Experimental, Japanese, Reviews

Time To Get “In The Collaborations” – Vol. 01~05 (Review)

August 22, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Time To Get “In The Collaborations” – Vol. 01~05 (Review)on Twitter

So baiyon released a series of four singles between December ’09 and April ’10, each one had him working with different artists. Of note to the VGM community was his “Hue / Saturation / Brightness” single (vol. 03) where he collaborated with Hip Tanaka.

The series seemed be over after the fourth volume. Nothing happened through the rest of 2010 or any of 2011. But then, in June 2012, baiyon surprised everyone by dropping vol. 05, “Take Away My Eyes,” a track that sounded so thoroughly like a PixelJunk Eden tune that one cannot help but wonder if this track was an outtake from PixelJunk 4am (a game whose soundtrack I’m still anxiously waiting for…).

After the jump, we’ll be exploring all five “In the Collaborations” singles and speculating on what might come in volume 06.

In The Collaborations 01 – 10 Tone | iTunes

For this track, baiyon worked with August Engkilde, a multi-instrumentalist who works in the strange space between jazz and electronica. There are a lot of great instruments on this track: upright bass, a variety of brass horns, some Asian plucked strings, and then of course, baiyon’s trademark synths and drum loops.

This is a great piece of music, and easily one that could’ve been used in a PixelJunk title. It runs almost 8 minutes and length, and is quite enjoyable. Even better, though, is the remix that comes with it, a 7 minute version remixed by Lorenzo Chiabotti. Chiabotti adds a lot more percussion, both acoustic and electronic, throws in some voice samples, and ups the tempo a bit too. The two tracks in tandem make for a great pairing.

In The Collaborations 02 – Grape Coin | iTunes

“Grape Coin” is a track that baiyon collaborated with Serbian-born DJ Shane Berry to create. Berry, who has been in Japan for the last decade, is capable of making some really impressive longform compositions. He and baiyon make a great pairing, and “Grape Coin” is a song that I hope Berry and baiyon both use in their live sets. I’d love to dance to it.

The B-Side for this single is a remix from Takuya Morita, which, like 01’s remix, is less cerebral and adds a lot more rhythm, and even a new tonal section (using the kind of flat-yet-bubbly synths that baiyon is known for). Good stuff here.

In The Collaborations 03 – Hue / Saturation / Brightness | iTunes

Here’s the one most of you VGM fans have heard of. For this one, baiyon tag-teamed a set of three tracks with veteran Nintendo composer Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka. If there’s one collaboration out of the five that you simply must pick up, it’s this one.

“Hue” runs over 6 minutes, is fully instrumental, and is easily the most trippy of the three. For those of you who are familiar with H/S/L (Hue, Saturation, Luminosity or “brightness”), you recognize the Hue is what determines what we actually mean when we say “color.” The other two feautres just determine how strong, or washed-out, the individual color is. So, in exploring the full range of “hues” from a musical perspective, the music goes all over the place. Very cool.

But even better, “Saturation” explores the range between transparency and opacity, between strength and weakness. And we get a nice taste of both throughout this 8 minute journey. Using a few simple female vocal samples, and manipulating that sample alongside the steady beat and bass line, we get a strange and wonderful picture (and, again, something that would’ve been *perfect* for PixelJunk Eden). I love the pitch-bending and echo combinations on the voice sample. I love how it continues to go up, then down, then sometimes just a little more up or down, just to throw me off while I’m bouncing my head to the steady beat.

Finally, “Brightness” explores the range from absolute darkness to absolute brightness. We tend to think of this in grayscale, but you can do it with any individual hue. To represent this range musically, baiyon and Hip Tanaka (referred to as “Hip tanaka.ex” for this release) use a huge range of percussion (including pitched percussion, hurray for xylophones!) and a lot of ambient sound samples. This is the longest of the three tracks, falling just a few seconds short of the ten minute mark. The tonal stuff that appears in this track jump around in a variety of strange intervals, mostly messing around in the realm between minor thirds and diminished fifths. Very trippy, very cool.

In The Collaborations 04 – Grayish Sands | iTunes

For collaboration 4, “Grayish Sands,” baiyon worked with guitarist Takeshi Nishimoto. Here, baiyon lays down another of his trademark beats, and Nishimoto does some slick, rhythm-breaking improvisation on top. Nishimoto’s style is like a bebop jazz sax player, except that he’s on guitar. Even without the guitar track (which is very easy to isolate for anyone who’d want to attempt their own remix), baiyon’s musical ideas here are very enjoyable. Strangely, though, I don’t think the track’s title fits with what I imagine the music to convey. There’s nothing “grayish” about this one for me. It is, instead, quite colorful.

The B-Side is a remix done by Akiko Kiyama. I really like this remix, because essentially what Kiyama does is isolate different parts of Nishimoto’s solo guitar, mess with it, and put it in entirely different parts of the song. Sometimes the guitar comes out even clearer here than in the original track, and other times it’s more blunted, made more subtle or faded against baiyon’s beats.

In The Collaborations 05 – Take Away My Eyes | iTunes

The collaborations between baiyon and other artists might have ended with 04. There was a large break, and fans didn’t know if the series of collaborative singles had been called off or not. Maybe the dude just needed a break. Or maybe he was working heavily on PixelJunk 4am and the two-part “Vibes Against Vibes” albums, also released via the descanso label.

Whatever the case, baiyon is back in 05 with “Take Away My Eyes.” Who’s the collaborator? “Los Updates” — never heard of ’em? It’s a stage name for Jorge González, a singer and keyboard player from Chilean band “Los Prisioneros.” Jorge works with another singer, “Lore,” making “Los Updates” a duo.

All this to say “Take Away My Eyes” is what happens if you took a PixelJunk Eden track and had someone do a full, lyrical vocal track atop it. It sounds fantastic. I really think baiyon is taking his talents (and his networking) to a new level with this track.

Two different remixes of “Take Away My Eyes” are included with the main single: a “Club Classic” version, and an “X Ray Vision Mix.” I have no idea how that terminology defines these two remixes, but I will say that if someone played all three in a row at a club, I’d probably just think it’s one extremely long track and happily dance to the whole thing. Hint: I haven’t spent much time clubbing.

In the Collaborations 06 – ???

What will baiyon do next? I have no idea, but if 05 is any indication, we’ll see another vocal track. Personally, I’d like to see baiyon work with a vocalist that isn’t necessarily big in the “club” scene, but still create something club-worthy. Among female vocalists, I’d think Emi Evans, Aubrey Ashburn, Sarah Àlainn, or Haruka Shimotsuki would be great choices. Among male vocalists, it would be absolutely absurd, but I’d love to see baiyon work with an oldschool, established vocalist, or singers from groups like JAM PROJECT or DEEN, or maybe even Falcom’s jdk BAND.

Whatever happens, I have to say that I really dig this series of singles, and I really hope baiyon keeps throwing them out. For a few dollars each, they’re certainly worth adding to one’s digital music library.

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