Posted by: depthcharge101 | January 20, 2011

Shikata’s 2010 Concert Report

First post for the year! A few days ago a ‘report’ was released on Shikata Akiko’s concert in 2010, link here.

Too lazy to translate the full report, but here are some thoughts:

Track list looks fantastic, although I expected a little more Ar tonelico songs, and Chronicle_Key is missing… A little disappointing there Shikata! In terms of coverage, she has songs from pretty much all of her albums, from the first doujin to the recent singles.

According to the report, the concert is broken into two parts: the first is bozouki and percussion focused; the second uses the multi-layered sounds/voices that we’re all too familiar with. The first part is arranged specifically for the concert to bring in the tension and rhythm of the percussion. The reporter feels that those songs perform in the first part were ever more oriental and ‘ethnic’. I wonder how was the arranged Mahoroba

The songs in the second part are generally more upbeat than the first, and the writer felt that he was being taken through a journey of stories. The songs were performed without much break and images and stories of the songs were presented on a screen (a similar style was used in Shimotsuki’s concert that I went 2 years ago, and it was particular fitting when the set of songs collectively tell a tale). The encore song (METHOD_SUBLIMATION) was also a pleasant surprise (as she chose a AT song), and it had left a pretty solid impression on the reporter. After being immersed in Shikata’s music in live for two and a half hours, it must have been an indescribable experience…

On another unrelated note on Shimotsuki, she’s just released two albums recently, Tsunagi Chou no Tsuka and Traumerei. Tsunagi Chou no Tsuka is a mini doujin album, composed mostly by MANYO. Definitely worth a listen if anyone’s interested in Shimotsuki’s older doujin days where her songs had a more traditional, oriental aura (erhu <3). Traumerei is a compilation of pop’ish theme songs that she has done for a number of Innocent Grey games (again mostly composed MANYO). A great little collection album for the fans.

Download links:

Posted by: depthcharge101 | October 6, 2010

Dalby’s Geisha

Picked this book up on a whim at a second hand book store the other day. And it turned out to be a great read.

Liza Dalby, an anthropology student back then, went to Japan to research about geisha for her PhD thesis in the 70s. Interestingly, she ended up ‘becoming’ a geisha herself, although not formally.

Geisha is probably the profession that has been misunderstood and mystified more than any others – but it is not unreasonable, because even the secretive lifestyle of geisha is barely understood by the modern Japanese society these days. What are they? What roles do they play? What is the raison d’etre of a geisha in a contemporary society? Are they just glorified prostitutes?

In a short answer, no. They are not sex workers. But like most things, reality is rarely that simple. Geisha provides an in-depth overview of the various categories or types of geisha, and after finishing the book, one would be able understand the difficulty to describe geisha in a few lines. Even though it is written by an academic, the prose is simple and easy to read. And what makes this book rather interesting is that it not only has good amount of objective and factual text on geisha culture and philosophy, but also her subjective experience as a Pontocho geisha, thus reading like both a textbook and autobiography.

The only shortcoming of the book is that it is organized rather clumsily. I have to say the chapters and topics are rarely clear, observations often mix with personal perspective in the same text without much distinction. Not that it makes the book any less interesting to read, though.

Definitely a good book to start for anyone interested on the topic of geisha. Next on the list: Iwasaki Mineko’s Geisha of Gion!

Posted by: depthcharge101 | May 11, 2010

Shimotsuki’s Live Lv. 3

Shimotsuki had two concerts recently, one in Tokyo and another in Osaka. She will be having one more on the 15th at Tokyo Akasaka Blitz.

