Hands on Necronomidol’s “DEATHLESS” Limited Edition vinyl

The Necronomidol project grew up a lot in 2017. After years perfecting and refining a now definitive sound, in the last months the ultra-dark Idol unit really took off and shown to both Japan and the world its true potential, bringing the five girls to perform in Europe (with an upcoming U.S Tour on the way) and release a new amazing single, as well as their second full-length album DEATHLESS, that gained widespread critical acclaim from several headlines and blogs.

I too thought that DEATHLESS was a great record. It’s an album that brought Necronomidol on a whole another level, both in terms of sound and overall quality, experimenting with different influences while being cohesive, and exposing a more mature and enjoyable side of the unit’s sound: surely one of the highest peaks from the Alternative/Underground Idol scene this year.

The girls and their team really worked hard this year to make the Necronomidol project stand out, and the results speak for themselves. But before this great year for the ultra-dark Idol unit comes to an end, Necronomidol has one more surprise in store for their fans: a new vinyl release.

Just like their debut record Nemesis, DEATHLESS too is getting an analog release, a limited edition printed and distributed by French label Specific Recordings, with whom I have collaborated several times in the past. As great fans of Necronomidol, these guys not only took the chance to bring this record on vinyl format to the fans, they also gave it a new look, thanks to the hand of French artist Pierre Weird, who drawn a brand new cover for the record. As shown by these pictures, the result is nothing short of amazing.

 

The re-design affected the vinyl itself too, and it honestly looks beautiful. Pictures can’t possibly capture the real color, but this Sari green is stunning to see once you hold the record in your hands.

 

As for the sound, it was a lot of fun to hear this record on my system. I’m generally a headphone guy, but hearing the opener END OF DAYS and its violent riff and blast beats on my speakers honestly made me smile like a child on Christmas day. I’d say it made me bald, if I already wasn’t bald.

Necronomidol’s DEATHLESS Limited Edition vinyl will be up for pre-order on December 1st, and will go on sale on January 5th 2018. The release comes in three editions, with different vinyl colors: 300 copies on “Risaki Black”, 200 copies on “Sari Green”, and 30 copies on black or green including a limited printed ouija board.

 

I’m sure that every Necronomidol fan will love this, so if you’re interested, be sure to check out Specific Recordings website to get your copy of the DEATHLESS vinyl.

As usual, I’d like to point out that I don’t get paid for promoting this product. I do it because I’m always up to help fellow fans to spread Japanese music to the world, and the guys at Specific Recordings have always been great friends to collaborate with in this task. Therefore, thank you once again for sending me this beautiful vinyl.

I’ll see you guys soon!

– Alex

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For Tracy Hyde – He(r)art | ALBUM REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

I just finished writing my review for He(r)art, the second studio album from Tokyo-based Shoegaze outfit For Tracy Hyde. Considering how much I liked their previous releases – and after the promising single “floor” – I had pretty high expectations for this record.

And boy… these guys made it: He(r)art is without a shade of doubt one of the best records of 2017. This album resonates so much with me, particularly with my memories and life experiences in what I consider my second home, Tokyo. The record is filled with so much passion for music and emotions that it couldn’t be otherwise, spacing between different moods and vibes, while still being absolutely cohesive, structurally rock-solid, and delicate in its flow. It’s really a trip worth taking.

Be sure to read my review of the new For Tracy Hyde album by following the link below. This is one of my favorite albums of 2017, and I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.


FOR TRACY HYDE’S “HE(R)ART” ALBUM REVIEW ON ARAMA! JAPAN.


– Alex

MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow | SINGLE REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

MIGMA SHELTER is certainly one of the most interesting acts in the Alt Idol niche this year; part of the AqbiRec family (There There Theres, CLOCK&BOTAN), the six girls are the first unit in the scene to adopt Trance music as core of their sound, whereas other projects only briefly flirted with it to refine particular passages in certain tracks. I kind of feel guilty for not having ever talked about these girls before, so I took the release of their second single “Amazing Glow” as a chance to finally analyze this one-of-a-kind project. It’s a brief but very consistent release, that consolidates the sound proposed by these talented girls and their production team. Be sure to read my full review for MIGMA SHELTER‘s second single “Amazing Glow” on ARAMA JAPAN!

