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Friday, June 15, 2012

Scarlet Weather Rhapsodies - Part 1

So I've been considering whether I really want to write about the stuff that came out of Reitaisai or not, and truthfully, I don't think writing about music is particularly compelling either to the writer or the reader, and I don't think that I'm particularly good at even that.  I never write quite what I want to write about the album, and I'm never satisfied with the result.  Honestly, neither should you, if you know anything about music or writing.  Still, I might as well write something.

Reitaisai 9 was very successful.  I do not know much about the games that came out, nor the manga - that'll all be scanlated later (and my Japanese is barely decent enough to get through a four panel comic strip), but the music and PVs were almost invariably awesome.  I'm going to get to the music, but I really want to try something new here and talk about the PVs: two, specifically.

東方夢想夏郷 - A Summer Day's Dream, Second PV
Remember way back when, I talked about those two independent anime projects, both of which were flawed but progressing with new episodes, supposedly?  Probably not, unless you're a Touhou fan reading this, so here's the brief version.  The first project is produced by a studio called Maikaze, who released their first episode a few years ago.  It was...not very good, for a couple of reasons.  Maikaze hired big-name voice actors for their cast of not particularly well written characters, going through their not particularly interesting plot, in a singularly ugly looking world, observed poorly by a poor director.  Yet, a 30 minute Touhou anime episode is still a pretty cool thing, and it's a good thing that, now, we are still assured that progress is being made on the second episode!  What's particularly amusing about this is that they seem to be funding the production by selling the trailers on DVD.  It's a strange sort of crowd funding: produce a trailer, and if the fans buy it, then it gives them the money to follow through.  They're certainly taking their time with this one though.  I can't say I blame them either: they took the cheap route the first time and we ended up with crap.  And, from this new trailer, they seem to be in a good...ish way.

00:27 - Okay, Reimu's hand doesn't have one too many fingers anymore!  Good sign, good sign.
00:32 - *sigh* They're still going with little kid Suika.  These guys did play the games, right?
00:49 - My god, it even sounds like an anime theme song.  ...not a good anime theme song, but...
00:57 - "Aright so in this scene, you watch the moon dramatically, then turn!"  Looks like we got the same director alright.
01:10 - Sweet watch.
01:12 - Alice Margatroid's in this one.  Lots of weird looks of ennui in this trailer, but Alice makes it look awesome.
01:16 - No really, why is Youmu naked?  And have the body of a 12 year old?
01:20 - Ah, she was taking a shower before her fight scene!  I must say, this opening shot kinda impresses me.  They're definitely getting better at this.
01:27 - Not that their editing has improved by too much, but eh, it works.  You know, I just read a manga called Youmu vs Udongein.  An Imizu work, of course.
01:35 - Yep, the animation quality is definitely better this time around.  Now it looks like a low-ish budget television anime rather than a low-ish budget indie production.
01:39 - Player 2 Reimu?  Well, I guess she has to have other clothes.

So yeah, I'm exited.  It's going to suck, but I don't care, because cheesy bad anime is fun.  Honestly, this is what I imagine a real, professional Touhou anime would be like, not Manpuku Jinja's vision, as much as I may like to imagine the production committee would take the show seriously.  It's charming, in a way.

花鳥風月 - Fantasy Kaleidoscope PV
Manpuku Jinja were the other guys: the good ones, who produced the 15 minute adaptation of Perfect Cherry Blossom.  Manpuku Jinja has a good grasp on the feel of Gensokyo, and have far better production values in their work, both in pure animation quality, and in the quality of the design elements.  In fact, it's the charisma of the setting itself that sets theirs apart from anyone else's, I'm willing to say.  Characterization obviously doesn't happen in a PV like this, as it shouldn't, because the focus is Gensokyo itself, as we will see.  I hear they published an art book with this one, which I'd love to get my hands on somehow.

Anyway, they have stated that they are not, in fact, working on a second episode because of money and time, which is okay: they put out quality work anyway.  Their last PV, from Comiket, I did not particularly like for various reasons, but this new one is a return to form.

