Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2012 January 23 • Monday

The 201st Soundtrack of the Week is Akihiko Matsumoto's music for Odoru Daisosasen: The Movie, the first of several successful feature-film spin-offs of the Japanese TV show Odoru Daisosasen, known in English as Bayside Shakedown (though I read somewhere that the title translates literally as Dancing on the Line of Inquiry).

This is not the kind of music I usually listen to, but I love it. It is, I guess, dance music, a mixture of house, techno and world beat stuff.

I picked up the DVD for this movie on a whim, probably about ten years ago, while browsing in a Chinatown video store. (Most of them are gone, by the way. I still visit P-Tune on Christie Street pretty regularly.)

I loved the movie from the start. It shows cops on a stake-out and the viewer expects them to nab a dangerous criminal. It turns out they're actually on a mission to escort a departmental VIP to a golf game. The main character, Aoshima, cheers the bigwig's tee-off but turns his cheer into a put-down.

Then the opening credits rolled and I was hooked.

The music has pounding beats, what sounds like a looped sample of a Mexican pop song, and an awesome melody. Like all of the material here, it's been creatively and thoughtfully arranged and constructed. It's called "Rhythm and Police" and has two distinct parts, the second part being a jaunty sort of wrap up to the intensity of the credits sequence.

That's the second track on the CD. There's an intro which loops a section of the series' signature song, "Love Somebody", performed by heart-throb Yuji Oda, who also plays Aoshima. They make it sound like an old scratchy record, add some other weird noises on top, and have a bit of a spoken intro by this guy Future Funk Sound System.

After "Rhythm and Police" comes "C.X.", which combines another crazily infectious dance groove with classic orchestral dramatic scoring, sort of like a hip-hop version of the Back to the Future. There's a great, vaguely Middle Eastern female vocal part, and a surprising shift to a more subdued and pensive bridge.

Then comes the bright "Ding Dong" which combines a chirpy female voice chanting something that sounds a bit like "Ding ding ding dong" with numerous other elements, like hand-clapping, strummed harp or zither, percussive male vocal utterances, thudding house drum beats, electronic noises and a melody line that shows up every so often to soar over everything else. Just when you think it might be over, there's a break into a totally different feel.

"Life" starts out with the groove being set down by rapidly strummed acoustic guitar. It's joined by percussion, then Future Funk Sound System ("F.F.S.S. in the house!") and then some heavy beats. It fades out after about a minute and a half, making way for a version of the hit "Love Somebody". Yuji Oda doesn't sing on this. In fact it's a dance remix that goes through a few different moods, from the ethereal to the frenetic.

"G-Groove" is the theme for Muroi, a stone-faced, strict police officer who is Aoshima's superior but also partner in a strategy to reform the corrupting hierarchy of the police force. Aoshima will stay in touch with the reality of officers on the street while Muroi climbs the ladder of promotion, one effecting change from outside, the other from inside. Muroi's theme is an intoxicating blend of menacing distorted guitar, pounding drums and piano, thudding bass and swirling melody.

I find "Moon Light" to be a hauntingly beautiful piece. It has a simple melody, played mostly by piano and eventually accompanied by female backing vocals. There's the usual driving beat but above it flutter all sorts of small sounds that create layers of feeling.

"Search Out" is a tough funk piece with Future Funk Sound System rapping about police and justice and getting busy, occasionally joined by back-up singers. After this comes "Stoker", a short piece of pure menace, a reminder that there's a serious crime in the midst of all this toe-tapping.

"Red" continues with the gravity established by "Stoker" but you can tap your foot again. The beat is in your face while the music alternates between suspense and a more romantic figure.

"Otoboke" is a catchy and humorous piece with acoustic guitar, percussion and what sounds like South American wooden flutes. There are some interesting variations in the rhythmic approach throughout.

"Give Me a Baby" is an up-tempo dance number that features a sample (I guess) of the chorus from "Love Somebody". After this comes another take on "Love Somebody", an almost smooth-jazz instrumental version with saxophone interpreting the melody.

The album closes with an outro that's very similar to the intro. Listening to it makes me want to see the movie again. That's probably intentional.