MIGMA SHELTER – Amazing Glow | SINGLE REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN


– Alex

· · · · · · · · · – Tokyo | EP REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

If you’ve been following my blog this year, you know that Idol unit · · · · · · · · · (better known as Dots) is one of my favorite emerging artists this year. With a mysterious concept backed up by Shoegaze numbers permeated by attractive melancholic vibes, this enigmatic project constantly kept me interested and, most of all, entertained. It’s clear that some of Japan’s finest Shoegazers are behind the Dots project, but the mysterious aura and the anonomisity that flows through each of their songs and videos work as a great catalyst for their music, complementing each other very well.

After an extremely busy (to say the least) summer, I’ve finally found the time to write a review of Dots‘ recent EP Tokyo, a very curious and interesting release filled with good music and… a few surprises. Surely particular, yet very accessible, I feel like  recommending this release to all of you. Be sure to follow the link down below to read my review on ARAMA! JAPAN‘s website!

Reviewing the 72 minutes long track from Idol unit · · · · · · · · · on ARAMA! JAPAN

– Alex

NECRONOMIDOL – DAWNSLAYER | SINGLE REVIEW

Release Date: August 30
Formats: CD, Digital
Label: Velocitron


NECRONOMIDOL adds atmospheric touches to their solid formula, and it works wonders.

Fresh off their first European tour, the ultra-dark Idol unit NECRONOMIDOL is back with a new release that takes the form of a four-tracks single titled DAWNSLAYER, exploring new fields and adding new touches to a sound that has constantly evolved and improved over the years. After the release of the excellent DEATHLESS – that gave ultimate consistency to Necroma’s solid formula made of extreme Metal influences merged with Idol Pop bits – DAWNSLAYER is a release that could have easily played it safe without taking any risk.

Still, perfectionism and experimentation are constant elements in the NECRONOMIDOL project, so it comes at no surprise that DAWNSLAYER adds even more elements to the unit’s sound, highlighting a more atmospheric approach and enriching an already solid formula without overhauling its core. While the opening title track and STARRY WISDOM adopt the rock-solid sound of the unit, they also delicately hints at atmospheric soundscapes, that well intersecate with the melodies and the violent rhythms typical of Power/Black Metal classics. These atmospheric touches fully take form in the following R’LYEH, a masterful and surprising number that creates a cold – almost dystopian – soundscape thanks to layers of synths who originate from Idol Pop, but that dramatically help in building an atmosphere that’s way far from anything related to it, punching the listener right at the beginning to then hide and come back to keep up the atmosphere between frantic drum patterns; the girls do an extremely good job throughout the whole record, but it’s fair to say that their vocal skills particularly shine in this impressively crafted piece. This atmospheric turn plays a primary role in celephaïs too, a ballad mainly revolving around classical instruments that perfectly fit the ethereal voices of the girls, as well as giving a consistent contribute to the esoteric mood of the record. Adopting a whole different approach, the NWOBHM-indebted ABHOTH brings the unit back on a more straight-to-the-point Metal formula, showcasing their versatility in rocking both darker and more uplifting numbers with a classic but solid pattern.

Despite being “only” a single release, DAWNSLAYER adds new and exciting elements to NECRONOMIDOL’s sound: it delivers the vibes the unit firmly consolidated in the last record, but also takes risks in experimenting with particularly atmospheric elements, creating darker-than-ever soundscapes that well-fit the unit’s identity and charisma. The result is genuinely impressived, and DAWNSLAYER is yet another proof of NECRONOMIDOL‘s impressive dedication and focus, that now more than ever makes the five girls the most mature Alternative Idol unit project out there.

