Attention please! We are looking for a new writer!

電波の世界 started in December 2007 and while our passion for the genre has only increased over the years, it's been difficult to find time for new articles and features. That's why we (denpanosekai and mandichan) are looking for an enthusiastic new writer! Here are some typical articles and tasks:

※ album previews and reviews
※ event reports (comiket, M3, live, etc.)
※ artist spotlights and interviews
※ denpa watchlist renewal
※ a new theme would be nice!

Do you want to make a difference and contribute to the original and leading source for English denpa news worldwide? Please contact denpanosekai [at] gmail [dot] com today!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Catch the haruamania with 『ハルアマパラダイス』 and 『haru * ama * nia』

はる*あま*にゃ (haru-ama-nya) is a recent unit / circle which officially started in April 2012 when they released their debut CD 『haru * ama * nia』. They followed it up in April 2013 with 『ハルアマパラダイス』. Probably the best way to describe their music is "cute high-energy pop", maybe even a bit like the Hi-NRG genre of the 80s but with a bit more tempo, variety and definitely some 萌え電波 in there (in fact they remind me a lot of unMOMENT). Both albums are currently available on DIVERSE DIRECT which has worldwide shipping for a reasonable fee, so if you like what you hear, you know what to do!

Even though はる*あま*にゃ is about a year old, their core members go way back. As of now, haru*nya and あまね are providing dual female vocals and paraoka (麹町音源) completely produced their latest album. In fact paraoka and haru*nya have been making music together since 2006! Check out 33 of their tracks in 52 minutes. As for あまね, yes that is absolutely the same girl which has provided fantastic vocals for COOL&CREATE since 2004, alongside the always-hyperactive ビートまりお.

download crossfade MP3

Their April 2012 debut CD 『haru * ama * nia』 opens with 「御洋服革命」, a roaring anthem from ビートまりお which sounds pretty much exactly how you'd expect one of his songs to sound. You can't fault this guy for consistency! The lyrics and overall theme make it clear right off the bat that this is going to be a fun record. 「Sun! Sun! Sun! シャイン!」 continues the theme with a fun-in-the-sun variation. It is composed by 狐夢想(狐夢想屋), the same guy who came up with 「ぎみぎみ☆もあもあ」 on 2012's 『プチリズムGo!』 , one of last year's best denpa songs which made it to our "Honourable Mentions"! It is an absolute rager of a track, with fast piano, rolling percussions and some kind of ultra-distorted lead instrument that definitely stands out. The girls' voices are a perfect match to this summer roadtrip theme song! (tested by yours truly)

With 「約束」, composer naotyu-(studio7) slows things down a bit and comes up with a great melodic piece that highlights their ability to sing sweet songs. Actually it gets pretty powerful overall and you have to love the stylish sound. 「ki-zu-na」 sounds straight-up 80s synthpop with tons of attitude. It was also composed by 狐夢想(狐夢想屋) who demonstrates his wide range of skills. As the title would indicate, track 5 「スイーツホリック」 is on the funky side with lots of jumpy bass, light-hearted piano lines and an unexpectedly violent finish from yamajet.

狐夢想(狐夢想屋) returns for the third time with 「オシャレセラピー」, a confusing track which throws all kinds of tempos at its bewildered listeners. This guy sure loves to crank up the distortion on anything he does! The synth in particular is very colored, sounding almost like a harpsichord but I'm not sure that's the best comparison. It really does sound unique! This sixth track also ends with some surprisingly fast parts and is just a joy to listen to.

ARM (IOSYS) makes a surprise appearance with 「輝け乙女たち!」 which might remind you of his work on 2010's 「燃えろ!東方ブラスバンド」. This one's a little more "epic" (in the proper sense of the word) and sounds more like a full orchestra than a brass band. Finally 「トリックスター」 is full-on technopop from paraoka(麹町音源) with a nostalgia-inducing sonority despite futuristic overtones. Honestly it reminds me of old NAMCO and SEGA arcade game soundtracks with the heavy slapping bass and reverbed drums. The girls really give it their best shot and intertwine their beautiful vocals throughout the song.

download crossfade MP3

The theme for April 2013's CD was haru*nya+あまね+paraoka=ハルアマパラダイス and... that's exactly what happened! If you enjoyed the last track from the first CD, then you'll love this whole CD. Not that the genres are all technopop (far from it) but there's strong stylistic cohesion between all five songs. Opening track 「ハイ・ファイ・レイ」 is extremely vigorous and features compelling singalong moments. The guitar, drums and keyboard arrangement is nothing short of sublime, I particularly enjoy the parts where the ride cymbal is clearly audible. Track #2 「カステラ」 feels like soft picopop, just some easy-going music with good rhythm and catchy phrases.