00:22 - Interesting image.  It's surreal, but it totally feels like something Marisa would do.  Also, maybe a Super Marisa World reference?
00:35 - I think this is the only major shot in the PV I don't really like.  Something is weird about the framing and colors and...well, I don't know.
00:58 - Dear god, I am just in love with this one though. The composition is perfect, the way it draws the eyes along the plane of focus across the shot, Yama's expression, the way the color changes with focal point...just, yes.
01:15 - And Yuuhei Satellite isn't a bad band, either.  The lyrics are pretty neat.  "Kachou fuugetsu" means "all that's beautiful in the world."  Indeed.
01:19 - The old maids of Gensokyo: Yukari, Yuyuko, Kanako, and Eirin.  All of whom are rather generously endowed, it seems.
01:26 - Manpuku Jinja really likes drawing Reimu with wistful expressions.  Huh.
01:29 - They also really like drawing boobs.  Well, who can blame them.
01:45 - We all live in a Lunarian submarine!  Lunarian submarine!  Lunarian submarine!  Seriously though, I'm really not sure what this is about.
02:16 - Yeah, I'll admit, Manpuku Jinja can be fanservice heavy, but at least it's really competent fanservice.
02:23 - Daily life at the Scarlet Devil Mansion.  I'm not sure why those characters have as many fans as they do, but this is a pretty well put together little vignette.
02:32 - Okay, Youmu's fight in Maikaze's trailer does look cool, but not anywhere as cool as this.  Then again, it's not actually a fight scene but a little vignette of her practicing her stuff.  That seems to be mainly what the PV is: a look at the daily lives of Gensokyo's denizens.  I like the idea a whole lot.  Montage theory is pretty great.
02:47 - That's another Manpuku Jinja trope: they love shots of people jumping and turning mid air.  I think there was one like that of Alice in the original Memories of Phantasm, and in their previous PV.  Not one of my favorite things in the world, but eh.
02:53 - Lewd.
02:55 - Reimu's hair ribbon looks like it's about to take off and fly into the porch light.  I like their character designs, but Reimu's really is kinda excessive.

Well, no guesses as to which one is the prodigal child.  Man, it'd really be a shame if these people never got to live up to their potential, because I see a whole, whole lot in these guys.  These PVs remind me of the Daicon III and IV animations by the group that would later become Gainax.  It's not as easy a market to get into these days, but man...what if these guys became a real thing?  Where's their Wings of the Honeamise?  Or are they content with this?

So anyway, the music.

11th Spell 〜 Overflow
Well, album art is not their strength.
I have never talked about xi-on (pronounced, she-on) on this blog before.  They're a metal and hard rock act.  They've got a nice sounds.  They're not as good as Demetori.  And that's about it.  I'd say that the variety in their instrumentation is a very nice feature.  Crow's Claw, Demetori, and Unlucky Morpheus are all very focused on the traditional metal arrangement.  While there's a heck of a lot you can do with that, and honestly, their guitarists can coax more interesting sounds out of their instruments than xi~on, but they don't have quite the aesthetic.  I can't compare this album to any of their previous work, since I haven't heard any, but I'll have to fix that in the future (and once I get a bigger hdd).

So, I won't bother going track by track, because that's boring, so here are my three favorites.  The album has lots and lots of Perfect Cherry Blossom arrangements, and is about 30 minutes, so it works as a nice little concept album.

Overflow is a nice little variation on Yuyuko's theme.  Mostly straight guitar and drums, but with judicious use of sampled strings and shakuhachi.  It's really a strange melody to hear in metal form.  It's nice though, very nice.

広有射怪鳥事 ~ Till When?breaks out the Hammond B3s!  I've honestly never heard a single one in any Touhou arrangement before this (though Crow's Claw's album has one later on, which we'll get to), so it's kinda funny finding it here now.  I feel like I'm listening to ELP, not xi-on.  It doesn't vary very obviously from it's source until the end, but passes through some neat places by the end.  It's not very heavy at all, either.  (track title in English: Hiroari Shoots a Strange Bird)

死霊の夜桜 has some more guitar work, this time, and a very nice drum accompaniment.  Drummers really are important, and they got it down well.  No really, go listen to it.  (English: Cherry Blossoms OF THE DEEEEAAAAD.  Emphasis mine.)

They didn't over-extend themselves with this one.  It's short, but it feels just the right length.  Quality stuff.  Not amazing, not really, but really great, even if just to have on.

Abandoned Dancehall
Guh, slutty bioluminescent Sanae.  Really, Tats?
Another Dancehall album is always welcome.  Honestly, I don't automatically associate Alstroemeria with quality, and I didn't care as much for Killed Dancehall, but I do very unequivocally love this one.  It plays like a very good house set.  A very, very good one.  Like, go find this if you like this stuff.

Integration under the moon of codes is a really great track not by Minoshima.  As it turns out.  It's a long and rather uninteresting intro, but when the song really starts, the brilliance of the way the atmosphere is maintained becomes clear.  Also, the lyrics are about physics.  Which is kinda awesome.

DREAM A DREAM really, really reminds me of Cheek Colours from Harmony, an old-ish school Minoshima album that I think I talked about at one point.  There's a certain dissonance between the synth and vocals at the chorus, and it works wonderfully.  It's pretty airy, almost disco-esque.  But better.

Necro Fantasia (ALR Rewind Remix) is a remix of a song from one of Alstroemeria's Lovelight-era releases, For Your Pieces.  Strangely, I do not have this album *goes to download it*  The original is a good song, and it has absolutely nothing to do with this one, so I don't know why he even mentions that it's a remix.  This song is much more dance oriented, but is no less good.  It's downbeat, but with a strong pace, and excellent feel to it.

