Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Under the Scope: In-depth KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi profile

Welcome to the second edition of Under The Scope, where we take a closer look at the career of various Japanese denpa artists. This is different from our other features such as interviews and reviews, since the focus here is more on exploring the artist's discography and overall path of progression. You folks are in for a rare treat today: "KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi" is a brand-spanking new sound unit that formed just over a year ago to this day. They have already started to build an impressive discography in these past 12 months, not to mention their biggest release is going to come out at Comiket 76. Without further ado, let's Osaka Denpa Get!!!

KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi is a brand new Osaka-based, denpa-oriented duo whose first activities trace back to early 2008. As the name suggests, KuKuDoDo (male) is the producer and Gumi (female) is the main vocal act. They operate together under the Holic Service doujin circle (think of it as a multi-purpose D.I.Y. label). But to further complicate matters, they are also closely related to the Birdtune doujin circle (to be discussed in a further issue of Under the Scope) who released their first EP, as they are also based in Osaka. KuKuDoDo composes a number of songs for Birdtune, but Gumi herself is mostly exclusive to Holic Service activities. Of course, "Gumi" itself could just be a second pseudonym for any singer from any other circle. Why they decided to make things so complex is anyone's guess, but let's just play along, shall we?

As previously mentioned, KuKuDoDo's music is unequivocally denpa at its barest denominator, a fact that the duo is proud to endorse. Of course, the genre is merely a loose descriptor for a mish-mash of cute/moe JPop, chiptune, high-energy dance tunes and whacked-out compositions, but so far they fit under the umbrella just fine. Furthermore, some of their songs are a bit more "normal", sounding more like I've Sound's earlier gritty trance than cartoony. So it's fair to say that while denpa is at the core of their creativity, they're willing to explore connected avenues. Although they haven't composed any proper eroge or anime theme songs yet, they are offering their services and are looking for staff as we speak.

Not unlike their peers in IOSYS (with whom KuKuDoDo collaborated by way of Birdtune), Shanghai Alice's popular Touhou STG series plays a huge part in their musical inspiration and by proxy, their marketing ability. But you shouldn't let that stop you from giving them a chance if you've gotten sick of constant Touhou rehashes, as the influence here is certainly palpable but not overwhelming by any means. The fact remains that ZUN provides amazing blueprints for budding artists to build off from and propel themselves into a solo career, which is the step where KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi are at right now. Additionally, some of their earlier songs also made use of Hatsune Miku's charming voice, but the original musical arrangements far outshined the virtual diva's waning appeal.

But KuKuDoDo's influences extend far from the insular confines of Japan. In fact, this guy is a full-blown fan of England's legendary synthpop years, citing bands such as Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure and KajaGooGoo as primary sources of inspiration. Who knows, maybe his artist name is a direct reference to KajaGooGoo? At any rate, KuKuDoDo wanted music to play a big part in his life a number of years ago, citing that as a child, he wrote "I want to be a roller disco DJ" on a 短冊 (Tanzaku), those long pieces of paper that people use to write down their wishes at a 七夕 (Tanabata) festival. He was "dormant" for a number of years, but took it upon himself to realize his wish from 2000 on, when he began experimenting with Cubase and other DAW tools. Very little is known about Gumi herself, unfortunately. Holic Service also have a PR lady, Ponza, who's in charge of events, marketing and so on.

Let's move into discography territory. So far, KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi have released exactly 22 songs spread across 9 CD releases, including 2 singles and 2 mini-albums. They first made a name for themselves by releasing some online videos of anime theme song remixes, but their first original song didn't even feature Gumi on vocals but rather Hatsune Miku. This was on the 「れいんep.」, their first single which came out in April 2008 and also featured three other original tracks, including the unique 「コイノカイロ」, which was renamed 「恋の回路」 later on. Holic Service wasn't even formed then, so Birdtune handled the distribution of this first single.