「スゴイ・エナジー」 definitely stands out from the rest and would be a great PV candidate if they ever decide to go that way. Honestly, this sounds like something 中田ヤスタカ would compose for Perfume and I totally mean that as a compliment. This is definitely skilled electropop with all kinds of influences from the past 30 years. It's just a shoe-in for the girls, their voices sound appropriately mature here and I would just love to see some choreographed dancing! 「ブリーズ・スピナー」 feels a bit like an extension to the opening track with a slower tempo, but the same gorgeous instrumental arrangement. Great drums once again! This brings us to 「スローコースター」 which closes the album with class. By the way... noticed how all track titles are written in katakana?

It's too bad the second album has only 5 tracks as opposed to 8 for the debut album, because I could definitely stand to listen to some more of this wonderful unit! At this point we can only hope for a third album in April 2014, but I sure hope they'll surprise us with something else in-between. Highly recommended, talented artists and memorable songs for fans of electronic Japanese music.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Exclusive Interview: Power up with MiYAMO and こなぐすり!

"It's a small world after all", that's how I felt when my childhood friend Mo told me the main composer for his upcoming open-world action-RPG-metroidvania A.N.N.E was going to be MiYAMO from doujin circle こなぐすり. Mostly known for his stylish pop and trance Touhou arranges, this piano virtuoso has also pumped out some world-famous denpa tunes in the past few years. As you're about to find out, he's far from done! Along with his musicals upbringings and contributions to A.N.N.E, we'll discuss the past, present and future of こなぐすり... get ready for some exclusive news and groundbreaking revelations!

- Please introduce yourself and tell us about your evolution as a musician, from early days to recent developments. Which kind of instruments and software tools have you learned over the years?

When I was a child I was learning the piano. I played compositions on the classic piano of course, but in addition to that I also made arrangements in my own way, and thought of my own melodies and played them. That's when I started composing. When I was in high school, the band I was in at the time was a great failure. So I came to the conclusion that it was time to make my own music. I had a desire to make music for video games so I started to develop a deep interest in "computer music".

The first tool I ever used was "音楽ツクール かなでーる" on the Super Famicom, released back in 1996 by ASCII Corporation. After that, I worked desperately at a part time job to finally buy a handy sequencer called the Yamaha QY70. It was my first experience with MIDI tracks and I was so touched by the sound quality that I can remember that moment even now. At that time, I was completely invested in making game-like music. I arranged music from games I liked such as Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. After I graduated from high school, I entered a music technical school. I studied things like musical roots and the technical side of making computer music.

After I graduated, I entered a music studio as a pupil. From there I studied musical theory from the basics all over again, as well as studied the piano and solfeggio. After two years of being a pupil, I wrote background music for some bishōjo games. After about one year of that, I left the studio and entered the real world doing freelance work. This is when I started to get popular among gamers.

At that time I wasn’t yet exactly well established in the Touhou community, I was basically just playing around with sounds doing the best I could. I wasn’t really fully immersing myself, but I think my first big exposure was probably IOSYS's 「魔理沙は大変なものを盗んでいきました」. I don’t know if it was logical as far as denpa goes or only natural, but it rode a sketchy line between music and casual dance tracks. This was a big shock to me and I remember it even now. I moved to a city called Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. I participated in jazz sessions day and night on a street popular for jazz in Hamamatsu.

But, I was still fascinated by the Touhou genre and I feel it was at this time that I wanted to try and fully invest myself in that world. And, from that investment is what you see me as today. Now Conagusuri exists, right? *laughs*

- Why did you decide to become a full-time Touhou arranger as well as start the doujin circle Conagusuri in 2005, as opposed to contributing to existing circles?

The story is a little rough (haha), but I broke up with the girl I was seeing at the time. I lost all connection with the people I knew through her as well as friends I've had for a long time. I became a very lonely person. I became nothing, despairing in life. I remember playing online games all the time. That was the worst year of my life.

In that same year, a friend I met online said "Let's start a music circle with my friends!" Even though it was just a club, no one other than myself had any music experience, you could have called them all beginners, I think. Honestly, I asked myself why someone as myself who wholeheartedly did music for so long would work with a group of amateurs. But at that time I had lost touch with music and I think amateurs was just what I needed!

