When it comes to Yoko Kanno’s orchestral work (as opposed to her pop material), I think I’ll always have to rank Dance of Curse up there at the top. The power of the track is just so palpable, right from the frantic, high-pitched strings and booming chants that open the piece, to the sheer glorious majesty and grandeur of the thing as it really gets going. The dynamism and scale is just mindblowing – and puts to shame 99% of everything else you’ll usually hear on any given anime soundtrack. Dance of Curse sounds like it was made to soundtrack some timeless cinematic epic, not simply some mid-90s TV series. And yet here we are, two decades on, remembering Escaflowne as one of the masterpieces of pre 00-s anime – and Kanno’s soundtrack is a massive part of it.
What I like too is that it remains so distinct from what she’d go on to do next with her Cowboy Bebop soundtrack. Dance of Curse is pure fantasy, especially when it shifts gear about 3-minutes in to the middle-eight, cresting and swelling through this sweeping movement that feels so inherently ominous. Anyone who’s watched the TV show will know that for all Escaflowne’s beauty and optimism, it’s not without its darker moments too, and here Kanno captures that all.
Dance of Curse is her One-Winged Angel. Her opus.