Pure -AQUAPLUS Legend of Acoustics- Review

Album Title: Pure -AQUAPLUS Legend of Acoustics-
Anime Title: Utawarerumono, To Heart, White Album, Tears to Tiara
Artist: Elements Garden (Arrangement), Suara
Catalog Number: KICA-1450
Release Type: Arrangement
Release Date: November 28, 2007
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

Show »

Track Title Artist Time
1. Fate -SADAME- Susumu Mameda 4:36
2. Heart to Heart Kazuhide Nakagami 4:45
3. Each to Their Own Future Naoya Shimokawa 4:31
4. Dream Song Michio Kinugasa, Suara 5:28
5. For Eternity Junya Matsuoka 5:53
6. POWDER SNOW Naoya Shimokawa, Suara 5:16
7. Eternal Love Shinya Ishikawa 4:31
8. Last Words ~ Last Vow ~ Silence Naoya Shimokawa 4:49
9. For Your Sake Naoya Shimokawa, Suara 5:36
10. Constellation Junya Matsuoka, Suara 6:45

Review: Perhaps it is the irreplaceable vocals of the singer, the repetitive structure of J-pop or the limited number of instruments in songs, that there seems to be a rather small collection of J-pop instrumental arrangements. Pure -Aquaplus Legend of Acoustics- is one of the few of its kind, setting the standard by showing that instrumental arrangements of songs may turn out so well that they not only match up to the vocals version, they may even surpass it.

Heart to Heart

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Of the many difficulties in creating an arrangement album, matching the level of expression of the singer through the instruments may be among the toughest. In this case, the problem is overcome with both the instrumentalists’ skill and also the arrangers’ knowledge of what works well with individual instruments. In a track like “Heart to Heart,” whose lyrics celebrate the joy and anticipation of meeting one’s friend, the feeling is brought out by having a somewhat lonely cello solo near the beginning joined by the warm melodies of the violins. The violins get plenty of fast measures which give listeners the image of petals dancing in the wind, bringing across the feeling of excitement expressed in the lyrics.

Each to Their Own Future

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However, there is yet another problem when arranging songs into instrumental tracks: the song’s repetitive melody line. With the vocals and lyrics to entertain listeners, repeating the chorus 3 times or more is not much of a problem, but for an arrangement album, it can spell disaster. The arrangers avoid this by either varying the instruments around or relying on the instrumentalist to express the music appropriately. In tracks like “Each to Their Own Future”, where the melody is only played by one instrument for whole stanzas, the structure is kept intentionally simple so the soloist can express the music the way he wants. In addition, the periodic switch from the flute to other instruments like the piano or guitar also help keep the piece varied.

For Eternity

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Pure also goes beyond just the basic woodwind and strings instruments. Taking “For Eternity” as an example, the composer correctly noticed that the melody line is rather Eastern, and uses the erhu for the main melody. The erhu possesses a much wider range than the voice, and it takes advantage of that to work in octave jumps used to bring out the feeling of resolve in the chorus. While the melody in this piece is solely taken by the erhu, the piece is far from bland as the background instruments helps direct one’s attention to the important bits.

Powder Snow

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And the final bonus for Pure is in getting Suara to provide the vocals for four of the tracks. Suara’s strong yet gentle voice goes together beautifully with the acoustic instruments. And because there is as much emphasis on the vocals as on the instruments, the level of expressiveness is just breathtaking. In “Powder Snow,” Suara brings out the beautiful season of winter, as well as the yearning for one’s love. Coupled with the gentle accompaniment of the piano, acoustic guitar and cello in the background, the whole track comes across as warm and serene.

While those are the reasons which explains why I like this album so much, they are by no means the only ones. Indeed, I doubt I’ll ever stop trying to analyse every bit of this album, because it is just so intriguing and beautiful. And finally, though a really unprofessional act on my side, bonus points for having such a pretty cover.