I had lost touch with music which was more important to me than anything else, and even an opportunity such as this was a chance at music. That’s what I thought. Could we really make a CD together, me and these beginners? That was our challenge. I rethought music and decided to teach them while doing the music club. The result was Conagusuri. Presently, there are no other members left from the original group, but everyone is independent in their own way, starting their own groups. I am really rooting for them, even now.

- Like many people, I became aware of こなぐすり in 2009 thanks to the hyperactive hit 「チルミルチルノ」 and the thousands of related MAD. In the past 8 years, what would you say were the most defining and critical moments of Conagusuri's evolution?

For the first four years of Conagusuri, there were no vocals, just instrumental tracks and we were pretty much an unknown entity. We still managed to make CDs but we wanted to take it a step further and have our music heard by many people. The members that we had up until then and myself wanted to demonstrate our special abilities by making new music.

In the Touhou music scene at the time, IOSYS's 「チルノのパーフェクトさんすう教室」 was riding in the top spot, it was the beginning of a golden age for denpa music. Wouldn’t it be good if Conagusuri started making denpa songs? I had that feeling and it gradually got stronger, we tried our best and the song that we came up with was 「チルミルチルノ」. If even a few more people listened to us as a result, I would have counted it as a success. That’s the feeling that I went in with, but I couldn’t have anticipated what would have become of it. It got over 3,000 hits in an hour on Nico Nico Douga and we were getting offers to do concerts; you could say it was the precise peak of Conagusuri.

The reality is that it came with a lot of pressure. After 「チルミルチルノ」 we fought the pressure and continued to make music. Gradually, we began to lose sight of our direction of making music – we didn't know what we should make, we dabbled in many genres. We began to stray and it went on for a long time.

From there, after about 3 years of worrying, we finally came to a conclusion. This is as far as we've come as a circle making product, but a circle is itself a product. We believed we had one more chance. I can't talk about all of the details now, but after a long time Conagusuri will be having its last run this summer. The reborn Conagusuri will start this winter! We haven’t released this news in Japan yet (haha) Please look forward to the new Conagusuri this winter!

- As far as your arrangements go, most of them sound sharp and stylish (桜∞friendship) while others are completely silly and ridiculous (唐傘奮闘記!~ラクトフェリンの果てへ~). How do you determine which style you will go for?

Thank you very much! When I go with denpa songs, it's because I want to make everyone laugh with music! As for sharp songs, these are probably where I shine most as an arranger. They have the power to move your heart emotionally, a feeling I am trying to convey. (lol) That’s all there is to it.

But combining a lot of genres into one CD is a source of confusion for the audience. That's what we've come to learn. Denpa music and sharp music are both very important to me. These compare favorably and can co-exist on a CD -- from now on Conagusuri plans to develop this concept further. Definitely, please look forward to the new powered-up Conagusuri!

- Among denpa song fans, 「三つ目が悟る ~これが私のドキュメント~」 is certainly considered a tour-de-force thanks to its complex, multi-layered instrumentation and of course perfect vocals from Lady Nanahira. Please tell us about your intentions and creative process for this song.

Wow, that's a very difficult question! This denpa song mixes together components from a lot of various musical genres. Depending on who you ask, denpa is known as a joke genre. Well, I think that a genre that has roots in humor can be completely funny, which is certainly what I went for with this piece. This song is saturated with pieces of classic, techno, folk, and trance.

For classic - in the song’s introduction, during Lady Satori's melody, there is a Beethoven-like phrase and you can hear Satori's dissatisfaction as an irrational feeling background music plays. For techno – there is Satori's dumb rap – it's dumb but, we present it in a way that seems cool. Verse two is all phrases used commonly in folk songs. Here, with the 70's and 80's style cute Japanese folk song sounds, you could say the Japanese otaku falls in love with a girl. Falls in love! That's the nuance the music has anyway (haha) a little gross I guess. So that's why, the background voice is a completely disgusting male otaku chorus. The sound engineers were really grossed out when mixing the track. (haha)

For trance, it becomes a feel-good denpa sound. The packaging of a denpa song is just as much a part of the representation of denpa songs themselves. The balance arranges, and we can make something called a MiYAMO denpa song. In relation to the lyrics, if jokes were not linked to the song, it couldn’t become good denpa. Also, Nanahira-san is such a powerful vocalist, I really think she is a musical genius. I don’t know a girl that could be more of a blessing to denpa music.

- How were you introduced to GamesByMo and the A.N.N.E project? Why did you decide to go ahead and sign up as main composer for this upcoming game?

