December 6, 2022
By Jonathan Clements.
Grey October Sound, “one of Japan’s most talented hip-hop producers”, takes a bunch of iconic Joe Hisaishi tracks and noodles around with them, often working with instrumental cover versions by a bunch of artists including TO4NORI, CHARIOT SOUND, COCO and Judo125 to create the album Lo-Fi Ghibli.
One wonders about the meeting where someone said: “You know what that lovely tune from Kiki’s Delivery Service needs? A piano cover version with a thumping hip-hop beat over the top of it.” But these tunes are very much part of the wallpaper in Japan, beloved by several generations of Ghibli fans – it is notable that these tracks are all sourced from early Ghibli like My Neighbour Totoro, Castle in the Sky and Kiki’s Delivery Service, which have had the longest to bed down on playlists of customers of a certain age.
Although this is the first release in the series to reach us through Anime Limited, it comes in Japan after similar experiments in Ghibli Reggae and Ghibli Jazz, for the Ghibli completist keen to own every single possible iteration of these tracks. The result is a mixed bag – there are successes like “The Path of Wind” from Totoro, that lends itself beautifully to slow chill-out, whereas there is not a whole lot of room for “Nausicaa Requiem” to maintain its original haunting quality.
I can imagine a chill-out room at some unspecified convention disco, where the sound of these tracks brings out some knowing smiles of recognition among a bunch of sweaty, cocktail-sipping clubbers, although I note with interest how there are diminishing returns with later Ghibli tunes. Two tracks, “Princess Mononoke” and “The Legend of Ashitaka” lack the immediate recognition (with me at least) that I get with old favourites from earlier movies. Only “The Sixth Station” from Spirited Away dates from this century, making me wonder if there was a twenty-year moratorium on the available tracks, or if Hisaishi’s work since 2001 is just apparently less hip-hoppable.
Lo-Fi Ghibli is available on vinyl in the UK from Anime Limited.