Howdy, everyone! My name is kevo, from Desu ex Machina, guest writing for zzeroparticle today. I’m going to be talking about electronica from the Japanese doujin and underground communities. People call it “techno”, which technically isn’t correct no pun intended. No matter what you call it, it’s a huge part of music all around the world. I love the stuff. I enjoy how diverse the genre is — from instrumental trance to hardcore driving beats and how adaptable it is to other forms of music. Electonica is enjoyed all over the world, from the famed nightclubs of Europe to the clubs of South America. Of course, the underground electronica scene in Japan is great, and totally underrated.
So don’t worry if you know nothing about this stuff. For this post I’ll talk about five albums that I particularly find are outstanding examples of the genre. Whether you are a techno virgin or the most hardcore junkie ever, come along I take us on an adventure though the wondrous world electronic music in Japan! Bring a nice pair of headphones and turn the bass up on your mixer!
Aura Qualic – Crystal Flow
Lets kick things off with some good progressive trance. The trick to trance (and many other kinds of electronica music) is patience. Trance tracks typically are composed of a nice build, where different melodies add and permutate with each other, eventually culminating into some kind of climax, where the bass is “dropped” and the song is driven by a combination of the beat and melody at the boldest. The interactions between the beat and the melody is crucial in good trance track. The mixing should be complex, but still natural enough for a nightclub full of people who want to have a fun time and dance to follow.
Let it sit for a bit, then when the song starts to pick up 20 or 30 seconds in, close your eyes, press your headphones to your ears, and just let the music envelop you. The builds are simple, but very nice. You really feel the climax and anticlimax. The bass isn’t overwhelming and the melody is soft and sweet.
Aura Qualic is a trance artist hailing from Japan. Active since 1998, he’s one of the shining stars in Japanese progressive trance. His calling is trance, but he does lots of pop and dance remixes, too. He contributes often to compilations like Bastard Pop Terrorists, which is a multi-artist compilation of dance/hardcore anime doujin remixes.
Crystal Flow in my opinion is his tightest album. Though it lacks some variance in mood between the tracks, the entire composition is creative and rhythmically sound. All too often you see rhythmically retarded artists pumping out albums at Comiket with just a song and UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ in the background. Aura Qualic sounds more like a mainstream trance with a distinctive Japanese flavor. I can imagine some tracks off this album blasting in a nightclub being very very sweet.
Spy47 – Ticket to Sweetland
owww! What is it, zzeroparticle? Huh? Yeah I see the title of your blog. Oh, you want me to talk more about anime music and remixes. Oh fine then let’s start with this, then.
Ticket to Sweetland was one of the most popular and surprising albums on the scene back in Comiket 76. While Aura Qualic is generally trance, Spy47 is J-core. J-core (categorizing music is a nightmare so just bear with me) is a style of music that’s characteristic of melody driven heavy beats and sped-up singing. It draws its origins from happy hardcore influenced by gabber, drum and bass, and progressive house. Before I spew any more random musical terms that half the world disagree on let’s just share a track.
Ticket to Sweetland is truly a doujin remix work. The Drug That Took me to Heaven is mixed from the eroge Yume Miru Kusuri. Other tracks on the album are based off of Lucky Star, Nursery Rhyme, To Aru Majutsu no Index, and I’m pretty sure the rest are random eroge. Our First Time is an entertaining track that samples various sound clips from the sex scene in a loli eroge and as the sex progresses towards climax the beat structure literally breaks down in random overmixed noise. Unfortunately I did not know of this before hand and I almost blew out the speakers in my car with this song. At least it’s pretty creative.
Though it’s been remixed about 200 times, I find Spy47’s rendition of the Nursery Rhyme opening theme to be pretty good. It sounds like pure sugar but not too out of control. If you ever thought what Kishimen would sound like if ave;new was even more high pitched, today is your lucky day!
DJ Sharpnel – Running All Night
If you’ve ever even heard of anime hardcore, you at least know DJ Sharpnel. Sharpnelsound is one of the most well known doujin labels in the scene and I always pick up whatever they shit out at every Comiket. My personal favorite of theirs is Running All Night from Comiket 73. Stylistically, imagine Spy47 but just totally nuts off the deep end. This is basically what J-core is.
Took me a while to actually figure out that was a remix of Utada Hikaru’s Beautiful World. While Sharpnel is creative and pretty fun to listen to, they are totally hit or miss. You either love them or totally hate them, and I can see why. J-core is simply too much for some people. Above that, half of their tracks in my opinion are just plain terrible. Running All Night simply had an unusual number of really good tracks. Remixes of Moetan, Lucky Star, Bokurano, Dennou Coil, and other shows at the time make the album a pretty fun listen if you like that stuff.
I’m gonna cheat and share a track from one of their more recent albums from Comiket 76.
One of my favorite parts of this track is how they use the clapping in beginning of Fuwa Fuwa Time to set a beat up. And my is it one heck of a beat.
onoken – Swell Strings
So after all that loud crazy hardcore, let us return to the world of trance. Swell Strings, by onoken, is one of my favorite albums of any genre, ever. onoken’s diverse work spans from goa to techno. His best stuff, in my opinion, is his instrumental and melodic trance as seen heavily here in this album.
The foreground, rather than the bass, dominates most of the song. onoken creates this immersive atmosphere of sound that is bold yet very calming.
This great vocal track, thank to the talents of Aki Misawa, has a funky little feeling to it. I love the piano arrangement.
Progressive trance. The song builds up to this nice melody before just totally cutting into a stop at 2:50 just when you were expecting a climax. A vocal with a simple yet bold piano arrangement and a faint ambient backing comes in, quickly and gradually building into a beautiful climax that you ride all the way to the end of the song. This, my friends, is what trance is all about.
Halozy – H ~Heart and Beat Technology~
I always imagine Halzoy as much of what Aura Qualic or onoken would sound like if they remixed more anime stuff. H Heart and Beat Technology is jammed full of pure awesome doujin anime song remixes. This was released in May last year, before Halozy went to the dark side and just spat out Touhou remix albums at Comiket.
Unlike what many lesser artists do, which is just play an anime song and add a generic background bass beat, note what Halozy does here to Air‘s timeless track Natsukage. Resample the melody with a cool instrument, add neat ambient arrangements, and like a good DJ, create a clever build into a monstrous crescendo of awesome. Remixing is addition — it’s about having people enjoy a song from a different point of view.
Quick, how many times has Uninstall been remixed? 10? 20? Among the knee-deep pool of the stuff, I love this one the best. Wait for about a minute for the song to get kind of revved up. When the bass cuts about 1:30 into the song, leaving just the singing, the emotion of the song is portrayed pretty well. Then we go into a nice, unique and creative reimagination of the song. It’s amazing to me how different you can make a song feel with good remixing.
Well that’s all I have. Doubtless I have neglected to cover some aspects or artists in this wide genre. cranky immediately comes to mind. I love his happy hardcore style that resembles European dance music. His new album Hard Re:MIX 2010 is especially great. REDALiCE I guess as well, but I’m not a huge fan of that group.
I know this isn’t the type of music zzero’s readers are used to seeing on this blog, so I hope some readers were able to hear some new kinds of sounds today. Whether you enjoy this kind of music or not, isn’t trying out new types of music what us music lovers are all about? Thanks for reading what I have to say! I’d love to hear feedback in the comments.