|Pure -AQUAPLUS Legend of Acoustics-
|Utawarerumono, To Heart, White Album, Tears to Tiara
|Elements Garden (Arrangement), Suara
|November 28, 2007
|1. Fate -SADAME-
|2. Heart to Heart
|3. Each to Their Own Future
|4. Dream Song
|Michio Kinugasa, Suara
|5. For Eternity
|6. POWDER SNOW
|Naoya Shimokawa, Suara
|7. Eternal Love
|8. Last Words ~ Last Vow ~ Silence
|9. For Your Sake
|Naoya Shimokawa, Suara
|Junya Matsuoka, Suara
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
[audio:02 aquaplus.mp3 ]
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
[audio:03 aquaplus.mp3 ]
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.
[audio:05 aquaplus.mp3 ]
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.
[audio:06 aquaplus.mp3 ]
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.