Indie Music, Reviews

Synthesizers of Many Colors: DG-10’s Golden/Green Synthesizer Albums (Review)

August 9, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Synthesizers of Many Colors: DG-10’s Golden/Green Synthesizer Albums (Review)on Twitter

Wow, I feel like I’m talking about Pokemon games with these color references. Back in December 2009, 5pb. Records published two unique albums titled Golden Synthesizer! and Green Synthesizer!, respectively. They contain remixes of popular music performed on the KORG DS-10 with three anime-inspired vocalists known as VCO, VCF, and VCA, collectively known as DG-10. Yes, it sounds weird, and it really is, and I would recommend checking out Jeriaska’s excellent interview with Masatoshi Nakamura and Nobuyoshi Sano to get a better idea of what this album is all about before jumping into this review.

But let’s get on to the music. I think you’ll be very surprised by what tracks are featured across these albums, and I can’t help but keep these on constant rotation on my iPod in the car, much to the dismay of my passengers. It’s just too funny not to.

Find out what I mean in our review after the jump.

Starting with Golden Synthesizer!, the first thing you’ll hear is a delightfully retro opening jingle before a familiar sound hits your hears. The descending belltone melody is none other than the image song from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind originally composed by Haruomi Hosono. Given that the track list is in Japanese, I was shocked to hear this beautiful theme here, and the addition of the three vocalists and a more electronic-driven arrangement gives the piece a deliberate pop vibe.

Next up is the track that I torment everyone in my car with. Yes, “GHOSTBUSTERS!” The DS-10 arrangement is pretty straightforward and true to the original, but the Engrish vocals by VCO, VCF, and VCA are absolutely adorable. If I didn’t already know the lyrics to the song, I’d likely have no idea what they were saying, but it adds to the charm. I love this track, although I guess this is more a testament to Ray Parker Jr.’s timeless theme, as I think I could love this track in any way, shape, or form.

Another surprise is easily recognizable from the opening notes. It’s Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” I guess McCartney’s theme was on everyone’s mind last Christmas, as this track also appeared on K’s Christmas album released around the same time. This version is interesting in that the DS-10 arrangement sounds strikingly similar to the original, but of course the vocals are the star here.

The final track, “Watakushi-tachi wa,” is an original track by Nobuyoshi “Denji Sano” Sano from what I can gather. It’s a dreamy synth track with some cool manipulations on the vocals that would be right at home among the material in the Katamari Damacy series with its weird electronic sound. The rest of the album is dedicated to instrumental, a capella, and VCO, VCF, and VCA-only versions of the songs that you’ll likely skip over unless you’re planning to remix the material.

It’s then on to Green Synthesizer!, the smaller and cheaper cousin to Golden Synthesizer!. It features remixes of “GHOSTBUSTERS” from Golden Synthesizer! and “VCO-VCF-VCA” from the inaugural Love Synthesizer! album along with a couple other tracks.

The first rack, “waza-ari! (VCF-VCA ver.)” is a playful track that sounds like a children’s songs with its super sweet vocals and bouncy musical backing. I can’t find this track on any other “Synthesizer!” album, so I’m not sure what happened to VCO, but it does feature some excellent harmonies with just the two of them. VCO gets her time in the spotlight, however, with a remix of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “High School Lullaby.” The galloping percussion and wonky synth lines also make this one a lot of fun.

We then have the two remixes, starting with “GHOSTBUSTERS (Denji Sano remix),” which swaps out the traditional Ray Parker Jr. musical backing for an intense techno version with a steady bass drum beat and flanged synths, perfect for a club. The vocals are still intact, and while it’s really well done arrangement, it’s not the same without the catchy chorus section from the original. The last track is “VCO-VCF-VCA (koishistyle remix),” which, as I mentioned, is a remix from the Love Synthesizer! album that was released in September 2009. I can’t say I’m familiar with the source material, but this sounds like a smooth synth-jazz track for a schmup title. The vocals are auto-tuned, and actually take a back seat to the music for a change, giving the remix a more relaxed feel.

The booklets for the two albums contain commentary from the arrangers as well as images of the anime versions of VCO, VCF, and VCA along with the human counterparts with their red, yellow, and green hairdos, respectively. Green Synthesizer! actually shows images of the ladies in the studio without their wigs/hair dye.

These albums are a blast, although I would say that the $25 price tag on Golden Synthesizer! is a bit steep (I imagine the licensing fees were ridiculous). Green Synthesizer! is more reasonable at about $15, but for four tracks with an assortment of instrumental and a capella versions, some may find it difficult to justify even this cost. In any case, Golden Synthesizer! is still available via CD Japan and Play-Asia while Green Synthesizer! is a little harder to track down as a Comiket 77 release.

What do you think of this DS-10-meets-vocalist experiment? Isn’t the inclusion of “GHOSTBUSTERS” simply genius?

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