No matter how good the soundtrack, there’s often something’s missing when you listen to a film score before seeing the film. Is it because the artist is holding back in some way or just that the two aspects are so indivisibly part of the experience that you diminish both through experiencing them in isolation?
I’ve got Plaid’s soundtrack to Tekkonkinkreet and long ago dismissed it as lacking the richer textures of their best work… but, after finally seeing the film accompanying the music I understand the latter a lot more. Is the strength of the music inversely proportionate to its link to the film? And, like the main characters in this film, are the two always stronger together - one yin to the other's yang?
Plaid (Andy Turner and Ed Handley) presented a live arrangement of their soundtrack with a soundscape broadened through the use of live strings and percussion. It was not only stronger musically than their studio version but showed the intelligence behind their composition which featured a series of bi-directional connections that varied in strength and tone throughout and which took turns in leading the emotional narrative or following its promptings.
The relationship of Plaid’s music to the film is a complex one and director Michael Arias had them in mind even before he put this version of the film together having been particularly taken with the genuine classic Not For Threes (1997). Surprisingly he says that “…it’s rare to begin work with composers until late in the filmmaking – music is so often an afterthought!” and yet he credits the duo with having a major influence on the story telling from early on, including the characterisation.
|Kuro aka Black|
|Suzuki and an injured Kimura|
|Made as a cut Snake...|
Separated, he takes on an altogether darker hue and the film starts to move in a more metaphysical manner. Do you have to become your environment or is “Love”, as one of the gangsters says, “all you need”? Kuru knows that by accessing his dark side, he can be stronger and overcome the opposition by force but what will be left of himself at the end? All leads up to a mystical ending which may well signify less than it means to…
These are age-old themes but all played out in a quirky fashion using stylistically extreme cartoons against stunning, other-worldly city-scapes… all art directed brilliantly by Shojiro Nishimi. It’s amazing how quickly you take these seemingly badly drawn boys so quickly to heart and that has as much to do with the music as the animation and voice characterisation.
Plaid’s music was given added muscle by their live musicians and their solo electronica accompanying an animation of Hunt Emerson’s Buster in Mouth City (had to get a silent film reference in somewhere...) was more typical of their sound - genuinely soulful electronica.
But they like to push their boundaries and their trademark elegantly-graduating Mobius lines gained extra texture especially from the Elysian Quartet and it was not just sound that made an impact but their visible musicality and skill. Ed and Andy work hard behind their monitors but you could see the performance craft more with the players who were front and centre with no tightrope and a dodgy pick-up for the Viola…
The Elysian Quartet are Emma Smith and Jennymay Logan on violins, Vincent Sipprell on viola and Laura Moody who was mournfully expressive on the cello.
The varied percussion of O Duo Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell also played its part as the two ran up and down from tom-toms to glockenspiels and bells. Showing just how hard it is to physically replicate the sounds from Ed’s laptop on stage.
Tekkonkinkreet is available on DVD from all the old familiar places as is the stand-alone soundtrack CD. it would be good to have this live version available too but perhaps it is best left as a thing of the moment: a performance with its singular audience connection rather than a souvenir with diminishing returns…
More about the adventures of the Elysian Quartet is on their website whilst the O Duo also have one over here. As for Plaid, they’re techno royalty and if you haven’t seen or heard of them, you can find out what you have been missing on their site.