Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2018 April 16 • Monday

The 513th Soundtrack of the Week is a CD with music from one of our favorite film series, the Japanese Red Peony Gambler movies, staring Junko Fuji as master gambler and swordswoman pursuing trails of vengeance and justice.

These movies have a lot going for them: acting, photography, stories and of course the music.

I'm not really sure what's going on with this CD. If I've been correct in deciphering the few Japanese characters that appear to be relevant, then this disc has music from two of the movies, the third and sixth in the series.

Of the two, Takeo Watanabe's music from number three, Hibotan bakuto: hanafuda shobu, is the most rewarding.

Electric guitar is the main voice here, dark and reverberant, faintly recalling a merger of Duane Eddy and a rainy day. Spare and restrained use of organ, strings, percussion and a few other instruments helps to create powerfully emotional atmospheres and dramatic underscore.

The other film on here, Hibotan bakuto: oryu sanjo, has a score by Ichiro Saito, who relies mostly on a traditional orchestra for more familiar-sounding cues, some of them perhaps aspiring to Akira Ifukube's magnificent and transcendent gloominess.

So this is for the 1960s yakuza film freaks. I'm probably one. I bought some of these movies on DVD the only time I ever went to Japan, even though they weren't subtitled and my knowledge of Japanese wasn't even close to allowing me to understand what people were saying.