Written by Suzuki Saeko in collaboration with music production duo TOMISIRO, the Rinne no Lagrange OST is easily one of my favourites from the winter line-up. Neither of the two artists have worked on much that I’m familiar with – most of their work seems to be confined to the Keroro Gunsou franchise which – in my opinion – makes the quality of the LagRin OST even more impressive to behold. While not as diverse in genre as some anime soundtracks, there’s still an impressive range of styles, though on the whole, the soundtrack comes across mostly as electronic interspaced with more comedic instrumental tracks.
It’s impossible to talk about the soundtrack of Rinne no Lagrange without mentioning TRY UNITE!, probably my favourite OP from the winter season. From the beautiful harmonic choices (with lots of extended chords) and flowing melody to the subtle but effective builds, it’s a joy to listen to. Stylisticly, it perfectly sets the tone for the series both thematically and musically. A lot of people have thrown around the word ‘Europoppy’ when talking about the song and, funnily enough, this is more accurate than some may have realised. Written by Saeki Kenzo (who has worked extensively with French artists in the past) and composed and arranged by Rasmus Faber, a prolific House music producer hailing from Sweden, it’s no surprise that the influences of European dance music shine through. While I could easily claim this as my favourite piece from the soundtrack, I feel that it would be unfair to pick a track written by a duo who had no further involvement with the rest of the series’ composition.
Taking a quick moment away from the soundtrack itself, I wanted to say something about how much I love hearing more and more of Nakajima Megumi, not just as a vocalist (it’s her wonderful voice on TRY UNITE!) but also as a seiyuu. It’s great to see how far she’s come since her debut as Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier.
Bringing us back on track, let’s talk about some of the more standout works on the soundtrack! The LagRin OST has many faces, each of which corresponds to a contrasting emotion. The first of these would be the slightly comedic side, generally present during the more playful and laid-back segments of the anime (of which there are many). Of these, the most standout track could well be Kamogawa energy with its energetic bossa nova vibe and charming blend of acoustic instruments with electronica (I’m a particular fan of the noise snare). Another track which deserves more than a passing mention (and will likely get me into a little trouble with Stereoman) is Jersey-bu no Uta, not just for its appeal as a marching song (which I must say fits the jersey club perfectly) but for the slightly above-average level singing by Madoka (Ishihara Kaori) and the endlessly entertaining frantic interjections by Lan (Seto Asami).
The latter half of the soundtrack is rife with darker tracks from the series. While there are many good tracks in this category, only one jumps out at me as needing to be talked about. Apocalypse emanates feelings of despair, emptiness and hopelessness – perfectly reflecting its name. The thick reverb helps emphasise the emptiness – the hollowness of the track – contributing to the overwhelming loneliness, while the constant background drone, when removed, provides a route to increase the effect. The acoustic noodling during the second half brings out beautiful soundscapes which also serve the added function of adding an undertone of chaos to the track.
Towards the end of the soundtrack are most of the tracks I consider to be the crowning jewels of the series. For me, one of the most notable is 4 411, the longest track on the OST and one of the better orchestral tracks used in the anime. The reason I single it out above many of the others is not because of the quality of the orchestral writing but because of the orchestrations of the Kamogawa melody which are wonderful to listen to. My only complaint is that the track ends on an extremely weak note, something that could easily have been remedied, even if only for the soundtrack release (editing for soundtrack releases is fairly common in certain industries).
There are far too many great electronic tracks on the OST to properly do justice to so I’ll only mention my two favourites. The first, Lagrange, is actually a hybrid track which also includes orchestral elements. The shimmering and evolving electronic harmonies, accompanied by the Kamogawa theme, are beautiful enough to give me chills, and when placed in context within the anime make for an amazing experience. The second of these is Lock on air, a great breakbeat track with some awesome synth bends and a constantly evolving soundscape.
Throughout the soundtrack we often hear the distinctive sounds of an ondes Martenot, one of the earliest (and possibly most unique in playing technique) synthesisers ever produced. The use of the instrument alone contributes extensively to the overall sci-fi tone of the soundtrack, having been popular in the sci-fi film and TV scene since its early days. Perhaps the most notable use would be that of the lead melody in Kamogawa in A major (and its minor counterpart) which is reminiscent of all manner of alien-featuring sci-fi movies from years past.
Unsurprisingly, as a primarily electronic soundtrack, there are many elements of minimalism present throughout – something which I greatly approve of. In addition, there are many recurring musical motifs used multiple times over the course of the soundtrack. The most notable of these would once again be the melody originating from Kamogawa in A major, though there are several others such as the shared motif between BWH and Tom-boy.
Oddly enough, if I were to try and compare the OST to others of similar genre or musical style, I would find myself dipping more into video game soundtracks than I would those of recent anime. Memoria and Axion (the latter of which reminds me a lot of a track from Final Fantasy XII), for example, are extremely reminiscent of an archetypal track style from JRPGs while Apocalypse brings to mind the style of Sakuraba Motoi. While many sci-fi anime soundtracks these days are more orientated towards orchestral music, I’m still of the opinion that electronica fits sci-fi much like this pose suits Lan (that is to say, perfectly).