I became acquainted with Mo through my friend PEPO of PEPOSOFT. He listened to my music, which had a deep impression on him and I was told he wanted me to write music for A.N.N.E. I loved videogame music from the beginning and doing that sort of job was my number one goal. So, "please leave it to me" was my answer. From the start, my computer music was inspired by the likes of Final Fantasy's Nobuo Uematsu (植松伸夫), Romancing Saga's Kenji Ito (伊藤賢治), Ridge Racer's Shinji Hosoe (細江慎治), and PuyoPuyo's Katsumi Tanaka (田中勝己).

I wanted to try and make that kind of game music myself someday – that was my dream all through school. Through Mo, that dream might finally be fulfilled, so that’s why I joined A.N.N.E, my dream big project. It's truly an honor to be the main composer.

- A.N.N.E is a title which pays hommage to old-school gaming all the while incorporating modern gameplay. How does that particular setting influence your compositions?

There's a fair share of songs that I've made from being influenced by older game music. But let me just say that I am not just imitating past masterpieces. A.N.N.E is an old-school game on a modern gaming system – it's an RPG with a strong action component, but if the music is just like an action game then it will end up being an imitation. For example, Megaman's background music was basically similar to Final Fantasy's battle theme songs, right? You can still produce new material that is imitated or at least similar to old games.

Of course, using music intended for an RPG game in a plain action game is boring, and it would sound off as you are playing the game. And RPG music needs to sound appropriate during the battle scenes. So I think it's essential that it sounds not only new but also nostalgic.

To put it in North American terms, we created movie-like music and (with great effort) combined Japanese and Canadian styles. I had to think [as a Japanese person] how the Japanese style would fit into a North American game – various sources of influence came up, and isn't that how interesting new material is made? From that goal, we also added popular J-Pop themes and styles as well.

- Similarly to rearranging Touhou theme songs, do you draw inspiration from specific videogames when composing the A.N.N.E soundtrack, or do you aim for a brand new concept? Either way, which videogames and artists have influenced you the most over the years?

In regards to Touhou Arrange, depending on the situation, there are various artists that have influenced me, but lately I think Yoko Kanno (菅野よう子), Yasutaka Nakata (中田ヤスタカ), Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲也) and as far as Denpa music – IOSYS. I mix those with my own music. I don't consider it just copying, though. In order to learn how to compose music, the first thing you do is high quality reproductions. Once I've perfectly mastered the source materials, I am able to make my own works from these influential sources.

In regards to A.N.N.E's soundtrack, it is most influenced by Final Fantasy, I'd say. Not just the Final Fantasy from the Famicom era, but also 12 and 13, the recent ones, they also influenced the sound a lot. Music has to be easy on the ears and a pleasure to listen to! Even though it draws influence from modern games, I made sure to mix the A.N.N.E theme song with nostalgic Famicom sounds!

- I noticed that a physical soundtrack CD is not on the list of rewards for the A.N.N.E kickstarter. Do you plan to release a CD in the future, perhaps with remixed or arranged versions?

I was just having this conversation with a friend who makes a lot of dance tracks and I believe he is going to be releasing remix albums in the future, I was only just talking to him about this yesterday (haha). As of now we are not officially planning anything, but the possibility exists. I really would like to make an original soundtrack CD. It makes for a good souvenir of the game music.

For example, when I hear music from a game that I used to play a long time ago, I remember what kind of life I was living back then, what I was doing in school back and so on; it can be fun to reminisce, but it can also be sad at times, so many feelings can come back. In other words, of course you remember the game scenes, but more than that, you think about the "you" that used to play that game as well. It's like music has a photographic memory. For that reason, I think having a soundtrack is a key item. I want to make a soundtrack CD so that I can always remember the time I spent playing A.N.N.E.

- Thank you for your time, I'm sure you're very busy working on the A.N.N.E soundtrack and new こなぐすり projects. We're very excited for this upcoming game and really look forward to your compositions! Any parting words for your newfound and longtime fans?

Thank you very much! In regards to A.N.N.E, from here on out with Mo, I want to make many emotional tracks. Actually, I don't know a whole lot about the game yet, but I am really looking forward to it! I wonder just what will happen, it's a title I'm anticipating. Conagusuri is releasing a new Touhou arrange CD 「7-RAGES」 on May 26th. We also plan to make a Denpa CD for the first time in a while at this summer's Comic Market!

Conagusuri has been through a lot up until now, but since we plan to be born into a new Conagusuri this winter, please look forward to it, everyone! ^^