The 13th Floor

Talkin’ Tracks – The Soundtrack Of The Anime Classic PERFECT BLUE

The truth is that today more than ever, I wanted to have a good time with you. – Mima Kirigoe.

I can probably count on one hand the amount of ‘firsts’ I’ve had when it comes to movies. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, I came to horror late and didn’t watch my first full-blown horror movie (HALLOWEEN/HALLOWEEN II) until I was 17.  I may have missed out on some potentially psyche-scarring experiences, but having come to the genre later, I can remember everything about the first time I witnessed HALLOWEEN, THE EXORCIST, and FRIDAY THE 13th, etc.

The same rule applies for my entry into the world of Japanese OVAs (or ‘original video animation’). I was a little younger, early teens, but the experience has never left me, and truthfully I hope it never does. The film that kicked everything off was the ground breaking AKIRA, and even though I didn’t fully grasp everything about the story, I knew I had witnessed something special.

Luckily, I wouldn’t have to wait too long for my next animated fix as, at this time (the glorious early 90s), the MANGA video label had sprung up and had started releasing a ton of classic Japanese animation; titles today that are highly respected, such as VAMPIRE HUNTER D, CRYING FREEMAN, UROTSUKIDOJI and UROTSUKIDOJI II (two films that have to be seen to be believed). I would stick with MANGA tapes for a few years buying titles usually based on what the box art looked like and the brief synopsis on the back, this was back in the dark ages (pre-internet), so I had no real way of knowing if the title was good or bad.

After a while, I moved away from Manga and missed PERFECT BLUE upon its first release, however I did pick up the DVD a few years ago and once again found myself falling in love with the genre. The film is, hands down, a must see if you are inclined towards the animation genre or just enjoy a mindfuck of a thriller. While the story will have you guessing until the very end, the film’s score is something you can enjoy from the get go. Composed by Masahiro Izumi the sound is reminiscent of something you could have heard from the likes of NINE INCH NAILS, COIL, GODFLESH and MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT. The score steeps itself very much in the mid 90s industrial mindset, but does so with aplomb. Over the space of the past few weeks I have listened to the score numerous times, and each time I’ve gotten something new from it.

I recently chatted to one half of the creative minds behind TIGER LAB VINYL – Jon Dobyns, to ask him all about PERFECT BLUE.

Well over a year in the making, Tiger Lab and Madhouse Production Studios teamed up to present Masahiro Ikumi’s original score to the classic 1997 psychological thriller on vinyl for the first time ever.

Once again, Tiger Lab enlisted the impeccable work of HEBA KADRY of Timeless Mastering NYC to re-master Ikumi’s mesmerizing compositions. Not so different from the sounds of Brooklyn’s own Sacred Bones or the Tri Angle Records catalogue, Ikumi’s score is an electronic tour de force filled with ambient layers, eerie vocal choirs, infectious rhythms, and ghostly melodies.

A short but powerful listen (six tracks clocking in at 31 minutes), PERFECT BLUE will haunt your speakers for days.

BH: Have you always been a fan of Japanese anime? How did you discover the genre?

JD: I definitely was growing up. To be honest, I haven’t followed anything current unless something really wild gets picked up on my radar. At the time when I was discovering titles throughout the horror genre, it was really the natural progression. Manga were kings during that time period, and horror-anime OVAs were as cool and taboo as the midnight movies studios were churning out. I would assume kids of the late 80s and 90s watching TNT’s Monstervision with Joe Bob Briggs were also watching Wicked City. You’d pick up one anime VHS and it became your gateway into that world and the company’s back catalog.

BH: When starting Tiger Lab, was PERFECT BLUE a title you knew you wanted to release?

JD: Absolutely. It was a title that I inquired about during the first few weeks of the label’s launch. It just happened to take quite a while for the project to get the green light. I spent months going back and forth with the production studio trying to convince them to give us the rights. It was an uphill battle, but I finally wore them down after over a year of pestering.

Once the project was brought to fruition, Madhouse was nothing but supportive, helpful and just as excited about the Perfect Blue release as we are. They have been just as involved in the release of the LP as TL and it’s been great. We’d love to work with them again in the future.

BH: Masahiro Ikumi’s score matches the film’s images, going from nightmarish one minute to something beautiful and otherworldly the next. Is this something that attracted you to the film’s score?

JD: 100%.  I remember becoming fascinated with the film when I saw the preview on a VHS I purchased back then. It wasn’t the typical anime, as we all know it would work well as a live action film, but that goes for the score as well.

I loved how minimal it started. The tension it harnessed created such an intense buildup. The atmosphere in the score is of a dramatic thriller and it complements Satoshi Kon’s work perfectly. I could see fans of electronic/ambient works really getting behind Ikumi’s piece. Perhaps it could become their gateway into this world.

BH: With PERFECT BLUE being so revered amongst manga fans, has the response been what you expected?

JD: When we began teasing PERFECT BLUE online, I was really pleased with the reactions. It felt as if the fans and I shared the same sentiment towards the film and its score. Now it feels like we are releasing the LP for each other.

The music was such an important aspect to the film and it never had a vinyl release, let alone a wide release in any format. Our whole M.O. as a company is to release our favorite anime scores on vinyl, and soundtracks we believe you need to hear. This is one of those records I am grateful to be a part of, but still shocked to be the first.

Tiger Lab Vinyl is proud to announce the launch of their third release PERFECT BLUE, available for pre­-order on July 21. Records will ship mid­ October.

Well there you have it folks, be sure to hit up the TIGER LAB VINYL site and grab yourself a copy of what will no doubt be one of the soundtrack releases of 2016.

Are you a soundtrack fan? Enjoy a podcast or two? Be sure to check out The Damn Fine Cast, a vinyl centric soundtrack podcast featuring vinyl offerings from the past, present and future as well as regular composer interviews. Available now on iTunes & Soundcloud.