I met the music… and it was good.
the brilliant green is returning. In fact, the PV for their comeback song has aired and is already floating about the Internets.
But you know, funnily enough, the only interest I ever developed in them was because of one song (Rainy days never stays) and the solo projects of guitarist Matsui Ryo and vocalist Kawase Tomoko. (Let’s conveniently ignore the fact that I occasionally still get them confused at times with Do As Infinity and its members, Owatari Ryo and Van Tomiko, both of whom also have their own active solo projects now.) And even more so because they each had a song associated with an anime.
But let’s ignore that because Matsui Ryo has some great music out, regardless of the anime attention two of his songs got.
Take a look at the full album instead, packed full of UK goodness. That’s right, UK – not Japanese, not American, not some other European country, it’s good old “Great Britain”. (I swear to you no disrespect was intended. Though I may be a silly little American.)
I met the music is full of UK rock vocalists and like-minded music, an exploration into music styled after the British 80’s linked under the name of “meister”, with lyrics by Tim Jensen. But it’s a satisfying journey, and there’s no reason you won’t find a song you’ll like even if the album as a whole fails to appeal.
o1/ be love
The album starts off with an electronic track featuring deadpan stanza vocals from Sice, though the choruses are sung uplifitingly, fitting the lyrics’ message of getting everyone to be nice to each other and cast aside prejudices. Never mind the message though, the delivery itself is a sweet listen as Sice attacks them with a soothing higher pitch that contrasts against the electronic stanzas but melds with the light background – which, while playing backseat to the vocals, plays with buildup extremely well and adds to the song as much as the singing.
To be frank… at first this song sounds anything but dignified. Unless you like British rock, because fuzzy guitars are on a stampede through this song. (Clearly, I don’t. Or didn’t. Unless “meister” was attached to it.) Grungy, unclear, even monotone, there is never a particular peak or method – and the sound of radio static at the beginning only adds to the effect. Manda Rin‘s vocals, echoed and fuzzy in their own way despite being wispy and light notes against the guitars, add even more to the uncertain atmosphere. Which may very well be the effect Matsui was aiming for, as Rin sings about getting over the past and moving on.
o3/ I call you love
Like the coming My World Down, this song popped up in relation to BECK, on the second song compilation they called a soundtrack, KEITH. At its simplest, it’s an acoustic ballad, with raw vocals from Gary Stringer. Elevating it further, the lyrics are simple, but Stringer handles them with strong emotion, and the music has an intricacy in its levels of strings if you listen closely. It’s a good, great song on various levels. But unless you specifically enjoy this sort of music or vocals, you may want to move on. (I liked it. But not until I sat myself down at work and forced myself to listen to it for this. Shhh – don’t tell my boss, though.)
o4/ I want you to show me
Now featuring Howard Jones on vocals, the fourth track starts off with a repeated fading refrain of “I want you to show me”. It’s an easy-on-the-ears guitar piece that seems soothing and all too familiar, and while I’m unwilling to find something bad to say, the opening takes far too long and by the time the song is over, you may be sick of hearing the song’s title – well, too late, it’s been etched into your eardrums.
o5/ It’s my life
Manda Rin returns for another shot at the microphone – and this time much more focused. She injects attitude into her vocals and keeps pace with the music extremely well, varying between quirky keyboard stanzas and wailing out in the electric guitar chorus. Fans of OLIVIA in particular will enjoy this song, between Rin’s vocals and the music, though the lyrics may not be the usual material they’re used to. Personally, I’m just amused that this sort of writing came from Tim Jensen.
o6/ My World Down
You could very well say this is the track that opened me to meister. While far from appealing when I first heard it, it has since grown to become one of my favorite tracks – and a constant source of lament for me is its short length, capping at 2-and-a-half minutes. But for those 2.5 minutes, Mark Gardener delivers deliciously, keeping his voice at an oddly fitting drawl despite the heavy (if fuzzy) guitar backing.
The only vocals featured this time are the heavily electronic ones of Matsui Ryo himself, mixed into the background and nearly inaudible and intelligible at first. Not that it matters, because the focus is clearly the music and the lyrics aren’t anything special as it is. A mixture of the electronical melodies and a variety of drumbeats, with both a tribal and dream-like feeling at once, it’s a nice interlude.
From one electro-track to another, but this time perhaps a more understandable one as Sice gives the mic another shot. The choruses are more rock thanks to the interjection of fuzzy guitar melodies, but the vocals are no less unpleasant. I prefer be love, as the monotony of this song does get to the mind. But when Sice’s British accent shows in the chorus… well, “it blows my mind”. In the most beautiful of ways possible.
In her first vocal appearance on the album, Idha takes charge of and almost breathes atmosphere into what is an already calming song with her relaxing voice. A mixture of singing and spoken word are her contributions, and while her voice works beautifully well with the music, I would’ve preferred for something special to be done with the spoken bits, whether it was a light sound filter or maybe have her semi-rap, speaking in time with the song as compared to what it does sound like – a straight-out reading.
The tenth track on Matsui Ryo‘s album is likely named after his moniker for this album. “Maestro” is “master” in Italian/Spanish/Portugese, just like “meister” is “master” in German. While it’s a bit egotistical (and even more so that he would refer to himself by such a name), it’s not completely undeserved. While a guitar-led instrumental at heart, the transition between electric and acoustic goes by smoothly without much of a change in tempo, and the drumbeats and other electronic trappings added to the song keep it from being monotone.
11/ red leaves
Eskobar‘s first and only vocal appearance on the album is a haunting one that sets the tone for this song, and the fuzzy guitars claim a triumphant victory yet again. And while the emotion is clear between the sad lyrics and the emotion in the vocals, it has the potential to be endlessly boring. But don’t overlook the revolt of the sweeter strings halfway through the song when they abandon their place in the background with the harp and switch places with the fuzzy guitars (don’t rely on me to tell you if it’s a violin or viola or some other string instrument altogether, though).
12/ kind of cold
This track has the same potential as whidbey. It also suffers from the same problems as whidbey – though on a slightly greater scale. Maria Solheim alternates between speaking and singing, and while her singing voice is nice and clear, she half-sings the spoken stanzas and it doesn’t come out altogether well. The music sets the mood far better than she does in those stanzas.
13/ morning sun
The second-to-last song marks the return of Idha as a vocalist, but the song is also the shortest on the album, clocking in at just over 2 minutes (less actually, when you consider the last few seconds are silence). Idha’s singing is as nice as before though, and the music, with its easygoing pace, does invoke the image of a rising sun.
Only found on the Japanese version of the album, orange is a quirky and fun instrumental while abusing drumbeats and electronic noises in the style of Nakata Yasutaka (capsule, Perfume). But of course, this track is thanks to Matsui Ryo once again, and a testament to his musical versatility when you note that there’s not a single guitar to be heard.
Unfortunately Matsui’s solo activities as meister were limited to 2004, even more unfortunate as one of my favorite songs from his meister project (“above the clouds” featuring BONNIE PINK) was released after this album. With any luck, though, the brilliant green’s return may see more songs in this particular style, and then I’ll finally know what I’ve supposedly been missing.