Review: Hijokaidan x Jun Togawa- TOGAWAKAIDAN LIVE! ~Live at Akihabara GOODMAN 2016.2.21~

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When Hijokaidan and Jun Togawa‘s studio album dropped earlier this year, people were left a little flat by it. While it had it’s amazing moments, eyebrows were certainly raised at its format and the feeling that it was a solo Hijokaidan release with a few Jun Togawa featuring songs. It was like someone taking a delicious steak away from you when you were only just starting to really get into it, or like sex without cumming. It never felt whole, and wasn’t the Jun Togawa comeback that her fans were really wanting.

However, tables have turned. Hijokaidan and Jun Togawa are back just a few months later, with an outstanding, no, extraordinary live album based on the same Togawakaidan project- and lets just say it straight out- it runs circles around the studio offering. Recorded live in February of 2016 at Akihabara GOODMAN, the album presents a tour de-force of perfect noise pop madness. Opening with a 5 minute Hijokaidan intro, the album blazes into life- and feels right. You’re not just listening to it waiting for Togawa to show up like the studio album (this is not a knock against Hijokaidan, but when you have an album prospect like TOGAWAKaidan, I dare say that Togawa is the main reason for most of it’s audience to be listening to it). It just builds the anticipation, gets you pumped up. And then Togawa comes in, in all her weathered, pained, fierce and brilliant glory. Its a cacophony of sound and it sounds fucking amazing.

All the tracks from the studio album are here, along with two extra tunes, Virgin Blues and Free Talking. Most notable of these is the stunning new version of one of Togawa‘s all time greats, Virgin Blues, which is brought to soaring new heights with its playful keys backed by its massive wall of noise, Togawa screaming her way through it in the way that only Togawa can pull off- she still truly has ‘it’ and it’s just amazing to behold. For many a Togawa fan it will likely be more than just great- it will be utter heaven. What makes the Togawa tracks so much better this time round- apart from sounding far ‘huger’ than on the studio version- is that they’re all presented in one solid block (not scattered around)- it really feels like Togawa has gotten the comeback she deserves.

Finally, it must be mentioned. The production value here is absolutely fantastic, the live engineering is impeccable. Usually when listening to live extreme music recordings, you lose quite a bit of its power in the process, but here, it sounds humongous. It’s loud as fuck and every little screech of feedback or monosyllabic garble of vocal delivery hits like a hammer to the temple. It’s intense as it gets. The album is quite short- 31 minutes- but it’s all it needs. It’s just the right dosage. There’s no time for filler here- everything just works. It truly is the Togawakaidan experience we should have gotten the first time round.

9/10- Overall, TOGAWAKAIDAN LIVE! ~Live at Akihabara GOODMAN 2016.2.21~ is a far more solid offering than the studio release, and is an absolutely essential addition to the Jun Togawa collection. Hijokaidan fans are bound to get more than just a kick out of it too- it’s truly one of the most solid releases in general that this listener has come across this year- and is serious AOTY contender material. Get on it!

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Review: Hijokaidan x Jun Togawa- TOGAWAKAIDAN LIVE! ~Live at Akihabara GOODMAN 2016.2.21~

Review: Wakusei Abnormal- VIVI de VAVI de LOVE

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Upon launch of the album trailer for VIVI de VAVI de LOVE, the prospect of the latest offering from Wakusei Abnormal was quite grim. The trailer really had turned this listener (and many others) off. However, surprisingly, upon listening to the mini album as a whole- well, it’s surprisingly tolerable. Hell, it’s quite enjoyable in the right mood. It’s hard to deny the flair that’s there. It’s nice to be proven wrong by something in a good way- and this really does that. There are more than a few problems with the record, yes, but on the whole, it’s more enjoyable than imagined.

Let’s start with the record itself. The opening track and lead single “LET IT DIE ~Toki wo Kakeru Koroshiya~” was something I admittedly LOATHED upon first hearing. The absolute potential the opening has with it’s brilliant electronic beat and maniacal keys lead up to… nothing. It’s generic as it gets. However, for whatever reason, it works quite well as part of the mini album as a whole. Most other tracks are the same kind of deal. Nothing stands out or sets the world on fire- but there are bits and pieces that are quite interesting. Hell, there’s fleeting moments that just sound inspired, like the delightful horn section on “Starlight Marriage“, or the absolutely adorable and beautiful “NAGUSAME NIGHT” that is easily the strongest track on the record, probably due to it’s more straightforward nature in comparison to the rest of the more busy tracks.

Production wise it’s a bright, bubbly record, to a fault. The sound here is not so much cute, just bright and bouncy. You know that chipper coworker that you appreciate when the time is right but absolutely loathe when it’s not? It’s that. There’s quite a bit of notable clipping, and it’s unfortunately very distracting in the louder moments. A shame really because with some tweaking it could sound really refreshing and pretty. Instrumental work, while never breathtaking, is tight enough, there’s a lot of little flutters of sound that become more noticeable on repeat listening.  It’s certainly a more interesting offering than their meek previous mini album “Kokoro-Koko-Ni “, and it has some actually surprising tracks that were really played down in previews before. The mini album flows along quite well (this said, the biggest blunder here is ending the mini with two needless and completely forgettable remixes), and ultimately that’s the mini’s strongest element- it’s cohesiveness, not so much the tracks themselves.

This all leads to the question that likely plagues a lot of Wakusei Abnormal fan’s minds these days- WHAT exactly is their sound? Who is this aimed at? It seems that as they progress, the further and further they depart from that extraordinary, heart pounding rock of their debut and settle into this bubbly, high sheen world of marshmallow clouds and dreamy pink- while it’s definitely a turn off for many- it’s quite good to see that at least there seems to be a pattern to it all now; that they’re finally settling with something.

A focus on expanding this sound will likely do them a world of good, and while they will never be seen as the cool new edgy rock band we thought they were, at least they can still stand out in a different way. Whether or not fans will return to take the bait is another question, and it will be interesting to see how this finally sits among their listeners.

6/10Wakusei Abnormal‘s latest is not quite the disaster the trailer made it sound like. Fans might want to pick this one up after all.

Review: Wakusei Abnormal- VIVI de VAVI de LOVE