Japanese, Reviews

Elektrifying! ElektLyze’s Intolerant Space (Review)

April 3, 2010 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook Elektrifying! ElektLyze’s Intolerant Space (Review)on Twitter

I don’t know about anyone else, but to me, the Japanese vocaloid scene is truly an amazing phenomenon. It shows some of the best sides of Japanese indie spirit, which is marked by a huge supportive community and a sort of pride in being small-time. This is especially interesting when compared to the relatively small music communities you see in other countries–they tend to focus on making it big above all else. While there are certainly downsides to this underground spirit, one thing you can’t deny them is productivity. Hundreds of songs are being made by the various composers of the vocaloid scene. Apparently all the Japanese composers needed was someone who could sing… like a robot.

Anyway, ElektLyze is a group of three people: composition by Treow, lyrics by NaturaLe and art by Ichijou Meguru. Their best-known work (and the one I know them from) is on the superlative collection of vocaloid tracks called Supernova. Their track, “Blindness,” which was also their debut track as a group, is one of the darker and edgier tracks on the album, employing some great jazzy melodies and very creative sound effects to build a sound that strays quite far from most of the piano-rock that you hear in the vocaloid scene from the likes of supercell and iroha. It’s certainly one of my favorite vocaloid songs. I can’t say much about the lyrical content, since I’ve never seen a translation of their songs, but I’m sure it’s solid.

So will Intolerant Space measure up to the standard set by “Blindness?” Find out after the cut!

“Chaining Intention” was made quite a while after “Blindness,” and forms the opening track of this EP release. I had already heard the track on Nico Nico and was very impressed with it, but the EP version has been remastered, and sounds even better. The track is fairly typical of Treow compositionally, starting out with a fairly random jazzy progression that somehow works really well. I spent some time trying to figure out just what was going on in “Blindness,” but I couldn’t figure it out. The same goes here: it just sounds crazy to me. But somehow, it works!

Another staple of Treow’s compositional style is the various sound effects that remind me of Warp Records. But unlike Warp Records’ material, this is essentially pop music, and where ElektLyze really shines is in the choruses of the songs. That was true for “Blindness” and it also goes for “Chaining Intentions,”which has a wonderful chorus, with soaring strings and a great catchy melody. It provides a great contrast with the rest of the song. The combination of live or sampled instruments and electronic stuff works really well also, though ElektLyze are certainly not the only group to employ this mix.

The second track on the EP, “Dependence Intension,” has a pretty crazy beat, but it sounds more funky and less jazzy. The beat even reminds me of Streets of Rage at times, which is certainly a good thing. There’s a very cool bridge leading into a strong chorus. The only thing that I wasn’t too fond of in this track was the end of the chorus, which sounds like the sound gets stuck. I’m sure that’s the effect they were going for, but I just don’t like it much. Overall this is certainly not as good as “Chaining Intentions”, but still a solid track.

The third track takes sort of a break from the jazz influences and is almost a straight up rock song. It’s the most straightforward track, and is reminiscent of supercell’s work in that way, with piano, distorted drums and guitar. But in little details, the signature of Treow’s compositional style is still evident, such as the way he builds up to the chorus and then breaks it off several times. This really builds a lot of tension and when the chorus finally hits, it’s a great payoff.

One thing that I think Treow understands very well about composing vocaloid songs is that for the most part, it’s not worth it to try to make vocaloid sound like a real singer. Instead, he makes Hatsune Miku sing phrases at machine-gun speeds and with almost random pitch changes that no human being could conceivably reproduce. In doing so, however, he creates something that can’t be done with a real singer, and in this way takes advantage of the “medium” of vocaloid rather than feeling like he needs to escape from it. This gives the tracks a sort of sincerity, rather than being a “fake singer” song, it’s truly a vocaloid song.

The last two tracks on the EP are remixes of the first two tracks. These remixes are pretty far out there! They certainly show off the diversity of the ElektLyze team when it comes to reusing their material. It doesn’t feel like you’re getting gypped with these remixes as they almost don’t even sound like the original songs. Plus, they add up to almost 16 minutes of music! “Chaining Intentions Re:form mix” kind of has a deep house vibe, but quite a lot of crazy effects and variation. There are parts where it goes a bit too far for me, but other parts are really great, and overall it’s a great reimagining of the opening track. “Dependence Intension Re:birth mix” also has a house feeling going, but is a bit more minimal overall. It’s certainly a change from the original, but at just under 9 minutes long, it does overstay its welcome, and I find myself reaching for the skip button about halfway through.

Overall, this is a fantastic record from HearJapan (which you can purchase online here) that I can’t recommend enough. ElektLyze is able to create a unique sound that’s unlike anything else out there (that I know of, anyway), without being alienating. Good stuff!

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