The summer of 2008 passed by and presumably the first single did well, as KuKuDoDo and crew didn't waste a single second away. They created their own music circle Holic Service to take control of their upcoming releases. The first self-published effort came out in October 2008, in the form of their second single 「HANABI」. Right off the bat, KuKuDoDo wears his Brit-pop influence on his sleeve with the wild opening track 「stjarna」, an hyperactive denpa remix of an otherwise quiet Depeche Mode instrumental piano tune written by founding member David L. Gore. The title track itself is a pretty dark composition, but 「マジカル☆蛙たん」 grabbed the attention of denpa fans worldwide with its textbook execution and addicting patterns.

But in order to tease their fans, they only put the short version of that song on the second single, paving the way to their first mini-album, which came out... on the same fucking day. This was a bit of a questionable move, but maybe what they really intended is to have 「HANABI」 acting as a sampler to 「ぐみれいんぼっ!」. The seven-track mini-album paints a better picture of the unit as a whole, to be sure. It opens with a remixed version of 「恋の回路」 that clearly indicates both KuKuDoDo and Gumi gained quite a bit of skill in their respective departments. 「Dancing Vanpire」 [sic, bitch] is an enjoyable trance-ish song that, as previously mentioned, recalls this writer of some of KOTOKO's better earliest songs. Then the album closes with 「マジカル☆蛙たん」 and 「大好きバイバイ」, two light-hearted denpa songs that most certainly turned up the heat at their recent concerts.

Comiket 75 saw the limited release of 「エネルギー冷麺」, a Touhou-oriented single that didn't feature any original KuKuDoDo compositions, but rather 3 covers of recent ZUN songs. They also threw on a 10-minute crossfade sampler of their previous compositions but more interestingly, a 4-minute long audio segment of their (presumably first) live appearance. It doesn't sound half-bad, and it's pretty awesome to hear the crowd reacting so well. But much like with the second single, this release mostly served to make way to their second mini-album, which didn't come out on the same day, this time.

Rather, 「エネルギー冷麺 てんこ盛り」 was released in time for the March 2009 例大祭, the wildly popular Touhou festival. This time around it's exclusively a ZUN cover album, but a full-on denpa one for what it's worth. The interesting part about it is that it features quite a few collaborations. They're not going to be listed here, because the official Holic Service page does a great job of listing all of the various performers, arrangers and original compositions from which the covers originate. Oh and short sample versions of all songs. 奥村りお provides a splendid performance on 「カッパイズム≠Nitorism」, especially considering that this is only her second recorded song. But the real star here is still Gumi, especially on the hilarious 「O.T.オタクは彼氏なのか?」 whose lyrics talk about the life of an Otaku, going to Akihabara, becoming an Hikikomori, all to the tune of the ridiculously catchy 「U.N.オーエンは彼女なのか?」.

This brings us to the current writing time of this in-depth article: July 2009. KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi have recently announced a brand new album for Comiket 76, and it already shows a lot of promise. This one will be completely written around 「東方星蓮船 ~ Undefined Fantastic Object」, the 12th Touhou shooting game which incidentally also comes out at Comiket 76. Interesting that they'd already have enough source material to write a cover album, but there is a demo out there after all and presumably plenty of original songs to go with it (as well as ZUN's official description of the songs). Now although the whole thing is orchestrated by KuKuDoDo, there are three arrangers and EIGHT vocalists who are enlisted, including the fantastic 井上みゆ (INOUE Miyu) of LoveBullets and ave;new fame!!! This is quite the prize catch for the duo, but considering their previous releases, all of the 10 tracks should prove quite interesting. This is being heavily promoted as a pure 電波ソング album, so keep an eye out on this one, denpa fans!!!

In conclusion, KuKuDoDo feat. Gumi and Holic Service should definitely be moved to high priority on every denpa fan's radar. While they certainly benefit from denpa's increasingly huge wave of popularity created by MOSAIC.WAV, SHORT CIRCUIT and of course IOSYS, they do stand quite tall on their own, with some memorable arrangements that will require permanent brain storage if you give them enough exposure (aka they'll stick in your head). Of note: the duo is particularly active on niconico, having released some absolutely insane videos recently (you're not supposed to know that's them, 電波の世界 exclusive info!).

1 comment:

paranda said...

Thanks for that intro. There's usually so many Touhou offshoots I end up just tuning it all out, so I probably would have missed this group entirely. The upcoming album with 8 artists looks like it will be worth getting, and Miyu is a catch!