Set list:

  1. Omoi no Kanata (想いのカナタ)
  2. COSMOLAGOON
  3. Kienai Uta (消えない欠片)
  4. Tsuisou no Mado (追葬の窓)
  5. Kazahane (カザハネ)
  6. Yuragu Sora (ユラグソラ)
  7. Yume Watashi ~ Negai no Shirushi (夢渡し ~ 希いの標)
  8. Neji Maku Tokei ga Tsuki no Michikake o Kizamu (捻子巻く時計が月の満ち欠けを刻む)
  9. snowdrop
  10. Boukyaku no Tsubasa (忘却の翼)
  11. Fushigi Mori (Inst.) (フシギノモリ)
  12. break time
  13. ~kukui’s corner~

  14. Little Primrose
  15. Hikari no Rasenritsu (光の螺旋律)
  16. ~Ar tonelico’s corner~

  17. Byakuya Gensoutan (白夜幻想譚)
  18. EXEC_LINCA/.
  19. Hoshimeguri no Uta (星巡りの詩)
  20. Owari no Toki e (終焉の時へ)
  21. Nemuri no Hate no Aoi Hana (眠りの果ての蒼い花)
  22. ~Encore~

  23. Owari no nai Tabi (終わりのない旅)
  24. Michibiki no Harmony (導きのハーモニー)

Random comments:

  • Yuragu Sora! One of the few tracks that she has never failed to perform in all her solo live.
  • Hikari no Rasenritsu… Another personal favourite.
  • Good selection overall. Considerably less pop theme songs compared to her second live.
  • Would be awesome if she would do the harder ar tonelico songs. And also get Shikata Akiko as a guest : )
  • Hopefully there will be a DVD release. Although Shimotsuki mentioned that it might not be possible because the songs performed come from everywhere and there are a lot of publishing and copyright issues to deal with. But there’s always hope.

Source of the set list: link

Posted by: depthcharge101 | February 28, 2010

Rin’

Rin’ is a music group that combines contemporary music style and Japanese traditional instruments. There are 3 members in the group (Mana, Chie and Tomoca), each of them specializes in different instruments but koto (琴), biwa (琵琶), shakuhachi (尺八) and sangen (三弦) are more used than others. I’ve always liked the sounds of koto and shakuhachi, but plain traditional instrumentals are probably a little bland for most people these days and they certainly aren’t something I’d like to listen very often. And then I learnt about Rin’. The formula of fusing traditional and modern instruments is probably nothing new, but the key here is the execution and applying the formula will get anyone nowhere unless it is actually done right.

With that said, the vocal is probably the weaker point of the group. While it might not be too noticeable in the recordings, it is apparent in the live concert that they struggle at certain notes (especially Mana) and they are clearly not the best singers out there. They also don’t always write their songs, despite being a group, but that is probably reasonable since it is no laughing matter to construct a piece of coherent music that employs a set of unconventional instruments, for a group of freshly graduated music students at least.

Sadly, the group was disbanded in February 2009 and they were no longer active. Some of the members became solo artists, and Mana just released her first album recently, but the Rin’s essence was lost. I guess it is logical to say that it’d be more interesting to listen to 3 traditional instruments than just 1 =/

But that doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying their released work. Below are some samples from their first album – Jikuu (時空), and it is thought to be one of the best.

Tracklist:

  1. Jikuu (時空) (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100228jikuu-jikuu.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  2. Sakitama – Sakitama (幸魂)
  3. Yachiyo no Kaze (八千代ノ風) (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100228jikuu-yachiyonokaze.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  4. Fuhen (普遍) (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100228jikuu-fuhen.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  5. Miyabi (雅) (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100228jikuu-miyabi.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  6. weakness
  7. Doushin (道心) (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100228jikuu-doushin.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  8. Smile on (English ver.)
  9. Will
  10. Sai no Kami (サイの神) (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100228jikuu-sainokami.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  11. Eternal

A trailer for Shimotsuki’s Concert DVD (Fantasy concert held last year on 23/11) is out. It can be watched here on Youtube.

Pre-order will include Thindaria no Tane and Griotte no Nemuri Hime postcards.  The DVD is released on February 24th and it can be pre-ordered here. Definitely worth getting if you missed the concert, this is the first chance to get a glimpse of Shimotsuki performing live. Songs performed are all the tracks from Thindaria no Tane and about half of Griotte’s.

The much anticipated (at least for small portion of fans) Ar tonelico III hymmnos concert discs are released a few days ago.