– Alex

As usual, special thanks to Richard for providing me with an early copy of this single. Credits for the beautiful pics go to Leo Berne.

BiSH – GiANT KiLLERS | MINI ALBUM REVIEW

Release Date: June 9, 2017
Formats: CD, Digital
Label: Avex


The new BiSH record suffers from a clear identity crisis, but there’s still hope for the future

BiSH is without a doubt the act from the Alternative Idol niche that’s getting the most attention. After last year’s well received record “KiLLER BiSH”, the six relentless girls came back with a single a few months ago that raised more than an eyebrow among fans, not for its quality per se, but for the lack of hard-hitting tracks in favor of a clearly mainstream-oriented approach; the reaction was so loud that even the unit’s producer reached out to the fans on Twitter, citing “Budokan” as one of the reasons behind this stylistic approach. Definitely a clear explanation.

As a consequence, this new release from BiSH – that takes the form a five tracks Mini Album titled GiANT KiLLERS – has been awaited as a sort of indicator of the unit’s stylistic direction in this particular moment of their career: between those who expect a total mainstream turn in their sound, and those who hope in a revamped version of the relentless attitude that marked the unit’s previous records, no one truly knew what to expect from this mini album.

“GiANT KiLLERS” is a record that lies in the middle of the above-mentioned expectations: not a series of slow-tempo ballads, neither a complete collection of bangers. The potential is still there, and there’s no doubt about it: the title track and opener is a perfect representation of what the unit is capable of, perfectly merging a catchy approach to the franticness typical of the BiSH sound, with fast-paced drum patterns and melodic riffs culminating in a chorus made of catchy vocal lines and Punk-reminiscing choirs, resulting in an instant earworm and a powerful track for live shows. If there’s a sound that best represents BiSH in this moment of their career, it’s definitely this one: it fits their identity while being extremely fun and refreshing.

It’s a shame that “GiANT KiLLERS” doesn’t nurture this winning formula, as the record kinda fails at keeping the interest up after the great impact of the first track. There’s nothing necessarily bad here, but most of it sounds shallow and even repetitive at times: Nothing sounds like it was made from leftovers of the “Orchestra” recordings, and while it’s a style that can somehow find its place in the structure of a full record, it’s pretty clear that piano melodies and cheesy symphonic layers just don’t fit in a mini album of a unit that gives its best when feasting on Punk Rock and Metal influences. “VOMiT SONG” suffers from a problem the unit showcased in recent times, that lies in overly lengthy and uninspired choruses; this issue is partly present in “Marionette” as well, but the track ultimately works thanks to electric guitar riffs that enrich several sections. The record still occasionally showcases interesting ideas, particularly in “Shakai no Rule“, featuring a goofy and playful approach – a first for the unit – that works surprisingly well, coupled by a straight-to-the-point and carefree chorus that’s as simple as effective: it’s a fast and fun track that kinda plays it safe, but it still stands out as one of the best-crafted numbers on this mini album.

Overall, “GiANT KiLLERS” is a record that shows a lot of uncertainness. It tries to be overly appealing and friendly, an approach that comes in contrast with the nature of the project and the girls alike, consequentially failing due to a clearly uninspired songwriting. On the other hand, it also shows that BiSH can still rock and adopt interesting ideas, other than finding a perfect compromise between their typical sound and the position they’re in, as shown by the brilliant title track.

For this, “GiANT KiLLERS” suffers from a clear identity crisis, and it’s surely the weakest release from BiSH to date. At the same time, it also proves that these girls and their team still have what it takes to make exciting music that can satisfy their fans, as well as attracting new ones. They just need to choose the right direction, because it’s clear that they’re trying to satisfy their fanbase as well as developing a way too forced mainstream appeal, and the result is naturally conflicted and unconvincing. The hope is that they will take a moment to realize what’s best for them, while rocking bigger stages and ranking higher in the charts.

