The Ill Communication

While it wouldn't necessarily be a deal breaker if the soundtrack for a video game were a terrible compilation of tracks you had to torture your ears with while playing, but it would definitely give the game bonus points if it were an enjoyable work of art for the ears.  And for the original PlayStation's Ghost in the Shell, not only does it include a brilliant soundtrack, but the team at Exact did it in such a unique way to where I have seen done only once before.

Rather than having a single music composer on the development team creating all of the tracks for the game, they instead collaborated with a number of DJs to compile together a lineup of electronic music similar to what you might have seen for a rave during the '90s.  And with it, you get a diverse sound of mixed subgenres like techno, house, and trance that each DJ brings to the table, but as different as each one sounds, it all fits together incredibly well for the project.

With the theme of cyberpunk giving conception of futuristic cityscapes, robots, computer networks, and circuitry, it makes it an almost irresistible calling for electronic music to be the genre of choice; filling your ears with hard beats and elongated tones while you dash around in your Fuchikoma, stopping cybercriminals in their tracks.  And with a soundtrack spanning over two CDs, there's a lot to listen to.

CD 1 Track Listing:
1. "Ghost in the Shell" - Takkyu Ishino
2. "Firecracker" - Mijk van Dijk
3. "Ishikawa Surfs the System" - Brother From Another Planet
4. "Spook & Spell (Fast version)" - Hardfloor
5. "Featherhall" - Westbam
6. "The Vertical" - Joey Beltram
7. "Blinding Waves" - Scan X
8. "The Searcher Part II" - The Advent
9. "Spectre" - BCJ
10. "Can U Dig It" - Dave Angel
11. "To Be or Not To Be (Off the Cuff Mix)" - Derrick May

CD 2 Track Listing:
1. "Fuchi Koma" - Mijk van Dijk
2. "Down Loader" - The Advent
3. "Thanato" - BCJ
4. "Moonriver" - Westbam
5. "Brain Dive" - Mijk van Dijk
6. "Spook & Spell (Slow version)" - Hardfloor
7. "Die Dunkelsequenz" - Westbam
8. "Section 9 Theme" - Brother from Another Planet
9. "So High" - Dave Angel
10. "To Be or Not To Be (The Mix of a Mix Mix)" - Derrick May

Not just selecting DJs from Japan for the project, they scouted outward to get some of the best on a global scale, picking artists originating from America as well as Europe, especially with the latter as the club scene was recognizably hot with talent.  Take electronic musical duo Hardfloor for example with their track "Spook & Spell" that uses a fast beat but includes a stretched out, more slower sounding sample layered on top, giving an overall whimsical track that's pleasing to the senses; which is a contrast to what you're actually doing in the game which is blasting robots and security tanks in a mega high-rise building.

From France, Scan X supplies the music for the first mission with "Blending Waves."  It's very mechanical sounding and sort of matches up with the sounds of boots marching in the same way that the enemy soldiers make while you investigate the warehouse district at the harbor.  Robot soldiers and security tanks give a clacking sound as they walk their post, which syncs with the tunes heard in the background music.  Another DJ -- BCJ -- composed two tracks for the game.  One of them, "Thanato," is used for a mission where you speed down a highway trying to catch up with a semi-trailer truck the terrorists are using.  They split the song in two where the first half is played while battling enemies in helicopters and on speed bikes, preventing you from reaching the truck while the back half of the track is heard when you encounter it, acting as the boss fight for the level.  Since the first and second halves sound slightly different, it acts like a dynamic song, transforming the music depending on what's happening during the mission.  Dynamic changes heard in game soundtracks weren't really a thing yet during the PS1 era, so it was a cool effect to hear when a game actually utilized it.

