Hi there, long time no see. As you may know from my last post, finals/exam week came and went and once I finished up my junior year of high school, I really wasn’t in the mood to write anything, thus I took another week off. However, I’m actually feeling guilty for not doing anything last week (especially on the #moe404 side) so I’m doing my best to get back in the gist of things in a quick manner since I love talking to you guys about things I find interesting.
But enough of the chit-chat and sentimental explanations, today’s post is a special one since I got another opportunity to collaborate with a fellow blogger, Leap250! After our first Idol Chit-Chat on his blog, I suddenly got another blog post idea (actually like more than one lol) that was perfect for us to work on since J-music is a pretty big part in what we both usually post on our respective blogs.
Essentially, I thought it would be fun for us suggest to each other an album from our own libraries and review/rate them after taking a good listen. Leap cleverly created a name for this segment, it being J-Music Exchange/Rate! We’re hoping this could be a recurring thing between us since we both love discovering new music, as well as possibly introducing you guys to the Japanese music you can find in or outside of anime.
This time around, it seems like we suggested albums that are considered some of our favorites of all-time, with Leap showing me Kinoko Teikoku’s Uzu ni Naru EP while I (unsurprisingly) recommended to him what I consider is SHISHAMO’s best album, SHISHAMO 3, which you can check out his thoughts by clicking here!
I promise the intro for these posts won’t be as long as this but before it can get any longer, let’s just jump right into the review!
Discovering new music is always an interesting and fun experience to be apart of, and today’s album is an excellent example of that kind of scenario. The J-rock I usually listen to is, what I would consider, mixed with a more poppy and energetic feel to it, examples being SHISHAMO, sumika, Polkadot Stingray, UNISON SQUARE GARDEN, etc. However it felt like a curveball was thrown right at me since Kinoko Teikoku’s Uzu ni Naru was just something remarkably new to me, the first time listening to it.
The band Kinoko Teikoku (translating to “Mushroom Empire”) was formed in 2007, consisting of former actress Sato Chiaki on lead vocals/guitar, Aa-chan on guitar, Taniguchi Shigeaki on bass, and drummer Nishimura Kon.
It wouldn’t be until 2012 when they made their commercial debut with this LP, Uzu ni Naru, it being considered a lot more polished than their earlier works. Since then, they have released three other albums and a few EPs and singles as well. I also read that even though nowadays Kinoko Teikoku has changed their style of music from indie rock and shoegaze (we’ll get more into that word in a second) to more pop-rock, they still express their traditional vibe that most fans enjoy.
Like I was saying, this band is categorized as “indie rock/shoegaze”… to be honest, I had to look up what “shoegaze” was real quick because I have never heard that term before. But even though I did some research, I don’t think I can really describe it in my own words so let me show you the definition I got off Wikipedia:
Shoegazing is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. Its sound is characterised by an ethereal mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume.
It also has an alternative term, it being “dream pop” and to be honest, it’s an interesting genre to listen to and learn about. So that being said, let me get into my review of Uzu ni Naru, released May of 2012.
Before we get into my own thoughts, let me allow Leap to share his nice viewpoint on this album:
Kinoko Teikoku’s Uzu ni Naru (“Become a Whirlpool”) is an album that, much like it’s namesake, pushes and pulls and brings us into a spiraling depth of music and emotion from the first track up to the last. “WHIRLPOOL” wahses up off our feet ang into a sea of an almost hypnotizing sound; carrying us out and away from dry land and into the current — where we’re left floating out into the abyss, left to confront the darkness both within and without, so as to “Stave Off Boredom” (Taikutsu Shinogi). And as we contemplate in deep soltitude, we reflect on the very meaning of living in the “School Fiction” that is our past, filled with humdrum throughts of staring out from a bus window thinking about what if a “Girl Meets NUMBER GIRL”. But not for long our consciousness snaps back to reality; back to “The SEA”, where we’re now adrift in the ebb and flow of our own melancholy now brought to the surface. But “When The Day Breaks” (Yoru ga Aketara) we find with it the resolution we need to stand again and carry on right as we’re washed ashore. The water now only goes up to our “Ankle(s)” (Ashikubi) as we make our way out to land again — to face the new day not knowing what it would bring.