Purdy.  Mokou's looking not so hot
though.  Huh.
Avidya was a bit of a surprise for me, in retrospect.  I ended up listening to that album more than I did Killed Dancehall.  Syrufit's got his own thing going on, and he does it more consistently sometimes than Minoshima.  He also works a lot with Mei Ayakura, who many artists use, but Syrufit moreso.  Linjin as well, but we'll get to him later.  On Blossom, he uses her exclusively.  A good decision: she's a strong vocalist.  Not the strongest, but reliable, and a friendly enough person, if the livestream a few months back is any indication.

Well, this time, I don't think he beats out Minoshima, but he does tie him for playtime.  Some really great electro here.

Monochrome is a really, really great track.  It starts off kinda low, which is not Mei's strength, but it gets stronger as it goes on, and boy does it have a great progression.  It's got that weird use of mora-phrasing that Syrufit likes to do, which in and of itself isn't remarkable, but overall flow is excellent, and the pathos is great.  I'm loving the instrumentation too.

R.I.N is a bit out of place, isn't it?  ShibayanRecords isn't billed on the cover, but nobody's ever going to mistake his style for anyone else's.  Even Mei sounds different when singing his track.  What sets this track apart even for Shibata-san is the industrial sounding accompaniment.  Also, "nyani ka," in an otherwise serious song.  Rofl.

Cloudy, later fair, reminded me a tiny bit of the Macarena at first.  But only a little, and only at first.  What's more striking is that it's much more house oriented than the rest of the album, and quite vocal-centric.  Strong sounding, I think, is how I'd describe it.  Very strong sounding.

Bossa Nova ToHo
Good to see Remilia getting out of the
castle now and then...I guess...
So yeah, ShibayanRecords doesn't just do electro.  He also does Bossa Nova.  He did some easy-listening-ish stuff before, and I believe that he had a similar album at C81, which I didn't listen to, but it's still kinda odd to think that they both come from the same guy.  I still think he's better at electro, but he's improved his Bossa Nova mojo as well, it seems.  This isn't one of my favorite albums from Reitaisai 9, and it's very telling that two of my recommendations aren't vocals at all, so only go into this if you have a) hdd space to spare or b) like breathy Bossa Nova stuff.  I guess those people exist.

I think it's good to note that the album gets progressively a lot better as it goes on.  Like, a lot better.  Like, I'd probably recommend almost anything after たまにはSUNを, but almost nothing before that.  It's a 36 minute album though, so eh, nothing lost.

Also of note is that he only uses one singer twice: Fukami Chie.  Huh.

たまにはSUNをis like the easy listening tracks of Shibata-san's previous albums, but good.  There's not as much remarkable about it, actually.  (English: Occasionally the Sun...)  Can't find on youtube.

Otemba de Jane-yo is very up-tempo compared to the rest of the album.  Everyone plays really well on this track.  It comes together really well.  Oddly, it doesn't sound much like Cirno's theme at all beyond the first few bars.  (English: I'll be Tomboyish, Then)

Shadow of the boundary has Engrish, I think.  Or maybe it's Flançais.  I honestly can't tell.  Can't find on youtube.

I'm okay with this.
So, Sound Online is a circle I haven't heard much of lately.  Tsukasa and Minoshima haven't worked on anything together in a while, so I guess that's why: I didn't pay as much attention to him on his own. It turns out that, in the mean time, his style has changed quite a bit.  Or, at least so it seems.  There are only three tracks on this album, both vocal and instrumental versions.  The first two are pretty okay.  The last one is actually pretty neat.

Mochi no Tsuki, Yoi no Utage is an arrangement of Mamizou's theme, which already reminded me a bit of Sound Online.  It's not surprising that this ended up good, both the vocal version and the instrumental, but I'm going with the vocal version, because nobody's uploaded the instrumental.  It's also a curse, because it does sound a heck of a lot like the original.  Still, if Sound Online made another album like this, it'd be pretty sweet, I think.

EastNewSoundBest Vol.2
Yuyuko is busy right now, it seems.
Let's not disturbing her.
So, I downloaded the first volume just before Reitaisai 9.  Didn't care for it too much.  Which is a shame, because EastNewSound is actually pretty good, for the most part.  I say this, yet, if that was their self-proclaimed best, then why did I not care for the album?  How can I say that?  Well, Uncanny Instinct was proof that they're talented, and I've heard individual songs on youtube.  That, and Vol.2 here is actually pretty good.  They've got their eurodance-y aesthetic to them, but after hearing a whole album of their original work, I can definitely say that they do their own thing more often than not, and it's not quite eurodance nor is it quite Touhou.

Compared to the other albums here, this one is pretty long: 58 minutes.