Vote: 6 / 10


– Alex

Mikazuki BIG WAVE – Watashi no YUME DIARY | EP REVIEW for ARAMA! JAPAN

Release Date: June 3, 2017
Format:
 Digital, CD (only a few copies)
Label: Self-released


Future Funk and Japanese 80’s Disco flawlessly merge together in Mikazuki BIGWAVE’s new record

Riding the wave of the 80’s revival/vaporwave phenomenon, Future Funk is probably the genre that melds past and future sounds in the most enjoyable and effective way. Whereas most projects out there sound as simple revivals or throwbacks to the good old 80’s vibes (not that it’s a bad thing), this particular sub-genre shows a strong will to effectively adapt modern influences into this sound, usually resulting into intriguing and enjoyable compositions.

Yokohama-based producer/singer Mikazuki BIGWAVE – also member of the Pink Neon Tokyocollective – is one of the most representative artists of this fairly recent genre, and with “Watashi no YUME DIARY” she’s bringing her most solid and convincing work to date. Setting aside the fact that with thirteen tracks this is actually more of an album than a EP, this record is pretty much the answer to anyone who’s wondering what Future Funk actually is: a fusion of 80’s Japanese Disco with Funk-imbued instrumentals, put in the frame of a modern execution overflowing with digital alterations.

Mikazuki BIGWAVE does a very well done job in exposing this approach, and the result is a pleasantly catchy and well-crafted record. As expectable, the whole work is filled with shiny Synthesizer melodies, slapping bass lines and funky guitar riffs, backed up by samples and vocals that fit the mood of each track with smart digital manipulations. The record is not afraid to chop-up parts and toning down the mood at its own will to expose the juiciest sections, adopting modern influences like the Techno-pop beats of “Sweet Days“, probably the track that dares the most in the whole record, yet without compromising the core formula of it. While the neat fusion of old and modern is certainly the star of the show here, shiny melodies and catchy passages are what makes this record so enjoyable, with tracks like “You’re the only one“, “Midnight Highway” and “BLIZZARD” as prime examples, featuring striking soundscapes that make these numbers instant earworms.

Watashi no YUME DIARY” is a fun and greatly crafted record, filled with details that create catchy compositions often featuring some impressive soundscapes. In the midst of the whole 80’s revival wave, Mikazuki BIGWAVE‘s record stands out for its flawless balance between old and modern, as well as for its excellent songwriting. A very enjoyable record not to miss.


Originally posted on ARAMA! JAPAN. Be sure to listen to the record down here:

Natsume Mito – Natsumelo | ALBUM REVIEW for Electric Bloom Webzine

A bit late on this one, but finally my review of Natsume Mito‘s debut record Natsumelo is online!

This record is as important for Mito as it is for Yasutaka Nakata, and they both did an amazing job here: Mito’s charisma and interpretation fits Nakata’s style greatly, and the production is overall brilliant. I can say without a shade of doubt that this is the best record Nakata has produced in years… I’d say since Kyary’s Nandacollection. It’s fast, fun, and full of different influences, both new and old; it has a clear modern touch, but at the same time it revisits sounds that are part of Nakata’s past, sometimes even going as far as including Shibuya-Kei and Chiptune bits.

Natsumelo is a great record that fans of both Mito and Nakata’s productions will undoubtedly love. Be sure to read my review on Electric Bloom Webzine!

– Alex

sora tob sakana – Cocoon EP | Review

Release Date: April 11th
Format: CD, Digital
Label: Flying Penguin Records


Sora tob sakana explores deeper emotions and atmospheric soundscapes in this record, and it works wonders


Following the highly praised debut record that made 2016 considerably better for the Idol scene, Idol unit Sora tob sakana is back with a new release that takes the form of a six-tracks extended play titled “Cocoon EP“.

Well known and beloved in the underground niche for their talented production team and classy concept, sora tob sakana shown a rock-solid structure in every aspect so far; their self-titled debut record showcased impressive technical prowess, with compositions that made the classic patterns of Math Rock the core of the unit’s sound, while framing it with the flashiness of Synth-pop.

