Musical Deviance Part 1: The Seatbelts

*Confession Time: I haven’t listened to any riffs this week. I know, but just bear with me.*

Afternoon folks. I’ve finally found myself a lull between deadlines and impending exams, giving me just enough time to talk about some of the music sashaying through my ears this week.

If your still reading after my little confessional than chances are your ears are open to some tasty riff alternatives. The music in this case is courtesy of The Seatbelts, a Japanese/International jazz group headed by Yoko Kanno. I found them for what they are most famous for, the music of Cowboy Bebop, a late ’90’s anime about space-faring bounty hunters. Chances are if you like anime you’ve already seen it but if you haven’t I highly advise giving it a watch.

One of the things that makes Cowboy Bebop stand out in my mind is the integration of the music into the stories. The music is just as much of a character as the cast is and most of the episodes are based around one musical theme, or use one style. The other standout fact is the sheer diversity during the series. Musical styles bounce between eerie noir-style crawls, big-band jazz sessions, ambient orchestral arrangements and classic western/blues twanging. All of these styles were preformed by The Seatbelts.

They currently have seven albums, four of which are Cowboy Bebop related, the other three are originals. I’ve managed to track down a pretty solid discography to give everything a listen, which is far more convenient than trying to track down every album. Since there was such a massive variety of music in these albums, it’s not surprising that I didn’t enjoy everything. What I did enjoy (and what I’m going to highlight) is the big-band jazz sessions and western blues songs, as these were the two styles I enjoyed the most.

Since I don’t really have the experience or knowledge to write anything in-depth on this music, this post is more aimed at exposing the music and seeing if y’all like it too. Here’s a live version of their most infamous song for the opening of Cowboy Bebop, “Tank!”:

I’ve always loved the sound of big band, probably thanks to my mothers rotation of early ’50’s classics. Suffice to say very few things put a chill down my spine like a full brass section going balls out. Here’s another of the big band efforts, “Too Good, Too Bad”:

So damn tasty. One thing I’ve noticed is that if you listen to a lot of complex or technical metal, large jazz compositions will have similar elements to metal songs. Little bits and snatches of song that seem familiar, or time signatures you can relate to a much heavier song. I might just be crazy though.

The other style of The Seatbelts I mentioned was their western blues songs. Cowboy Bebop is essentially about space cowboys and the mix of old west twanging guitars and howling blues harmonicas works amazing with lonely shots of a ship in space. Probably the most famous example of this style is shown below in “Spokey Dokey”:

It’s a haunting kind of music, melancholy and alone, at home in both the black vacuum of space and the searing hot sands of the desert. The harmonica is severly underused instrument in modern rock ‘n’ roll, so it does my ears good to hear it given the main stage. Here’s a guitar centered piece, “Forever Broke”.

Well that’s all I really wanted to accomplish, I hope I’ve piqued your interest for some new musical styles. If your looking to listen to an album/pick one up, I’d suggest just getting the straight Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, as it covers all the styles and classic songs. I’ll end with two more of my favorites, “Want it All Back” (one of the few songs with lead vocals) and “Mushroom Hunting”. Enjoy.

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