Saturday, 6 December 2008

CD検討: Saori@destiny 「JAPANESE CHAOS」

Saori@destiny has slowly but surely been getting a lot of attention lately, possibly due to her me-too traits that borrow deeply from Perfume, not to mention a producer/manager that clearly graduated from 中田大学. That's University of Nakata, a famous music school in downtown Shibuya... if you catch my drift. That said, despite some mixed results with her first couple of singles, expectations have been riding for her debut album 「JAPANESE CHAOS」. First of all, the title is totally cool, you'll have to agree. It also helps that she's now going by the "Troublemaker of Techno-pop" moniker, which is equally as rad.

Question is, will she be able to live up to those expectations and better yet, her new title? Saori and her manager OONISHI Terukado (大西輝門) clearly considered the issue and did the right thing by enlisting the help of street-savvy DENPA and 8-bit freakazoid higedriver as guest producers. To tell the truth, this announce was the clincher in my case (and I suspect, the rest of the 電波の世界 readership), the impetus that instantly roped me in and which has kept me anxiously looking forward to this release as much as capsule and SUZUKI Ami's new efforts. So how does the end result stack up to my tower of expectations?

1. Shangri-La
Saori@destiny does not mess around with intros and goes straight to the point with an energetic track which, unbeknownst to the first-time listener, actually ties together a lot of the musical themes that will make recurrent appearances throughout the course of this album. Unique to the song however are some clearly Latino rhythms and textures which give the opening track a bit of a foreign flavor. At the same time, the namesake of the album is unarguably put to work right away in the form of orchestrated chaos which is essentially composed of clearly-defined standard JPop material distorted and tweaked to a level that sits perfectly between underground denpa and mainstream techno. On top of that, Saori delivers some rather engaging vocals that blend in very well. Off to a very good start, aren't we?

2. サヨナラリヴァイバル
This is an older song that was part of her previous single released in May 2008. If you've never heard the song before, the first thing you should immediately notice is the slight drop in creativity compared to the explosive opening track. "Sayonara Revival" is definitely your run-of-the-mill sugar-coated JPop that's both overproduced yet charming enough to be considered a lovely little song. It follows a strict pattern that is definitely catchy but grows a bit tiring towards the end. On the other hand, it features Saori's vocals more prominently than the previous track, which can be a redeeming factor if you're not into turbo-charged musical arrangements. All in all, a great song if you're not already sick of hearing it from the "sakura" single.

3. My Boy (new vocal styling mix)
Well as the title so bluntly suggests, this is yet another version of her debut single song "my boy" with brand new overdubs. Said debut single had four, count them, FOUR different versions of the song, which pretty much all came out sounding the same in the end. The inclusion of this track seems to suggest that they were running out of new material as the deadline approached, or that they just got lazy and said "Screw it, they'll buy it anyway". You'd have to be a die-hard fan to tell what the "new vocal styling" brings to the mix. The song isn't terrible, just a tad slow and uninspired for my liking.

4. chemical soda
The higedriver-powered song finally surfaces! This is a rather poppy song reminescent of Perfume's old material (notably Computer City) but the 8-bit arrangement really shines here, simple though it may be. This is actually the most bass-heavy song so far, thanks to the booming deep (emulated) NES tones that are both nostalgia-inducing and incredibly versatile. The end result is a joyous little denpa song that's a real treat to listen to, so indulge all you want.

5. My Way
Here we go with another new, higedriver-produced track that is a bit lower on the tempo scale than it should be, but delivers just as well. Actually, the Famicom sounds are pushed further towards the back line and the more prominent instrument here is the percussion section, which really drives up the perky factor. I like the "mystical"-sounding arrangement that gives the song a bit of a "Butterfly" déjà vu feeling, sure, but nonetheless propels it really far up on my increasingly-snobbish scale (hey, MOSAIC.WAV have totally spoiled me with good music). Yet another highlight of this album! If you haven't been counting, we're now at 4 out of 5.