Uzu ni Naru is a harmonious experience owing to both its beautiful “Shoegaze” instrumentation and Chiaki Sato’s harrowing vocals that I would urge people to listen to at least once in their lifetime.
Well, as I said earlier, this is what you call “indie rock/shoegaze” music and there are a lot of different things you can hear in this album’s songs that line up with the definition Wikipedia provided us such as the “dream-like” feeling and the frequent volume changes throughout some songs. I think that was one of the first things I noticed, a lot of the songs in this EP start off very mellow and eventually get to a point where the energy kicks in and the emotional vibe rises (or some songs go back and forth throughout). A great example would be the fifth song, “The SEA”, where it starts off with Sato Chiaki’s very somber vocals accompanied by a relaxing sequence, and gradually starts to become louder and louder as you progress through the track.
Other than that, I just thought this album had a very, very mellow vibe to it. Its general slow pace is significantly different from the J-music/rock I usually listen to, which is pretty much the complete opposite. But even then, it’s manages to be a really nice rock album.
One of my favorite things about this album/band is definitely Sato Chiaki’s voice. I’ve realized I don’t hear that many female singers with pretty deep voices and being a person out of that particular loop, I actually really liked listening to Sato sing in this way. She can sing well in a more somber tone, as well as singing with more energy to go alongside a particular melody, and I just thought that was a significant thing to note.
Speaking of instruments and from what I listened to, it’s your standard guitar, bass and drums kind of setup we got going on here. However the way they can immediately transition to something like simple, low strumming or a finger-picking sequence into a sudden blast of everything going into your ears was interesting to listen to in a good handful of songs. There are also different sounds and noises that go alongside the flow of the song such as hearing the calm ocean, which is a nice touch.
Let me admit that usually when I listen to Japanese music, I really don’t pay much attention to the lyrics that much (mostly because I unfortunately don’t understand what they’re singing about). However looking over the lyrics for these tracks, I can definitely see there’s an interesting theme and narrative to follow.
What I personally got out of it (and it may be completely wrong or you can see it a different way) is basically showing a person dealing with depression and having a sense of “emptiness” in their life.
Even if I just stare at the hands of the broken clock,
It means nothing. At least I know that much.
The truth is it was never supposed to be like this, or so you say.
I’m still searching
For the reasons why I hate, the reasons why I cry.
However there are parts where they lighten up a little, such as in “スクールフィクション” where you can see there’s some confidence or willingness to change the way they are in life.
I repeat it, I warp it, I despise it, I hope for it,
I grow close to it and get jostled.
I worry, I regret, I feel lost, I stay silent.
I’m searching for the meaning of life. I’m going to search for it.
But yeah, there’s so much grief being expressing and I even started to have some sympathy for this person after reading through the lyrics of these songs.
Uzu ni Naru, from a person who hasn’t really dove deep enough into this kind of genre of music, was definitely an enjoyable album. It took me a few run-throughs with this album to fully gather my thoughts on it but in the end, it was one interesting selection of music to listen to. Things like Sato Chiaki’s voice, the various melodies, the very chill and somber vibe throughout, it’s a nice change of pace and style from the music I usually listen to. And while I am mostly pointing out the positives, the only real drawback I have with it is that I just don’t think this is the kind of music I would listen to regularly or enjoy as much my other preferred musical genres or styles of rock.
Rating – 7.5/10
And there ya go! Hope this album review was interesting to read and maybe even introduced you to a new artist 🙂
I had a ton of fun doing this new segment with Leap and the possibility of it being a recurring thing on both of our blogs is pretty high (I have a good amount of music to share, and I’m very sure Leap also does) so look forward to the next two reviews. Until the next post~
Thanks for reading!! 😀