Here’s the tracklist:

咲夜琉命 ~SAKIYA=RUMEI Ar tonelico III hymmnos concert side. 蒼~

  1. Legend of Ar tonelico III
  2. Utau Oka (謳う丘)~Harmonics TILIA~ <Shikata Akiko> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-utauoka~HarmonicsTILIA~.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  3. EXEC_EP=NOVA/. <Shikata Akiko>
  4. EXEC_FLIP_ARPHAGE/. <Shikata Akiko> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_FLIP_ARPHAGE_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  5. Toki no Suna (トキノスナ) <Shikata Akiko>
  6. EXEC_METEMPSYCHOSIS/. <Yoko> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_METEMPSYCHOSIS_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  7. EXEC_REBIRTHIA=PROTOCOL/. <KOKIA> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_REBIRTHIA%3DPROTOCOL_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  8. EXEC_COSMOFLIPS/. <KOKIA> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_COSMOFLIPS_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  9. Hikari no Naka ni (光の中に) <KOKIA>
  10. Ec Tisia <Shikata Akiko> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EcTisia.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  11. Planet Gene

珠洲ノ宮 ~SUZUNO=MIYA Ar tonelico III hymmnos concert side. 紅~

  1. Grow
  2. Kaze Shirushi (風標) <Inoue Azumi>
  3. EXEC_CUTYPUMP/. <Au> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_CUTYPUMP_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  4. EXEC_FLIP_FUSIONSPHERE/. <Shimotsuki Haruka> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_FLIP_FUSIONSPHERE_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  5. EXEC_ViiBaCi_MjiiRa/. <Shimotsuki Haruka>
  6. chmod b111000000/n <Yula Yayoi> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-chmodb111000000_n.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  7. EXEC_Z/. <Tougawa Haruka> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-EXEC_Z_..mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  8. METHOD_HYMMELI/. <Katakiri Rekka>
  9. XaaaCi. <Mitose Noriko> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-XaaaCi.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  10. Hoshimeguri no Uta (星巡りの詩) <Shimotsuki Haruka> (sample) http://sites.google.com/site/depthcharge101posts4/media/100130at3hymmnos-hoshimegurinouta.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1
  11. Glow

I don’t think I’ve listened enough to have a strong opinion on the music yet, but I am feeling confident on the blue disc and the inclusion of all the new singers have definitely brought a whole new definition to the Hymmnos “genre”, but whether that’s good or bad it’s something that has yet to be decided. I am definitely liking KOKIA’s song, and it’s only going to grow better. Contrary to Shikata’s style, KOKIA’s tracks are more soulful, more elegant, and ever healing. Wished Ueno Yoko had a chance to do a little more, it’s a little hard to build a strong impression with only 1 track to boot.

The red side… I’m still feeling very mixed about it. Shimotsuki’s song are of no surprise, consistent with the Hymmnos performance she had so far. Probably because of how “exotic” most other songs are, Shimotsuki’s tracks feel like a neutralizer to the album and at the moment are the better of the bunch. Have a try at the red side and see for yourself, I still couldn’t quite take CUTYPUMP, EXEC_Z feels like a failed J-pop track struggling to blend in some Hymmnos style, and tracks like chmod (any *nix geek would be able to understand this : P) and XaaaCi might be a little overcooked. But having said that, I am still feeling a little optimistic that these songs might grow a little more once I’ve experienced the context in the game and hopefully the music will live up to the expectation.

It is also good to note that on the blue disc, all the singers wrote their songs and they are experienced, well-established singer/songwriters. Pretty sure most people would know KOKIA, and Ueno Yoko used be a member of ZABADAK, who is pretty influential back in the 80s and 90s (in Japan at least). On the other hand, I have to say I haven’t heard most of the new singers on the red side and they are performing only one song written by non-GUST composers. One could only wonder why the significant difference in terms of production style and process between the two discs….

Download links:

Posted by: depthcharge101 | December 25, 2009

Shimotsuki Solo Live + Concert DVD Release!

Awesome Christmas news!

Shimotsuki Solo Live 3 is announced ! Link here.

It will be held at 2 places, one at Tokyo and another at Osaka. It seems like the event hall is bigger this time, so  it will probably feel more like a concert? Hopefully there will be some cheap flights around the time, definitely considering going again.

