Tokyo sounds like this?
So it’s been a while since my last proper review not involving fangirling or bullshit. (Readers, this is your cue to denounce me because all my posts are random crap or some reason like that. Go on.) Somehow this blog really became more ramblings than anything.
That means there’s a lot of review posts I have waiting to get up – if only I could tear my ears away from Johnny’s. Surprisingly, my taste for electronika managed to win out temporarily for me to try out the debut single of yet another singer who has gained the attention of overseas J-electronika fans.
アイラ ミツキ [Aira Mitsuki], turning 19 this year, won the 2007 MEGA TRANCE Singer Audition and instantly there was a clamor from contemode (basically, Nakata Yasutaka) fans for the man to pick her up into his stable. For now, though, she’s being produced by Oonishi Terukado, and the result, カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ・NO.9 [COLORFUL TOKYO SOUNDS NO.9] is highly reminiscent of… Perfume?
If Perfume were a one-girl unit, at least. And there’s some hints of early capsule too. (Both of which she apparently loves.) If that says anything, this girl may go far in Japan’s techno-pop scene. But for now, let me state very simply my opinion of Aira Mitsuki: She doesn’t appeal. She’s not especially pretty – and sure, we can blame part of that on the makeup artist (the stylist did a great job with the cover outfit, though), but Aira’s just plain. It’s undeniable that the point of electronika is the music and how well the vocal works through the vocoder and carries with the synth melody; but if you’re going to be a techno-pop idol, let’s not forget that the “I” in “Idol” is basically “image” now. (I’ll get back to you on what D-O-L stands for.) Even if Akihabara denizens weren’t picky about their girls – though surprisingly they are – Aira would have to do a lot of work to build a fanbase on just her image.
As for the rest… we’ll tackle it in this review. Oh yes, the review was coming. You thought I’d forgotten about it? I don’t blame you. This time.
o1/ カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ・NO.9 (Original Mix) [COLORFUL TOKYO SOUNDS NO.9]: The simple truth is that Aira has a rough voice. There is no denying that it comes out good with the synth backgrounds, and whether the vocoder or the girl herself is the reason behind why she sounds as though she has a lisp and squawks out the high notes during the bridge shouldn’t matter. But it does mean that either the vocoder needs to be tweaked some or Aira herself might need to refine her vocals a little. This playful track is still a decent listen, and her distant higher “Tokyo Sounds No. 9” after the chorus are actually really appealing. The whirling synth melodies bring to mind Perfume’s CHOCOLATE DISCO – so if you like that, this is worth a go at least once.
o2/ キャンディーライト・モード [CANDY LIGHT MODE]: Continuing on the playful mood, CANDY LIGHT MODE actually does try to stand out from the usual techno-pop and succeeds somewhat by not being completely electronic. While the main beat is provided by a synthesizer, most of the musical melody comes from a guitar. Aira’s vocals still have the rough edge, but against the minimal music, it becomes endearing. I don’t have a copy of the lyrics on hand so I don’t really know what the point of Aira singing “Marie Antoinette” during the chorus is, but that adds to the song’s fun. It’d be an interesting song to do the Robot or Cotton-Eyed Joe to, at least.
o3/ カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ・NO.9 (LAVA’s Electrip Remix): As if the single being techno-pop wasn’t bad enough for me to be reviewing, the single throws in three remixes. If you read this blog often or know me well enough, you probably know I hate dealing with remixes. So what you need to know about this one – the upbeat happiness of the first track has been transformed into a smoother house piece. You do, however, get to hear Aira’s singing without as much vocoder interference, and she’s still sounding like she had too many injections of cutesy. (THAT LISP. ARGH.) It’s an interesting change of pace, at least.
o4/ カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ・NO.9 (Disco-Punk Remix): Can anyone explain to me what “disco-punk” is? (I know, it’s probably the random naming conventions of remixers again.) Because whatever it is, I really like it. There’s less pop, more techno in this version; the pulsing beats are backed with a hearty dose of electric organ chords. This is more like something you’d find off capsule’s Sugarless GiRL album or in a dance club, and I love it. The only vocals from Aira are various versions of her “Tokyo Sounds No. 9” line and the fragmented chorus, but that’s all the contribution from her this remix needs. No cutesy, please.
o5/ カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ・NO.9 (MP-3専用デジタルマスタリングVer.) [MP-3 Senyou DIGITAL MASTERING Ver.]: Someone with a far better ear than me tell me exactly what was mastered in this version of the song. Because maybe I’ve just been listening to this for far too long, but it sounds exactly the same. Maybe just a bit lower in volume. What, do the digital effects come across more clearly or something? Might as well have just made this the actual track if you’re going to tout this as a mastered version.
o6/ カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ・NO.9 (Instrumental): First things first, I’m not delusional. I know better than anyone that my voice isn’t suited for trance – not unless you worked heavily with a vocoder and changed my pitch quite a bit. No, what my voice is suited for is boyband pop and its rapping. So there is no point to me reviewing the Instrumental… except that electronika is more about the music than it is the vocals.
Without the cutesy vocals Aira brings, the track loses quite a bit of its playfulness during the stanzas. It actually sounds a lot like something you could just take a walk to. When the trippy overlapping synth melodies pop out for the chorus, then you start skipping. There’s a nice balance between the light-hearted and the calm moods that this song evokes, though it’s a shame you have to take Aira out of the equation to realize it.
To tell truth, electronika is ridiculously hard to review – it’s all synth, the point isn’t supposed to be the vocals, and after a while things do tend to sound the same, even to people who enjoy it. (Case in poin, tracks 1 and 5.) And as always, it’s all based on personal taste. There is no guarantee that people who share the same taste in music, no matter how similar, will agree on any given song; and even the smallest note shift in a chord can be the reason why someone dislikes a song. (That same someone is probably a nitpicky bitch.) In electronika, where you think that would be easier to avoid, it only gets magnified.
So while I could sum this up by saying if you like Perfume you’ll probably enjoy Aira, I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell you to stop reading this post and just try her already if you’re interested. Then I’m going to see what her second single, China Discotica, will bring. And if it can get me off this Johnny’s kick for longer than an hour, dammit.