Gackt ‎- Mars


Label: Dears ‎– CRCP-40130, Crown (3) ‎– CRCP-40130
Format: CD, Album
Country: Japan
Released: 26 Apr 2000
Genre: Rock, Pop
Style: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock

This is good. I grow up listening to Rock and Pop from Japan. Gackt is one of my favorite artists ever. You should really give it a try.

In context, Mars was an important step for Gackt following Mizerable. There was no doubt that he could hold out on his own, Mizerable showed that without falter, the next question was of course: could he hold out for an entire LP? As practically flawless as Mizerable was, Gackt only showed us that he could put together 4 consistent songs and it’s not like he was a huge songwriter in Malice Mizer, so how was Mars going to turn out?

Short answer: perfectly. Long answer: Mars was an absolutely flawless transition after Mizerable, not only ending up as being the only thing that could logically have been expected, but also surpassing what should have been expected. The moment the transition from “Ares” to “Asrun Dream” hits, you know exactly what you’ve been set up for. Gackt doesn’t just go big, he goes huge and accomplishes a lot of things that he never would have been able to as part of Malice Mizer but also appears to still have their basic principles carved into his chest. For example, “Mirror’s” arena rock would not have gelled with the baroque elegance of an album like Merveilles whereas “freesia’s” melodramatic ballad like vocals and heavenly piano solo would have felt right at home.

Mars is everything that Gackt’s career was up until his solo career and everything he would excel at later on. As eclectic as it is, there is not a single moment that feels uncomfortable or out of place. Gackt cleanly showcases that he can be a flirtatious pop star with the seductive brass sections of “Vanilla” and then transition, unquestioned and without error, into a neo-classical composer with the “freesia” ops, weaving some magnificent textures. To further support Mars as a culmination of Gackt’s various musical talents, he simultaneously displays his gift for song writing, performance and how three-dimensionally he can be personally connected to his music with “Emu 〜For my Dear〜” and “U + K”, two pieces written in memory of his ex-band mate and good friend Kami. While “Emu” functions more as a requiem, seeping all of the drama and heartbreak that comes from losing someone close to you, dynamic shifts abundant (even dropping right of into silence in the middle of the song) “U + K” is more like a eulogy, taking the form of a far more light-hearted pop song; the “laughy” bridge being one of the albums highlights, connecting intimately with the nostalgic child in all of us.

As with virtually everything else Gackt has been involved in, Mars is extremely artsy in its execution, most obviously apparent in the middle of the album with the “freesia” ops, but most blatantly with “Illness Illusion”. Strange ambient sounds and bass thrum while some almost baroque instrumentation plays, with Gackt singing in a bizarre voice over the top. The song goes from this into a big, classic Gackt chorus while maintaining the baroque aesthetic and back and forth between the two styles in a rather brief time slot. Of course, Gackt did not forget the aspects that made Mizerable so special and has stuck to that bill while keeping it fresh with tracks like “dears”, one of the albums strongest moments with its crisp acoustic guitars, blissful violin leads and his own eloquent vocal hooks. The album’s closer sure isn’t a slacker either, it’s big, it’s flamboyant and it’s moving. The acoustic guitar slowly blends into the electric soundscapes backing it and Gackt progressively pours more and more energy into his vocal delivery, building up into a chorus of children, reaching it’s crescendo and then… it’s all over, ending as inconspicuously as it began.

Without putting a single foot backwards, Gackt managed to set his future as one of Japan’s biggest solo superstars with Mars. As refreshing as it is to the book, Gackt pushed every scrap of his musical and performance talent as he could into Mars’ precisely 50 minute running time (and I’m talking exactly 50 minutes to the second, at least on the first press). Gackt skills are pretty much undeniable here and Mars continues to offer new experiences with each return listen. While Gackt managed to answer Mizerable in the only possible way, I guess the real real question would be: how well could he continue to hold out?


Grouper – A I A : Alien Observer

A I A : Alien Observer

Label: Yellow Records
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: US
Released: April 2011
Genre: Rock
Style: Experimental, Drone, Ambient

The tools Liz Harris uses to make music as Grouper tend to be pretty basic: piano, guitar, synths, drones, hiss, and lots of reverb. If you’ve been following along with the twists and turns of noisy ambient music these last few years, this collection of elements may sound familiar, possibly bordering on cliché. But it’s all in how you fit the pieces together. Despite sharing characteristics with a lot of other current music, Harris’ has a distinctive sound that she pretty much owns. These short LPs, released at the same time and that share an overall aesthetic, sound beamed in from another realm, and they also sound like they could have come from no one else.

Part of the distinctiveness can be traced to Harris’ voice, which floats above the music and can sound delicate and shrouded and mist and can also evince an approachable earthiness. Particularly on Alien Observer, she layers her voice in a way that occasionally brings to mind Julianna Barwick, but Harris sounds comparatively distant and less immersive. Her voice haunts these songs instead of leading them; it’s a presence and not a personality, and the voice and instruments are in balance, serving each other without any one element becoming more prominent.