And concert DVD release ! Shimotsuki’s fantasy concert last month will be having a DVD release~ This is a first and it could mean future concerts will be treated with DVD releases as well. Definitely worth getting if you miss the concert. If you haven’t seen her raw live singing before, this is the chance to taste it :)

Official dvd release link here.

Posted by: depthcharge101 | December 9, 2009

Shimotsuki Stopping Maple Leaf Doujin Activity

Shimotsuki Haruka has just announced a few days ago on her blog that she’ll be stopping her doujin circle Maple Leaf and tieLeaf after the winter Comiket.The posts can be read here and here.

I was quite shocked when Aquagon mentioned about it first time, but after reading the posts it seems like she would still be continuing her fantasy music creation but the administration and handling work will be done by other people (the way how commercial albums are made I guess). Hopefully she’ll get more time to work on her own music, since that is the whole reason of stopping the doujin activity and not fall into the situation where she’ll only sing J-Pop theme songs =/

Quite a sudden announcement, and I guess fans would be too shocked if she announced this during the concert last month…

Posted by: depthcharge101 | December 8, 2009

Some of the stuff bought from Shimotsuki’s Concert.

Finally found some time to upload a pic for the things bought from Shimotsuki’s live in November.

List of things bought:

  • A muffler
  • A t-shirt
  • The pamphlet and a bag
  • Tsukioi no Toshi plus edition
  • Maple Leaf Box
  • Shimotsuki mini mascot

Probably cost about AUD 100 roughly for everything? Couldn’t quite remember the prices for each thing. They have most of her major CDs for sale there, including the Ar tonelico CDs, her  pop compilation discs like Ashiato Rhythm, Oto no Compass, and doujin/fantasy albums like Lip-Aura, Wyrdrad no Shirabe, etc. Most of the doujin discs are pretty cheap (1000 to 2000 yen) while the commercial ones are slightly more expensive (2000-3000 yen), but still cheaper compared to the official sale price.

Most of the non-CD merchandises sold out in the end, but I managed to buy the T-shirt (last one for my size) and the muffler. The CDs are not selling as well as the merchandises,  probably because most fans would already have them (or they just prefer to download it), although Yuragu Sora is sold out right from the beginning and it was really really sad, as it is the first CD that I wanted to buy from the concert =/ Went around to look for it in the next few days, and found a shop selling second hand copies of it for 2000 yen, but I didn’t get it.

Hopefully I can get a chance to buy it next time.

Now I really want to go to a Shikata’s live…

Posted by: depthcharge101 | November 25, 2009

Shimotsuki Haruka’s Fantasy Concert 23/11

Went to her concert a few days ago, it was really really amazing. Shimotsuki didn’t break a sweat doing the high pitch notes, and her voice sounded even better in live. She also looked a lot thinner than what I had in mind based on her older pictures floating around on the Internet…

She performed all the songs from Thindaria and a few selected ones from Griotte. Based on my memory, she did the instrumental, Erabareta Tami, Kienai Kakera, Ohime-sama to Doukeshi, Kooru Sekai, Madara no Kuni and Sora Watashi (and possibly 1 more). Good picks from Griotte, although I was slightly disappointed that she only did songs from her two latest albums and not others (Yuragu Sora ><).

Thindaria was performed with a story telling style, with stories and scenes projected on to a screen, which gave a little more context about the songs. If you have read the Thindaria story before, then it’s nothing new. Oh and Sawashiro Miyuki was the narrator, but the narration was recorded.

The band that performed with her is WYRDRAD, the same band who did her last concert. On a slightly unrelated note, the female violinist (KANACO) is quite hot too !

And of course there were merchandises being sold, like her albums, mascot, keychains, t shirts, muffler, etc. I really wanted to buy Yuragu Sora, but it was sold out. Bought other CDs and random things like the mascot, t-shirt, muffler, pamphlet etc.

During the concert, she mentioned that she’ll be doing another one next year, but it’ll be in Osaka this time. Not sure if it’s going to be a similar fantasy style concert, but I am more than happy to go again ! Hopefully there would be cheap flight tickets to Japan.

