That Summer, the Calmest Sea
International Title
 A Scene at the Sea
Music By: Joe Hisaishi
Record Label: Wonderland Records
Running Time: 41:51 Discs: 1
Release: June 2001 CD Number: WRCT-1002
Anthony Romero
First, thanks goes to Jessica Stan for sending this in for review!

This disc is a re-release of Toshiba EMI's earlier CD for the movie's soundtrack (TOCP-6907), which was issued back in 1991. A lot has changed since then, though. First and foremost is that Joe Hisaishi's career has rocketed to new heights thanks to his work on movies such as Princess Mononoke (1997), and Wonderland Records is ready to capitalize on that with this release timed around the debut of Spirited Away (2001). Pedigree of the composer's other work aside, how does this score fare? Well it certainly sounds like an earlier Hisaishi score, and while it is enjoyable it lacks a truly defining track or much of anything that will stay too long in memory.

The soundtrack has many of the features one would expect to hear from Hisaishi's work. This includes a healthy dose of piano work, which like soundtracks such as Parasite Eve (1997) is all done by Hisaishi himself, and some light electronic work that is more common on his smaller productions or his earlier "Image" albums. In fact, if there was a clear parallel between this score and another, it would be to the Image album for Porco Rosso (TKCA-71155). That should give a sense that, while good, the CD feels very rough compared to the work many remember best for the composer. To that point, tracks like "Silent Love (In Search of Something)" sound just like something from one of his image albums, before Hisaishi came in to refine and improve the cues, with a lot of synthesized work and light on orchestration.

While the CD lacks in terms of a true hallmark theme, it does feature a couple of ones that are nice to hear. Leading the pack is the very soothing, violin driven "While at Work". It's the type of theme that would make an excellent piece to sit back and enjoy as one just relaxes. It also feels like a full orchestra is behind it, which is the problem with a lot of they feel so small and the restrictions of the orchestra size is more obvious. "Silent Love (Main Theme)" is also nice, in spots, although it's more of a longer suite of themes that covers 7 minutes of material and features an odd vocal component that feels almost like an instrument than choral work.

Overall, if you want to experience some earlier work by Hisaishi, this is an interesting look before he truly struck it big with soundtrack fans. While I wouldn't count this anywhere near his large quiver of amazing scores, he does craft a decent experience that should at least appeal to his fans.

As a side note, "Clifside" is how the track is spelled on the CD rather than "Cliffside".
Rating: Star Rating
  1. Silent Love (Main Theme)
  2. Clifside Waltz I
  3. Island Song
  4. Silent Love (In Search of Something)
  5. Bus Stop
  6. While at Work
  7. Clifside Waltz II
  8. Solitude
  9. Melody of Love
  10. Silent Love (Forever)
  11. Alone
  12. Next is My Turn
  13. Wave Cruising
  14. Clifside Waltz III