Bwana – Capsule’s Pride

In the early ’90s I went into my local Blockbuster Video and saw Akira for rent on VHS. I had no idea what it was, only a cartoon with a badass biker on the cover. This was my introduction to Japanese animation, and to Japanese culture, really.

The movie blew my mind. It threw out every major conception of structure and standard in storytelling. There were no handholding introductions to the characters. The world-building only begged more questions. There was no clear “good” or “bad” and no clear protagonist. Whole sections of the movie were unintelligible and could only be understood after discussion with friends or repeated viewings. It had an extremely ambiguous ending. Now that I’m writing it all down, it’s clear that the movie had a big influence on me.

Anyway, one of the things I really loved Akira was its soundtrack, which was predominantly bizarre choral arrangements and propulsive percussive instrumentation. It’s one of those soundtracks where just a few notes of it can evoke vivid imagery in my head; there’s one piece that starts almost like a child’s song and progresses into nightmarish terror, and in the movie it’s perfectly paired with some hallucinogenic teddy bears swelling to monstrous proportions and bleeding milk out of their goddam eyes.

My love for it was so overt that a friend even found me the soundtrack on vinyl.

Now some dude from Toronto, who goes by the moniker Bwana, has taken the soundtrack and bits of the dialogue and created a remix album called Capsule’s Pride. I say “remix” hesitantly: the instrumentation and dialogue are familiar, but the compositions themselves all feel new and unrelated to the original soundtrack.

In my mind, this freshness is a good thing. It evokes the emotions and familiarity of the original by borrowing the sound palette, but then harnesses them to make a work that stands alone. I can’t speak objectively on this, but I suspect this album would be interesting in and of itself for someone who had never seen Akira or listened to the original soundtrack.

So if instrumental electronic music with unusual sounds and a dark mood is up your alley, I’d say give Capsule’s Pride a whirl. The record is released on 25th March, a week from now, but for the moment you can stream the whole thing over at NPR. I’m really digging it.

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