PiPiPiPARU feels like an iosys song, almost, with the lyrics and vocal register.  Well, except that it's actually a pretty decent song too.  Normally, this sort of vocal performance is offputting for me, but the delivery and metering actually make that into an asset, make it desirable.  Also, taught me the word ねたましい.

無炎舞踊≠循環 is basically for Nuclear Fusion what 緋色月下、狂咲ノ絶 was for U.N. Owen Was Her.  I find few other ways to describe it.  As it is the same arranger, from the same composer, this is highly unsurprising.  It is a Good Thing.  Listen to it.

I:solation is pretty much what's good about EastNewSound trance.  In that way, it is both extraordinary and unremarkable.  Huh.

Good cover art?  Good cover art.
I'm really not sure how I want to classify this album, if at all.  It's not big-band, it's not disco, it's not any sort of modern dance music. Not sure, and I don't particularly care: it's a really nice album.  I'm not very familiar with what precisely is normal for Pizuya's Cell.  I only remember them for working on a thing or two with MyonMyon - a metal act.  This isn't a lot of things, but it really isn't metal.  The two members listed on touhouwiki are the arranger - who plays the guitar and writes lyrics - and the pianist.  I don't have complete album information (and I'm too lazy to look it up on the site), so I'm guessing they do lots of collaboration, as their way of making a living.  This time, they've teamed up with the vocalist 3L. 3L is really good, and she sounds especially nice here.

A real class production.  I just wish I knew who to recommend it to, because it is definitely good, whatever it is.

DD -Instrument- has got some neat stuff going on, I'll say.  The flautist knows his stuff, for one.  It's not easy to get a flute to do some of those things.  The call and response is pretty exceptional, and the electronic components lend it a certain something.  Can't find on youtube.

Old Nezumy contains tape noises and an answering machine.  Also, really strong vocals and disco-like accompaniment, but also tape noises and an answering machine.  Because it's awesome.

Original -Instrument- is something I really have very little to say about.  For some reason.  Not on youtube.

Yep, this is a ButaOtome album.  Which means that it's awesome.  ButaOtome is another one of those bands I never really mentioned here except in passing (they had a piano album, which I think I might have mentioned).  They do lots of jazz fusion, blues, folk, and not-precisely-ska stuff.  They also have my favorite singer on the Touhou doujin scene: Ranko.  An amazing voice, and their arrangements (disproportionately from ZUN's music albums) are generally excellent.  Good musicianship in general.  This album, whose name in English translates to A Story of You, Whom are Actually Delicate, and I, Whom am Sometimes Bold, Making a Riot of Some Kind," is certainly well worth your time and hdd space.




Lightning Discharge
Marisa Kirisame: An Oriental Western
Magician Musician.
Crow's Claw is the good Touhou metal act (discounting xi-on) that's not Demetori.  And there, is the operative argument: not Demetori.  Nobody is Demetori but Demetori, but Crow's Claw does pretty damned well for themselves regardless, and they're certainly more prolific.  They went so far as to publish an independent album - a compilation of original works by themselves and a couple other circles, including Demetori.  Lightning Discharge is an arrangement album, however, and is quite superb.  It's pretty straight metal, and well conceived.  Crow's Claw is good, and this album is too, and I have very little to qualify that with.  Yeah, their drummer doesn't do much in one or two out of the nine tracks, but that's hardly anything.  It's non vocal, it's got pretty great musicianship, and both the arranger and original composer are pretty great.

The Third Eye has the misfortune of having to contend with Demetori's version.  Well, both of them are really good, so perhaps that language is too negative.  Also, I am incredulous that whomever uploaded the video I linked to couldn't find a more...fitting...picture of Satori.  Here's a better one.

Legend of the Great Gods is an incredible name, right?  It is also a great song, fortunately.  It's probably my favorite on the album.  The sense of rhythm is really quite nice.

Rigid Paradise is, basically, Crow's Claw playing something kinda like Rigid Paradise, and I have little more to say about it other than that: of course it's cool.

So anyway, great album, go listen to it if you like metal, but first, I feel like I did not do Demetori's Nada Upasana Pundarika any kind of justice when I talked about it a few months ago.  This album is really great, but if you haven't listened to either, listen to Demetori's first.  It's seriously amazing.

...dammit Crow's Claw, stop reminding me of other albums!

So, I'm going to make this a two part post, because it's already getting ludicrously long, and I still have Poptrick, Trojan Green Asteroid, ZEphyr, and 東方四重奏6 to cover.  I have other things I want to write, and this is taking a ludicrously long time for something that nobody is going to want to read in one sitting.  In the not-too-distant future (next Sunday A.D, let's say), I'll probably talk about Toonami, Sins of a Solar Empire, and a few other things.  If I'm not writing anything else, anyway.


I need to listen to more Fatboy Slim...

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