And now for something completely different.
Last week on High Score we explored the majestic folk-fantasy stylings of Yasunori Mitsuda and Chrono Cross. We talked about driving guitars, racing violins and timing changes worthy of Steve Reich. Today we’ll be on a different level altogether and not just because we’re looking at an anime. As anyone who’s seen it can attest, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is no ordinary anime and it hasn’t got an ordinary soundtrack either.
Even now three years after it’s release it’s difficult to know where to begin writing about PSG. It’s a truly bizarre mishmash of western and eastern animation styles and traditions, wrapped up in a hyper stylized super-sexy package. Where many a modern anime could be criticized for relying on genre tropes, PSG prefers to hop into bed with them and see how filthy things can get. This is a show where lingerie turns into weapons, casual sex is an everyday occurrence and at one stage, and I’m not making this up, the ghosts of several hundred sperm band together to destroy a tissue factory. If most anime girls these days are considered ‘moé’, Panty & Stocking were monsters.
Hidden beneath its explicit exterior PSG makes room for some genuinely strong moral points, touching on sexual liberation, female empowerment and even a surprisingly satisfying episode devoted to body image. Honestly you could write an entire thesis on this show but I’m already three paragraphs in and haven’t said anything about music yet, which is the only reason I’m actually here, so with that in mind, let’s talk tunes.
PSG’s score is made up of contributions from a various Japanese producers but it’s best moments are those from DJ, producer and former professional beat-boxer, Teddyloid. Dancefloor Orgy is a tasty little number; a crunchy guitar riff gets chopped up and slammed over a glitchy electronic beat before giving way to some seriously grimy bass, all coming together after a bass driven middle 8 before descending into a chaotic complextro coda.
Toning down the mayhem a little, but not by much, Corset Theme is a slightly more conventional four-on-the-floor dance tune. Overdriven bass stutters under a sexy distorted vocal and is eventually joined by a dirty-dutch style portamento synth line to create a theme truly fitting of Corset, the show’s twisted, sexually deviant antagonist.
I will admit to this: I have made a fool of myself more times than I care to admit by involuntarily dancing to this absolute stormer while just walking around town. A b-movie horror organ heralds the arrival of Scanty & Kneesocks, the demon sisters who serve as primary antagonists for Panty & Stocking, with all the self-importance and grandeur the ladies would expect from their entrance music. Then that beat drops and Teddyloid unveils another four-on-the-floor beast. The organ is side-chained to a french-house style pulse, once again we’re treated to that distorted stuttering bass and electronic glitching while a vocoder vocal growls in the foreground. Elegant, ominous, slick and sexy; just like Scanty & Kneesocks themselves.
More so than even the show’s actual theme song, Fly Away has become THE track that defines PSG’s incredible electronic score. That declamatory vocal sample calls for freedom while bitcrushed synth chords hammer out an aggressive rhythm from underneath it. The entire intro sounds like a call to sexy arms. The vocal repeats and cycles over an ever-expanding synth soundscape, eventually breaking to a softer refrain before being coaxed back into action by yet more dirty-dutch synth action. By the end of the song there are so many different melodic and rhythmic lines competing for your attention it would almost make for difficult listening were it not for that sweet cyclical vocal dragging you kicking, screaming and loving every second, through to the end.
If you managed to let Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt slip under your radar three years ago, now is as good a time as any to fix that gaping hole in your MAL page. With most of it’s staff currently working on the wholly inferior Kill La Kill, PSG is definitely worth revisiting if only to see first hand how influential it has been and will continue to be in the future. It’s a sleazy, sexed up, mystifying, mind-bending masterpiece with a score as clever and cool as the girls themselves.