Cocoon EP” doesn’t get too far from the original formula, yet it ventures towards a melancholic and overall more atmospheric direction, an artistic choice that well fits the sound of the unit. The record sets the bar high immediately with “ribbon“, one of the most emotional and genuinely beautiful tracks the unit ever had, a perfect fusion of sounds enriched with atmospheric soundscapes, that gains even more pathos if coupled with the beautiful Music Video. The following “Time machine ni Sayonara” lifts the mood up (maybe a little too much), but it’s more of an isolated case when put in the context of the record, as the unit keeps on experimenting with different vibes without sacrificing cohesiveness. The common thread in “Cocoon EP” mostly lies in the adaptation of the unit’s trademark technique applied to Electronic influences – something that’s especially noticeable in the rhythmic department – and merges it with delicate guitar melodies and occasional aggressive riffs, kinda reverting the roles of the two sides composing Sakana’s sound. It’s a different and smart take on the same formula, featuring a slightly different mood that works wonders when coupled with the girls’ vocals, that bring good interpretation and more relevant vocal lines.

Cocoon EP” is a strong successor to sora tob sakana’s outstanding debut record, that delivers the same valid formula in a more refined and slightly different way. Another solid and well-crafted release not to miss.

– Alex

CHARAN PO RANTAN – Rose Balkan | Vinyl Overview and Artist profile

If you follow the Japanese music scene, you know there’s a pretty impressive amount of artists who mix up different (and, sometimes, apparently unrelated) genres together. It’s a refreshing approach that can lead to interesting results, and while it doesn’t necessarily always work, when it does, it’s a sign of great talent. It’s the case of CHARAN PO RANTAN, a duo composed by sisters Momo and Koharu, but this time it’s something you can’t find anywhere else in the Japanese scenes… it’s actually something pretty unique. And it’s clear since the beginning, when you press the Play button and their compilation album Rose Balkan: these girls are pretty unique.

CHARAN PO RANTAN is indeed a duo that takes typical east-European folk music, mostly Klezmer and gipsy tunes, and perfectly mixes them up with Japanese vocals that would sound totally at home in J-pop’s mainstream scene. The result, in all honesty, is totally amazing, a perfectly working engine fueled by the chemistry between Koharu’s accordion and Momo’s voice. While on paper the sound is certainly aimed to an audience with precise tastes, the reality is that the duo’s music can be easily enjoyed by pretty much anyone, thanks to catchy and well-built melodies framed in a friendly structure, that highlights each section with great emphasis.

After all, the talent of the two sisters is no news: Koharu’s skills with the accordion have even been noticed by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, and Momo’s remarkable versatility in singing is a fundamental element of the group’s sound. This sonic (and cultural) balance has granted the duo an overseas fanbase as well, with performances in England, Canada, U.S. and a few gigs at Austin’s SXSW festival, that exposed Koharu and Momo’s talent to a global scale.

CHARAN PO RANTAN is surely one of the most unique Japanese outfits out there, and their talent in merging such different cultures together is something truly remarkable, showcasing not only the talent, but also the respect the two sisters have towards the culture imprinted in their music.

I recently got my hands on CHARAN PO RANTAN’s vinyl Rose Balkan, a compilation album with some of the best and most acclaimed tunes from the duo, thanks to the guys at Specific recordings, who kindly sent me a press copy of the record. Gotta be honest: this thing looks beautiful, from the cover, to the color of the vinyl that genuinely made me happy, because I didn’t know I needed a pink vinyl in my life until now. This new vinyl will be available on the Specific Recordings shop starting April 22nd, and as you can see from the pics, it also features a CD and a Digital download code.

That’s it guys. As you know, I’m always up to support overseas labels trying to spread Japanese music in the world, and I think it’s important to recognize their great work. So if you love Japanese music… support the artists and the labels bringing these records to us!

– Alex