But out of the eleven DJs that contributed to the soundtrack, none of them compares to what Mijk van Dijk brought to it.  Being a geek of Japanese otaku culture, you can hear it in his songs how much he loved the material and wanted to give it his all to do it justice.  Just listen to "Fuchi Koma" and you'll understand.  It's used for the wide open level that mimics the city slums scene from the film where you're seeking an enemy who's cloaked in thermal optics, giving a sort of seek and destroy feeling that matches well with the mission's objective.  Adding this fast paced beat to the gameplay when battling your combat-skilled target whilst low flying military styled planes are carpet bombing the area and you have the perfect combination of both visuals and audio for frantic, fast paced action gameplay.

"Firecracker" is no slacker with the high-tense emotion it brings to the mission titled with the same name.  In it, you have to disarm a number of bombs scattered across an industrial complex.  If you don't disable all of the bombs in the short window of time they give you, then you can kiss your Fuchikoma and butt goodbye.  The track itself is constructed well with many different sounding sections with catchy hooks that get you every time you hear them.  Mijk van Dijk loves Ghost in the Shell so much that he was even able to get creator Masamune Shirow to draw the cover art for a mix album released in 1998 titled Multi-Mijk.  If you want more geeky related music from Mijk van Dijk, then I recommend listening to Mijk's Magic Marble Box Volume 2: Tokyo Trax; which if you look close enough, the city backdrop in the cover art looks like a scan from the manga.  In the album, "Gamers Night" is pretty sweet.

British DJ Dave Angel is the exception for the OST as his tracks are the only ones that include vocals.  Although a bit odd to have for gameplay music, but he incorporated them well as they are subdued, being on the same audible level as the music itself, so it doesn't distract or overpower the beats.  Used for the training mission, "Can U Dig It" has a similar purpose in that it's getting you prepped for the type of music found in the game, though being more chilled rather than hitting you over the head with hard acid tunes.

It's unfortunate that only one of Dave's songs were used for the game.  "So High" is a great track, but really doesn't fit with any of the levels.  Maybe they could have used it for a cutscene where Major Kusanagi is floating through computer space and disabling attack barriers like in the abstract visuals Masamune uses in the manga?  It has a scrolling credits vibe to it, so it's possible it could have been a candidate for the end of the game as well.  But alas, that slot went to Derrick May's "To Be or Not To Be (Off the Cuff Mix)", which was ultimately the better choice due it not being overly elaborate, focusing attention on the drums which includes an overlaying beat being treated with a heavy dose of low/high filter passes.

Scan X The Advent C.J. Bolland Dave Angel Derrick May Takkyu Ishino Mijk van Dijk Claude Young Hardfloor Westbam Joey Beltram

The only other game that I know of that did something similar to what was done with the GitS game was 2014's TxK where a number of musicians created the soundtrack rather than one person in-house.  But with that project it was out of necessity as the budget was tight, so no music composer was hired for the game.  Instead, Jeff Minter sent out the call to ask if anyone was willing to donate tracks for the game.  Many answered his call, and with it, it has to be one of the greatest electronic soundtracks any game has had.  But for Ghost in the Shell it was part of the budget, allowing Takkyu Ishino to take charge and decide on the direction of what the soundtrack should be.  Which obviously, he felt should be electronic club music performed by a group rather than just one person.  Both soundtracks are extremely good, leading me to wonder why developers don't do more collaborations like these two.

No matter the reason, Megatech Body CD., Ltd. Is a great album worth owning regardless if you're a fan of the game or electronic music in general.  It will fill your head with futuristic vibes that only this series can deliver.  You can tell the team at Exact were proud of their soundtrack because during the credits the DJs were giving top billing only second to Masamune Shirow, the creator of Ghost in the Shell.  That should tell you just how important the music was to them and the project.

Megatech Body CD., Ltd.

OST: Ghost in the Shell (Game 1997)
Publisher: Sony Records
JP Release: July 1997
Media: CD (2)
CD 1: 11 tracks - 63:30
CD 2: 10 tracks - 60:39

Posted on: February 2, 2017