- Sci-fi-influenced electronic music is a cliché at this point. You can't shake a stick without hitting a producer who cites films like Blade Runner and Ghost In The Shell, while dystopian narratives and imagery are equally commonplace. It makes Nathan Micay's latest project as Bwana seem dubious at a glance. Capsule's Pride is based on Katsuhiro Otomo's classic 1988 anime, Akira, whose aesthetics have since permeated popular anime and science-fiction films. But Micay's approach saves the music from abstract lip service: he samples the original soundtrack and dialogue from Akira, reshaping it into a mix of dance music and downtempo electronica. A career highlight for Micay, Capsule's Pride is an inspired and personal piece of music, even as it stays remarkably faithful to its source material.
Akira is about a young motorcycle gang in 2019 Neo-Tokyo, who get wrapped up in a conspiracy much bigger than them. The saga involves the government, the military and the untapped psychic powers of one of the bikers, Tetsuo. It's an emotional story about friendship set in a grim cyberpunk universe, and it came with an equally affecting soundtrack from Shoji Yamashiro. A mix of traditional Japanese instrumentation with '80s pads and synths, the music still sounds vaguely futuristic 25 years later, making it good source material for dance music. The sparse arrangements are easily funnelled into stiffer, more rhythmic forms.
The concept of remixing an OST might seem like a gimmick, but Micay is a versatile producer, who can pivot from making post-dubstep anthems to uncanny trance throwbacks. Capsule’s Pride highlights his multiple talents, as Micay expertly translates Yamashiro's mix of wonderment and anxiety into a record of alternately wounded and energetic electronica.
Capsule's Pride is split between slick dance floor cuts and atmospheric pieces. "Capsule's Pride (Bikes)" transforms the fragile bell refrain of "Tetsuo" into a storming, trance-y monster, complete with the rousing basslines Micay learned from years of listening to old Global Underground mixes. "Failed Escape (Where You Belong)" dips into low-slung trap with the film's unmistakable squealing woodwinds, while "Kiyoko's Vision" is a sad, beatless track that uses Micay's proggy leanings to heart-tugging effect.
Micay's handling of Akira's more recognizable elements is savvy. "Akira's Light" and "The Colonel's Mistake, The Scientist's Regret" both incorporate the childlike chant from Yamashiro's "Doll's Polyphony." The former is an uplifting Sasha-esque glide, while the latter leans towards deep house, with a tunneling bassline that captures the nervous excitement of Tetsuo finally discovering Akira's burial site. You don't need to know the story to enjoy these moments, but if you do, you'll know how compelling Micay's retelling is.
Perhaps a nod to certain CD versions of the OST, there's dialogue all over Capsule's Pride. Chants of "A-ki-ra" emerge every once in awhile, and snippets of speech offer updates on the narrative. Those cheesy bits of English overdubs make Capsule's Pride feel all the more earnest, which is the key here. There's no way you could pay tribute to something as widely lauded as Akira without looking just a little goofy. Micay, thankfully, seems unbothered by the thought—this is an artist who openly sings the praises of prog mix CDs from the early 2000s, plays "Xpander" in Panorama Bar and made ebullient tracks like "Tengo" and "Flute Dreams." When you get down to it, Capsule's Pride is just the latest record that finds Micay wearing his heart on his sleeve.
01. Capsule's Pride (Bikes)
02. Kiyoko's Vision
03. Nightfall In Neo-Tokyo
04. Failed Escape (Where You Belong)
05. The Colonel's Mistake, The Scientist's Regret
07. Akira's Light
08. K&K (Lovers In The Light)
09. Tetsuo's Dance