Rating: Excellent

Jen

I have been a contributor to Anime Instrumentality since late 2009 (blimey...). Being a lousy musician trained in cello, keyboard and voice, I feel obliged to censure the other amateurs who have the cheek to release their rubbish to the world, and to affirm those who actually deserve their salary. Nothing gives me more joy than listening to good music, though I admit that writing scathing reviews on bad ones comes close.

6 thoughts on “Pure -AQUAPLUS Legend of Acoustics- Review

  • January 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm
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    Meh I’m not that fond of these arrangements. Especially Powder Snow; the cello is so prominent but it’s relegated to a confused role of part counter-melody, part get-out-of-the-way-harmony. When arranging in this situation you absolutely cannot designate an instrument to a musical function that needs to be done. I feel like some of the instruments were added in just because they might sound pretty on their own, but in this case less is more IMO. I don’t like the tone of the guitar (probably just a mixing issue) but its place in the song seems totally unnecessary to me. In terms of harmonic content the piano covers everything just fine. I feel like the arranger had to sacrifice a lot melodic breadth in both the piano and guitar’s harmonic function to fit them both together. Had there been only one instrument, the main accompaniment instrument part could have been a lot tighter overall.

    I generally dislike the tone of chamber classical music [instruments] though…

    Reply
  • January 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm
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    Had those strings in “Heart to Heart” played pizzicato, I probably would have loved it 5x more. I liked “Each to Their Own Future”, but the flautist needs to bring out that brilliant tone and sing into each note rather playing it separately. Other than that and the audibly noticeable clacking of keys, it was an enjoyable song. Loved “For Eternity”, no comments more than that. “Powder Snow” felt empty and devoid of any real emotions instrumentally.

    Analytically, I’m baffled to the choice of instruments and the inability to create anticipation for some of these samples, but looking through a practical lens, these tracks would excel at being what they are, background music. They have achieved their goal if that was their aim.

    @lelangir
    “I generally dislike the tone of chamber classical music [instruments] though…”

    Oh? What caused this?

    Reply
  • January 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm
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    @lelangir
    I do admit my review focuses more on the simple enjoyment aspect. Basically, if one doesn’t look too deep into the music theory behind the arrangements and listen to the tracks as a whole, it would prove to be enjoyable. That said, I do agree some instruments were a little too loud to the point of being distracting…

    @Rhythmroo
    I think the inability to create anticipation is largely due to the fact the tracks must be cut. Cutting these tracks is like cutting those of orchestral arrangements: nearly impossible. When you choose only a segment of the track, it inevitably leads to a loss in the music progression.

    Reply
  • January 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm
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    >>Oh? What caused this?

    Hmm I guess it’s caused by sitting through tons of horrible middle/high school concerts…

    @jen; i agree with rhythm that these pieces are nice BGM. I’m not familiar with the original versions either :/

    Reply
  • January 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm
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    It’s usually hit or miss for these sorts of songs that go from vocal to all-instrumental, and I think that’s the case here. You need a really good orchestrator when working with source material like this, like the Haruhi orchestration that zzero reviewed a while back, man that album was awesome, (minus Aya’s singing… ugh).

    My favorite here was “For Eternity” as well. Didn’t know that was called an erhu, either, it sounds almost like the human voice! I thought it was someone singing at first, haha.

    Reply
    • January 17, 2011 at 12:53 am
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      I’m thinking it definitely helps to have a better grasp of the originals to really have a feel for how well these arrangements turn out. As it is, I like the way the instrumental tracks turned out. I’m somehow more fond of Fujita Junpei’s work out of the lot with “Eternal Love” beating out “Heart to Heart” by a hair, though the latter’s optimism is always pleasant. Agematsu’s stuff is a close second.

      I was kinda hoping to hear your thoughts on Suara’s “Musouka/Dream Song” since that and “Powder Snow” were the only two I recognized. I do like the way the accompaniment is much more reserved though and it complements the original pretty well.

      Reply

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