Friday, June 19, 2009
Continuing with the theme of melting things down and re-embodying them comes a luxuriant Cirno-centered collection of songs from C.H.S., provocatively titled “Ultra Cute!?” The album title of course is never really a question – this scandalous serving of Cirno cupcake is deliciously kawaii in every way.
For those unfamiliar with Cirno, she makes her Touhou debut in 東方紅魔郷 ~ the Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, only to return for a special mid-boss cameo in the following game, 東方妖々夢 ~ Perfect Cherry Blossom, as a playable character (⑨) in 東方花映塚 ~ Phantasmagoria of Flower View, and yet more times in the esoteric 東方文花帖 ~ Shoot the Bullet.
Revolving around the alluring scenes when the ice fairy deigns to make an appearance and shamelessly far from sounding anything like its source material, “Ultra Cute!?” gleefully injects dempa moe pop with a pummeling dose of over 9,000 bpm lolicore. The breaks are often stunning and C.H.S. keeps the production on point with sticky beats and juicy synth hooks, perpetually floating on the surface of an 8bit bass bubblebath. The vocals are delightfully sparkly, and with only a handful of brief exceptions, utterly prepubescent throughout.
During the more introverted arc of the album, the listener is taken on a dizzying instrumental ride inside the genius Cirno’s mind when she’s thinking way too hard. The trippy, tranced-out progression of nonsensical mental activity actually sustains itself through quite a few levels of discourse before the inevitable explosion of ice cream, perchance egged on once and for all during “10Q-385,” a hot blooded staring contest with Izayoi Sakuya, the illustrious head maid of Scarlet Devil Mansion.
In Cirno’s loveable world as conjured here, thought quickly devolves into beat repeat sampling madness. It’s like a sped up candy factory that moves so fast it starts to loop around on itself, a perplexing and flirtatious play on time. The final stretch of the album is complete chaos, with raging standout track “ねむれないよ。(QTODMix)” casting a hyper-pop perfect freeze of distorted drums, distorted moe vocals and thumping bass lines.
The closing song, “SunnyFunnyChiny(BlueberryMix)” breaks the general pattern of haphazard derangement on an extremely high note, with some lovely waifish vocals by RIKU intoning the melody of “上海紅茶館 ~ Chinese Tea.”
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Am I a lazy reviewer? My second review and yet another glorious CD that clocks in at less than 16 minutes.
Neko & 雅's haunting 14 minute and 40 second "夢幻軌道" recalls Touhou’s PC-98 days, back in the day, when ghosts and scheming interdimensional lolis were relentlessly on the prowl and nights in Gensokyo were popping with mysterious encounters. Drawing 4/6ths of its content from the second and third Touhou games, 東方封魔録 ~ The Story of Eastern Wonderland and 東方夢時空 ~ Phantasmagoria of Dim.Dream, respectively, as well as one romp derived from 東方萃夢想 ~ Immaterial and Missing Power (and one other spectral source…), "夢幻軌道" is a cryptic instrumental phantasmagoria of heavily layered analog synths, keyboard shredding and tsundere guitar tendencies, filled with secret intent.
The opening track, "夢は時空を超えて," pairs epic ZUN-style bass synth with the album’s signature contemplative pseudo-phuzz lead guitar for a uniquely minimal and bracing arrangement. While not the centerpiece of the album by any means, this recurring, odd, moe electric guitar work successfully drives the music outside of ZUN’s sonic palette and illuminates the otherwise ghostly terrain, providing clarity in the midst of the hyperactive, manic and claustrophobic mood. The effect pays off especially well on the album’s fourth track, "博霊神社境内," a bipolar showdown of angular riffs and soft, gloomy bells.
At a mere 55 seconds, "魔法鐘愛," the third track on the CD, easily disrupts the capacity for rational thought as waves of lavender arpeggios surmount a doomed backdrop of analog synth graffiti and piano. One for the farewell cup, the sixth and final track, titled "おまけ," is a Touhou third impact, though its origins, perhaps fittingly, lie elsewhere. See for yourself what happens.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
"恋艶 THE NIGHT CLUB" from circle 電開製作所 is 15 minutes and 24 seconds of pure starlight arcade bliss. Dwelling mostly on themes from 東方永夜抄 ~ Imperishable Night, the concise 5 song album encompasses 8bit synth mastery, squiggly dancefloor tangents, and in the stunning final track, all out face-wrecking ZUN-core. A thoughtful degeneration that matches with the overall spirit of lunatic pursuit!
The 8bit segments are well paced and the drums are steady, fluffy and pleasing. Rainbow colored arpeggios whirl around like sped up carousels. Some brief but intense vocoding suggests yet another level to the wonder. The synths are fresh with plenty of unexpected saws to moisten the triangle and square waves. The overall "production" is accordingly balanced, both raw and accessible; not really lo-fi but in some other world.
The last track, called "KOI-IRO the Night Club," is a transcendental rampage of love that fans of total awesomeness won't want to miss. Nihilistic, incomprehensible, unforgettable, noisy as fuck. The arrangement basically killed me.