The other aspect that sets Grouper apart is an approach to sound that feels somehow both cruder and more sophisticated than the majority of the lo-fi crop. It’s crude in the sense that it seems to hearken back to the dark, home-recorded songs of an earlier era. David Pearce’s music as Flying Saucer Attack, recorded mostly during the 1990s, was often referred to as “rural psychedelia,” and that description would fit this pair of records. This music feels both spacey and expansive and also oddly intimate and grounded, the work of someone who has mastered her tools and knows how to get the most out of them. The sophistication comes from the care in presentation. This music doesn’t sound like it was built from mistakes or thrown together, it seems precisely ordered and arranged even while it’s often muffled and warbly and distorted. Every sound exists for a reason.

Full review and more please follow this link [].


Sinoia Caves – The Enchanter Persuaded

The Enchanter Persuaded

Label: Brah Records
Format: CD, Album
Country: US
Released: 2006
Genre: Rock, Electronic
Style: Progressive Rock, Ambient

The Enchanter Persuaded, the debut album from Black Mountain keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt (billed here as Sinoia Caves), is a nice example of the early-21st century’s fascination with synthesizers. Unlike his contemporaries, who tend to echo new wave acts, Schmidt draws inspiration from a different pack of synth gods — bands that boasted cosmic monikers like Tangerine Dream and Hawkwind, musicians who wielded their Moogs and Mellotrons like mighty swords.And as such, this album shouldn’t be viewed as a particularly innovative work but rather as an adept tribute to the analog wizards of the mid-’70s and early ’80s. The standout tracks here are the soundscapes, which echo Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra both in terms of the vast aural territory covered and in terms of actual length. “Dwarf Reaching the Arch Wonder” and “Sundown in the New Arcades (Milky Way Echo)” make for over half an hour of galactic terrain built on sheet after sheet of analog synth and Mellotron effects.

There’s a definite sense of composition here; every whoosh and drone serves the structure, and Schmidt does a good job of keeping these sprawling compositions under tight rein. Shorter, acoustic guitar and vocoder-knit tracks like “Naro Way” and “Through the Valley” are a nice break from the epic stuff going on elsewhere, and they’ll probably draw more than a few comparisons to some of the tracks on Air’s 10,000 Hz Legend. From the druggy green cover art right down to the humid, slightly grimy production, The Enchanter Persuaded is a convincing period piece, not to mention a fitting showcase for Schmidt’s impressive synth sorcery.

Review by allmusic []


The Leisure Society ‎– The Sleeper

The Sleeper

Label: Full Time Hobby ‎– FTH081CDA
Format: CD, Album
Country: UK
Released: 2009
Genre: Rock
Style: Folk Rock, Indie Rock

It’s real easy to be cynical about The Leisure Society is the wake of the unexpected Ivor Novello nomination – it’s a quiet album, wrapped in its own world without ever directly engaging the listener, and it’s one that doesn’t deviate much (if at all) from a pattern it establishes within one track.  ‘Learn some more instruments’, ‘lighten up a bit’, and ‘pay someone else money to record and produce it’ would all be pretty valid suggestions to make.

To take that attitude, though, would be to completely ignore the charm this album has.  Like all the great lo-fi albums, it gets you on its side – you can’t help but notice that you’re listening to an underdog, and you can’t help but root for him, whether the forces he’s up against are the music business or an ex-girlfriend.  Nick Drake comes to mind for the intimacy you start to feel with the voice you’re hearing, although Nick Hemming hasn’t quite achieved that level of mastery yet.

“The Last of the Melting Snow”, for the record, is lovely.  It’s difficult to see why it was plucked from obscurity for the nomination, because it doesn’t really rise that far above anything else on the album, nor is it the absolute stunner you will probably be hoping for.  It is, however, very good.  Considering what else has been nominated, it might even win, and might even deserve it.

Review by Iai


Field Music – Tones of Town

Tones of Town

Label: Memphis Industries
Format: CD
Country: England
Released: 2007
Genre: Rock
Style: Indie Rock, Pop Rock

Try listening to this album while you cook or go to college or to work, it’s funny. If you take the train, it’s nice listening to them in that nostalgic cold of the morning.

Field Music’s gorgeous, audacious 2005 debut wound up eclipsed by the jerky pop success of north-east comrades Futureheads and Maxïmo Park. Following last year’s backstory comp Write Your Own History, their second album proper takes them ahead of the pack.

Emboldened by a year on the road, they’re now a glorious band – supple as a jazz trio, punctual as a chamber troupe – and TOT plays to their new strengths, augmenting tricky prettiness with bold vigour. Simultaneously more pop (“A House Is Not A Home”) and more extreme (“Give It Lose It Take It”) than their debut, it sets the benchmark for – what shall we call it? British Prog Pop? – in 2007.