All in all, the concert is just nothing but amazing. Hopefully there will be a DVD release since we did see a lot of cameras rolling around to record the concert.

Posted by: depthcharge101 | October 19, 2009

First Impression on Griotte no Nemuri Hime

Shimotsuki released her new fantasy album Griotte no Nemuri Hime a few days ago (14th). In terms of music style it is similar to Thindaria no Tane, her previous commercial fantasy album. But this time, there are a few new composers/arrangers, Naruke Michiko (なるけみちこ, famous for her work in Wild Arms), Yoshitaka Hirota (弘田佳孝, Shadow Hearts) and MANYO (hmm.. not really famous for anything, but he has worked with Shimotsuki for a long time, pretty much a little after she started her music career). Iwadare Noriyuki (岩垂徳行), the main arranger for Thindaria no Tane is also doing some composition and arrangement this time.

Thindaria no Tane was good, but it lacked a little variation and creativity in terms of arrangement and composition. It is a successful fantasy formula, but to be really successful it would take more than just repeating it. I have only listened to Griotte a few times, but I am fairly impressed by it, and the inclusion of the few game composers is a positive thing.

The album starts off with an instrumental, Horobiru no Kotowari (滅びの理 ). I don’t think it would take more than a listen or two before one would get into it and love it. But this is before you listen to last track, FEL FEARY WEL., the full version of the melody realized with vocals. The song starts out slow, but it doesn’t take long until it picks up and reaches its epic climax. I haven’t heard much of Naruke’s work, but personally I believe the arrangement could not have been so well crafted without her help. It’s hard to see it happening based on all the arrangement Iwadare has done in Thindaria.

The next two tracks, Kienai Uta (消えない欠片) and Erabareta Tami (選ばれた民) are some of the best tracks from this album. Kienai Uta is the only track that Shimotsuki did everything herself, and the arrangement is actually pretty good, even though she lacks experience and possibly knowledge when it comes to that. Erabareta Tami on the other hand uses part of the melody of Horobiru no Kotowari and it proves to be good to the ears yet again.

Ohime-sama to Doukeshi (お姫様と道化師) is your typical cheery, happy Shimotsuki track. Sad to say I am not a fan of them so there’s little I’d want to comment (or maybe she should stop making these tracks >_>). Madara no Kuni (斑の王国) could be thought of as the sucessor of Shinjitsu no Honoo (真実の炎) from Thindaria, but it has failed to deliver the folk’ish rock feel it is trying to invoke. Ultimately, it sounds like your standard stock of J-pop music. Owari no Toki e (終焉の刻へ) suffers a similar flaw, but to a lesser extent. Note that both are arranged by Yoshitaka and Naruke, which could help explain the disorientation in style.

Hitori Yume (独り夢) is a purebred “MANYO” track, it’s literally filled with his signature stamps (for comparison, have a listen at “LUNA”). And of course, being a MANYO fan, I couldn’t appreciate it more. A little off from the whole fantasy theme of the album, but the cold, cold feelings of MANYO’s music gives can never get old.

The next few tracks are mostly written entirely by the new people. They aren’t too bad, but they are probably the weaker portion of the album. Hane ni Sugaru Mono (羽に縋る者) has some potential, the starting phase is pretty interesting, but the murmuring is probably unnecessary, and the track feels like going nowhere at times due to its repetitive melody.

The last track worth mentioning is Gyaku Mawari no Inochi (逆廻りの命). Its assertive chanting resembles Mamoribito (護森人) from Thindaria, but it plays a secondary role this time with the main vocal sung in classical Japanese. If you like Mamoribito (which I do), this track will no doubt appeal to you.

Overall, even though I have commented the tracks written by the new composers are probably slightly inferior, their contribution has definitely given the album a refreshing flavour, and the album as a whole doesn’t feels as monotonous as Thindaria. But this is all just my first impression, and I am sure things could change a little in time.

Complete tracklist:

Don’t be alarmed with the romaji writing for a few Kanji. It is the representation used in the lyrics.

Download links:

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