6. パーフェクト・ワンダーガール
We're now back into the realm of straight techno-pop that made Saori@destiny "famous" in the first place. The title is a bit on the pretentious side, but I know it's all in good fun. Unless we're talking about IOSYS, MOSAIC.WAV or some capsule songs, I've learned to do away with lyrical content of Japanese songs when comes the time to review them. Sure, it's an excellent way to further your knowledge of the Japanese language, but it's totally not as though understanding the lyrics is essential to the listening experience. Back to the song at hand, "Perfect Wonder Girl" is again very reminiscent of the earlier Perfume songs and even capsule, when they still wrote songs with a smile on their face. Very bouncy, danceable stuff that'll lift your spirits right up whether you're feeling blue or not.

7. sakura
Three new songs in a row? Of course we have to throw in an older song now, this is a Japanese album after all. After the happy-go-lucky previous track, we are grounded back to earth with this song that fails to stand out in every aspect. Don't get me wrong, it could be a lot worse, but after you're heard the song once, you shouldn't get the urge to listen to it again for some time. It's not only bland musically, it also sells Saori@destiny's voice quite short as it consists of the same old patterns constantly copy/pasted for nearly 4 whole minutes. Oh well, can't win them all.

8. 0の魔法とヒステリックスナイパー
This is a bit more like it; back to the realm of musical chaos and ridiculous(-ly awesome) song titles we go. But just how chaotic is this? Not that much, all things told; it does sound very much like a Perfume song but the percussion section has some interesting psychotic rolls and overall the direction is just as interesting as it is unpredictable; it's like the song itself doesn't know if it wants to be serious or goofy, so it goes for a bit of both and then hoards the leftovers.

9. ヒカリ・シンドローム
"Light Syndrome" opens a bit too calmly for my taste, but it turns out this is just a smooth introduction for a deliciously percussion-heavy upper mid-tempo techno track that incorporates a lot of classical Japanese music elements. Considering what's coming up, this track is a great way to display the versatility of Saori@destiny's voice and the direction in which her producer is taking her. Yet another successful new song.

10. サヨナラリヴァイバル(DENPA rmx)
Here we are, my most expected track of the album! Boy does it not disappoint. Saori's voice has been chipmunk'ed to the max, and the rest of the song has been force fed a gallon of Rockstar energy drink. It doesn't get anymore hyperactive than this, I can totally picture the song being played over and over at DENPA's wild all-night ragers. This is sadly their only participation in this album. Although it is definitely over-the-top and fans of Saori@destiny's more "pure" work won't appreciate it as much as the rest of us (or maybe see it as a nice bonus track), it is actually thanks to the decision of including a track like this that Saori definitely lives up to her "Troublemaker of Techno-pop" label.

When it's all said and done, this is one wicked good album that certainly meets the initial expectations but doesn't smash them to pieces; not that it was expected to. A glaring omission is "Destiny's War", one of the three original songs from the "sakura" single which would actually fit the chaos theme perfectly as it is quite powerful and actually deserving of the "techno-pop" label. Sure would have been more appropriate than "My Boy" or "sakura" itself, in any case. At any rate, this poor decision doesn't make or break the album, the new songs do. Judging on this factor alone, the album is a success and I urge fans of JPop looking for something (intentionally) rough around the edges to check out 「JAPANESE CHAOS」 as soon as possible. Here's to a long and flourishing career for Saori@destiny!


Nadirah said...

To be honest this kinda flew under my radar for me this month, but thank God for your review :D Thanks for the reminder I'm gonna go listen to this, sounds like a pleasure to listen to. I'm really anxious to listen to the denpa influence.

Anonymous said...

Do you know mosaic.web released their new songs named NAOKO THUNDER VANIEA 2?

I think that you probably know,just to be sure

電波の世界 said...

Trust me I'm on top of this stuff... but thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

XD Sakura was actually what made me fall in love with saori@destiny's music! XD If it wasn't for her sakura single, I wouldn't have checked out her other stuff. :3

I'm listening to the album right now, and I love all of the songs so far. ^^

Anonymous said...

This took forever to come out, unfortunately, but it was worth it. Definitely one of the better albums this year.

The Sayonara Revival remix has gotten me more interested in that style of music, too...