwinds mixes with progressive rock-style Hammond and Moog-style tones and percolating synth-bass lines that sound like they drifted over from the Ricochet, Moondawn or Phaedra sessions, which combines to expand on the story's more eldritch elements. Harsh orchestral stabs emerge over swells of gossamer electronic ether. Sinister squelchy drones sweep down and across clusters of spooky, dissonant notes and deep, rumbling symphonic bass. Seething, squirming arpeggiated notes surge out of the background like masses of wormy chaos. Dank, dark, dungeon-like ambience drifts out of yawning subterranean chasms. Blasts of gibbering, distorted electronics and bizarre yelping / squawking voices appear alongside outre blurpscapes that sound like psychedelic aural hallucinatotions. Spaced-out soundscapes evoke the dissolving veil between realities, often to a horrific effect.

It all contributes to a surreal blend of thorouhgly 80s-era synth music , dancefloor stompers, experimental electronic texturing, and apocalyptic atmopsherics. There are a couple of key themes that recur throughout the score in different forms ( "Theme Of Kyoya", "Theme Of Demon City", "Main Theme Of Demon City", "Theme Of Ashura/Ashura", etc. etc.) which make up Shinoda's most musical elements, but there's a lot of textural and modular weirdness that creates some exquisitely unnerving sequences throughout the score. Of course, you get some Tangerine Dream / Klaus Schulze-esque stuff threaded all throughout the thirty-eight tracks; it's the norm for horror-centric synth-based scores from that decade. Compared to the berserket video game / classical music-fueled madness of the Urotsukidoji scores, Shinoda's wortk here is both more accessible and more commercial, which is part of what makes Demon City Shinjuku an appealing gateway drug into the world of extreme Japanese horror animation.