A Digital Synthesizer Fantasy Tour

If you’re into anime soundtracks, you may or may not have heard about a series of albums called “Digital Trip Synthesizer Fantasy”. You may be wondering what is this all about?

“Digital Trip” is a series of albums released by Nippon Columbia from 1981 to somewhere around the mid-90s which focuses on anime music being played with synthesizers. See, back in 1980s Japan, techno-pop is making waves in their music industry with acts like YMO and at the same time, the golden age of anime is taking place with shows like Macross, Minky Momo, and Urusei Yatsura invading the airwaves.

What sets the Digital Trip series from the rest of the anime compilation albums is that aside from everything being created from synthesizers, of course, is that it covers a wide range of anime titles from Gundam to Dr. Slump, and even Space Sheriff Sharivan joins in on the fun (but alas, Gavan and Shaider won’t be in on Den Iga’s love for techno-pop).

This is something special because, before the 80s, anime music companies would hold a monopoly over which series would they produce songs and soundtracks for. For instance, Mobile Suit Gundam and its sequels would have their music owned, produced, and distributed by King Records, Macross would be under Victor (better known as JVC outside of Japan), Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball would be under Nippon Columbia, so on and so forth.

How Nippon Columbia was able to produce albums filled with songs from various shows that they don’t own music distribution rights is as simple as it is ingenious: make the songs as far removed from the originals as much as possible and not feature anything from the anime on the vinyl sleeves/CD covers.

If you look at the image on the right, one might think that surely this doesn’t look like a Gundam album with songs from the Mobile Suit Gundam if it weren’t for the very obvious labeling.

That would be the easy part, the songs would then be the hard part of producing these albums.

…and for that job, they would need not one, not two, but multiple composers.

For this job, Nippon Columbia would hire the services of Osamu Shoji, Jun Fukamichi, Goro Ohmi, Nobuyoshi Koshibe, and others and each composer would bring their unique style to the table.

Take Osamu Shoji’s rendition of Lupin the 3rd’s songs for instance. This is one of the instances wherein it could be a standalone album on its own without the Lupin label if the songs on the soundtrack weren’t Lupin the 3rd songs and if the second track didn’t have the famous “Lupin the 3rd Part 2 Theme” signature sequence of notes.

Goro Ohmi’s rendition of songs from Dr. Slump, on the other hand, is a whimsical take on the otherwise weird world of Gengoro Island, specifically Penguin Village.

It still deviates from Shunsuke Kikuchi’s musical scores for the anime but unlike Lupin the 3rd’s, you can actually say that this was made with Dr. Slump’s theme in mind.

The duo of Nobuyoshi Koshibe and Takashi Kokubo’s work on the Zeta Gundam album really captured the feel of the anime it’s based on. Beginning to end, it stands toe-to-toe with Shigeaki Saegusa’s musical compositions for the show and its sequel ZZ. It’s quite unfortunate that ZZ never got its own Digital Trip release.

“This is like if the synths from Pink Floyd went off and did a spin-off series”.

This would be the best explanation possible for this collaborative effort of Jun Fukamachi and Hiroshi Miyagawa to take Yamato into the Digital Trip series.

Takashi Godai’s take on the Ideon score has the same accuracy as Goro Ohmi’s take on Dr. Slump.

In fact, this album made me realize the beauty of Keiko Toda’s “In the cosmos with you”, a song that I usually skip when I watched Ideon for the first time.

The Digital Trip series would also generate spin-off series like Jam Trip which tends to be more jazz-oriented than synth-oriented. Nippon Columbia would also release compilation albums, with the latest one being released as recently as 2012. You can get said compilation on Apple Music.

I hope you enjoyed my “review” on the Digital Trip series. See you next time.

Sources:

http://osamu-shoji-fanclub.com/21digitaltrip.html

https://www.discogs.com/release/8038816-Various-Digital-Trip-Catalogue-Synthesizer-Fantasy

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