Nakaido “Chabo” Reichi
Serial Experiments Lain Soundtrack: Cyberia Mix

This was the first anime soundtrack I ever bought. I picked it up at Anime Central in 2004, though as this was a fairly widely available CD, I probably should have spent my money on something a little harder to find. Also, I somehow lost a $20 bill that day and I’m pretty sure that it must have fallen out of my hands or my pocket while I was buying this, which effectively means that I paid about $35 for this CD. Which is too bad, because it really sucks. That’s a little too harsh a judgment, but I’m not sure I’ve given this a listen since 2006 at the latest, nor have I been motivated to give it a fair shake since.

This isn’t the “real” soundtrack for Serial Experiments Lain. There’s none of the series’ background music to be found, nor any “Duvet” by Bôa or the end credits theme by that guy with the scratchy voice. I only recognize one motif from the series here in remixed form, so as a soundtrack Cyberia Mix is definitely more in the vein of all those “music inspired by” collections than the traditional “as featured in” variety. Fans of the series will recognize “Cyberia” as the dance club Lain reluctantly visits with friends, later returning to for more strange encounters with clubgoers and DJs. The music at Cyberia is heavy and hard mid-tempo house and industrial, not really my thing although I can remember a few scenes where something caught my ear, if only for a moment. While not being the most catchy or interesting thing I’ve ever heard, it helped establish the setting, build an interesting atmosphere, and further contrast and alienate the quiet, reticent Lain from the world around her. So it’s effective in the context it’s presented in, but would it hold up on its own? Since those tracks aren’t actually featured on this CD, I guess we’ll never know, though a good deal of what’s here is arguably in the same spirit.

As for what is here, the album gets off to a rather clumsy start, trying to channel a blend of Juno Reactor, Crystal Method, Basement Jaxx and Boom Boom Satellites in the opening tracks. There’s rapping and corny spoken word samples, too, and the less I say about those, the better. Some of these tracks might have worked in a mix, but sequenced as they are and on their own they lumber along and make the first half of the album a mess to wade through. It’s a shame because, against all odds, the last four tracks are actually pretty good. “island in a Video Casset” takes a minimal, funky route that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kompakt compilation. I could say the same about “K.I.D.s,” which sounds like Kaito. “Cloudy, with occasional rain” is chillout at its best, which is to say nothing remarkable, but pleasant and relaxing nonetheless. “INFANiTy world” rides that laid-back vibe into pop territory, but it has a classic feel to it, like a slowed-down Black Box or Inner City, perhaps.

Cyberia Mix is probably a better album than I’m willing to give it credit for, and fans of “heavy” house and techno might enjoy it more than those who crave a more nuanced approach to their dance music. I’m not even sure if it’s essential for fans of Lain, but anyone wanting to reexperience the series’ dark and paranoid mood might find this cyberpunk time capsule right up their wheelhouse. For those who bought it expecting music from the series, or just because Lain is on the cover (and DJ’ing!) in another fine portrait by Yoshitoshi ABe, it might find its way to the bottom of your collection quicker than you’d expect.