Locked Grooves 4: Joe Hisaishi
Studio Ghibli is probably the most well-known Japanese animation studio in the world. Underpinned by the genius of co-founder and studio director, Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has a reputation for creating beautiful cinema through magical storytelling and stunning animation. Whilst being easy on the eye, they are also transformed by the compositions and musical work of Joe Hisaishi. A close associate of Miyazaki, Joe Hisaishi is best known for his Studio Ghibli film scores which elevate the animation in ways, it seems, that only he could. Whilst we’re all stuck at home it’s nice to be transported to an enchanted Japanese forest for a couple of hours or an old, traditional house in rural Japan that’s overrun with friendly wood spirits; these films are like a warm blanket – they have the power to put you at ease like few animations can.
It was great to hear that most of Studio Ghibli’s output is now on Netflix. Although I’m pretty sure these are just the English re-dubs, they will generally suffice for a Ghibli fix on a rainy day. More recently I got a text (from none other than our own Eve) to say that the soundtracks were available to stream on Spotify. This, for me, was even better news. No more fragmented streaming from Youtube or hashing together a Joe Hisaishi ‘best of’ out of the dregs on Spotify. This, upon inspection, was the mother lode. From ‘Princess Mononoke’ to ‘Mr. Dough and the Egg Princess’, they are all there in their different forms of ‘soundtrack’, ‘image album‘ or occasional ‘symphonic version’. Access to these soundtracks has enhanced my lockdown days immensely... Thanks Spotify and thanks Eve.
Now, Spotify being the great discovery tool that it is has only whet my appetite for some Studio Ghibli vinyl even more. The news that blew Netflix and Spotify out of the water was the news that Studio Ghibli had finally decided to start reissuing (and issuing for the first time) some of their most famous scores and soundtracks on vinyl. The term ‘investment’ is bandied around all too often where vinyl is concerned, but these stunning issues really are money well spent - They are some of the prettiest sleeves I’ve ever seen, both in craftsmanship and design, and are presented in an audiophile style: antistatic sleeves, inserts, heavyweight pressing and obi-strip.
The most recent to be pressed are ‘Porco Rosso’ and ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’. Two films which clearly show Miyazaki’s passion for aviation (his father was an aeronautical engineer) and two films which demonstrate Hisaishi’s musical intelligence as a composer that understands his subject and can translate his style to suit a particular setting, be it a whimsical tale of a young witch finding her way in life or the more surreal story of an Italian bounty hunter in the form of an anthropomorphic pig. He moves from the playful pop sounds of ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ to the much jazzier and more mature scene painted in the ‘Porco Rosso’ score with ease.
As with everything associated to the Studio Ghibli brand, these LPs are truly a labour of love. They have become some of my most played records as they sound so gorgeous and I’m always happy to have Joe Hisaishi play for me in the comfort of my own London bedroom. I expect there will be more to come, so if these don’t tickle your fancy then keep your eyes peeled for your favourites in the near future.