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Monday, February 13, 2012

Compound Backlog Increase - Issue 1

I've been meaning to do another issue of Compound Disinterest (or whatever the hell I'm calling this blog nowadays) for quite a while.

Sorry, I've been meaning to do another issue for way too goddam long.

Yeah, that's much closer, I think.

Anyway, I've had so many things I've been meaning to write about, and so little time to do it, if I wrote one huge update, it'd be far too long to read, boring, and most of all, I wouldn't have anywhere near enough time to actually write it.  Instead, I'm going to write something once per day for this week.  Here's what I'm going to try to do, ideally:

Monday (this update): Music. //Get that out of the way
Tuesday: Mass Effect 3 demo. //Yeah, me and everyone else.
Wednesday: Two by this Side, Three by the Other Side. //And, by extension, doujin manga.
Thursday: Assorted thoughts on film and anime. //Including Mouretsu Pirates.
Friday/Saturday: (Riff Club/Good Move Night)
Sunday: Katawa Shoujo //If you want a preview, here's what I had to say about part-way though act 1.

I had been planning on talking about all of these for quite a while, each individually, but for one reason or another, I've never actually done them.

These entries will be much more succinct and blog-like instead of rambling masses of stuff nobody cares about.

But speaking of things nobody cares about, let's begin.

Kokoro Vibrations
Reisen's bangs are in the way of
her Lunatic Eyes.
This was an album I thought that I was going to like far more as a whole at the beginning than I actually ended up liking at the end.  However, I'm not entirely sure this is because the latter half of the album is worse than the first half in any meaningful way.  Rather, it's possible, perhaps, that ShibayanRecord's style may not be one that's conducive to listening to for long periods of time.  I find this rather unlikely, but I have a hard time really coming up with any other decent reason why a circle as obviously talented as Shibayan can make such good - sometimes stellar - work on this album, and yet I can't give the album a complete recommendation.  Yes, all of the tracks on here are good - really good - and yet...but let's see:

Shibayan is electronic, but not in the same way as Alstroemeria or ENS.  Their music is far more experimental in nature rather than more conventional house or trance.  The first track on the album - WAP-WA - demonstrates this in its most extreme form, with a glitch aesthetic that, while perhaps repetitive, is very interesting and feels very cool.  As a thematic introduction, it serves its purpose well, and more.  Autumnal Fan takes this theme and takes a more conventional approach, keeping a very profound feeling, funky base, and building on it a really cool vocal track with fun harmonies.  I can't quite put its feeling into words, but it's my favorite track on the album.  Apparently, it's supposed to be Fall of Fall from Touhou 10 ~ Mountain of Faith, but I didn't recognize it at first, and it took me a while to figure out exactly what parts of it they used in this track.  The next track is Castle of Thorns, which has the same approach to its feel, with similar musical attributes, save for the vocals, which are an entirely different.  Here, Chie Fukami gives an adept, but regrettably high and whiny performance that, while actually rather impressive, I find disagrees with me.  It's seven minutes, illustrating another trait of Shibayan tracks: they're always really frakking long.  Next is a really funny sort of track with a funny sort of name: MyonMyonMyonMyonMyon!  Myon is the sound cats make in Japan, and is also the name of Youmu's ghost half.  Myon(5)! is the track where 3L does the incredible feat of hitting what I think is something like C8 and not being incredibly annoying.  Nevertheless, to the benefit of the track, her part does not constitute a significant part of the track, which headless proceeds for eight minutes of myon to infinity and beyond.  It's probably the most inventive interpretation of Ancient Temple I've ever heard, and Shibayan's clever use of electronic effects make for lots of fun that somehow doesn't get old for me.  (Internet history lesson: speaking of Youmu and things that go nyan, this video existed at least a year before nyancat: know thine history)  The next track - The Color of Flowers Is... - is, naturally, funky and cool, but less profound feeling than some of the previous tracks for qualities that I can't quite place but may have something to do with how the progression and arrangement work with each other.  Here, through no fault of its own does it not feel as epic as some previous tracks: it has more to do with the original: Riverside View.  I think Shibayan may have tried to do something with it that didn't quite work.  Or rather, doesn't start working until about the four minute mark, where all of a sudden it gets kinda epic with lots of harmony, interference, and coolness all of a sudden coming together and working perfectly.  All of this, and the vocalist - yana - is doing it again, and doing very high octave vocals that actually work really well with the song, which is saying something, because it's a really challenging part, and I can't hear any signs of pitch tampering with her voice.  Dammit Minoshima...  Anyway, Candle-Magic of Lunar Age 11.3 (I have to be reading that wrong: it sounds like an Engrish title, except it's in Japanese) is more of Shibayan doing their thing, this time with the ever-popular Locked Girl, which fits their style very well, and yet Shibayan chose to go with a very vocal-centric aesthetic here.  I don't quite understand the decision, but it doesn't fail, per se, so much as it's unexpected.  The only problem here, I suppose, is that it's been a whole lot of basically the same musical idea so far, even despite the slight change in style of arrangement.  Star's Tears (or rather, simply Hoshi no Namida, since it's spelled in katakana) comes next, is a sans-vocal track based on The Primal Scene of Japan the Girl Saw.  Unfortunately, since I can't quite quantify some of the things that Shibayan does in their instrumentation, I can't describe why this track is good, only that it is, and that the ways it plays with the song's rhythm and progressions are really fun.  The next track has an incredibly awesome name: Huge Bunny Explosions.  Naturally, it's based on Lunatic Eyes - Reisen's theme (the lunarian rabbit featured on the album cover).  The arrangement feels a bit thinner than the other tracks on the album, which I suppose ends it on a different note for an album that is largely the same brilliant idea for about 53 minutes.  Here, an Alstroemeria vet is brought in for the vocals: Nachi Sakue (ha! I remembered: it's Sakue and not Sakagami).  She does well enough here, but compared to 3L and Chie-san, it does feel like a bit of a step down.

Anyway, if you liked Daft Punk's Homework, or some of Kraftwerk's less experimental stuff, then definitely give a listen to the album: just not all at once.  It's got one really great idea that it does over and over again in different flavors, and it makes for some really great singles, just not for contiguous play.  A rather odd conclusion to come to, and one that doesn't do credit to ShibayanRecords, but there you have it.

Other Stuff
I got into a discussion of fusion jazz the other day with my dad, and he gave me a couple of recommendations that I have now forgotten and must ask for again (I know one was Weather Report and the other was Return to Forever, but nothing besides that).  It coincided, oddly enough, with me finding the Touhou jazz fusion album Keyboard Cat 4 by Buta-Otome.  I'm not going to talk about it, because I really don't have the time or will right now, but I do recommend it.  If nothing else, check out their version of Hiroshige no. 36. called Dream Travel Journal.  The original is from one of ZUN's standalone albums, Retrospective 53 Minutes.  I need to listen to the whole of that album, because I still haven't, and I'm curious to see exactly what ZUN does when he's not writing music for games (except I already know the answer: pretty much nothing different).  The album is a bit of a musical poem about Mary and Renko: two humans who find themselves traveling Gensokyo.  There's something very interesting about these characters: humans filled with wonder as they explore the quiet countryside.  I wish I knew of more doujin about them: they could be really interesting, or at least really funny characters.  Fittingly, the image is really quite Hiroshige-esque.

Anyway, enough Touhou crap, have a metal version of Skyrim's theme.  I've seen some of this guy's other stuff too: this guy's technique is freaking incredible.

Anyway, I'm done with my homework, so I'd better read some more Katawa Shoujo.  I just realized: I said I'd read something that's the length of a novel (and has the content of several novels) by the end of the week.  Ah well, there are worse fates.

Incidentally, I've decided to go with "read" instead of "play" in reference to KS.  It sounds far, far better to say "I'm reading a romance novel" than "I'm playing a romance game."

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