Archive for June, 2010

A&D-Revolution Music

A&DWhile I was studying in Kobe for a year, I blindly bought a ticket to a visual kei concert that was showing approximately 7 bands. The ticket was cheap, about 2,500 yen including the drink fee, and it was on a day when I had no class and could hang out in Shinsaibashi beforehand. I wasn’t expecting anything thrilling, just a nice night listening to music to try and find a new band to follow.

That night I saw A&D, Deluhi, Aicle., xTriPx and Velgreed. To this day I follow them all, and despite their vastly different styles, they bring quite a lot to the visual kei table. A&D, however, stood out more to me than the rest. Ska-inspired visual kei music? What?

That is exactly what they are. Their songs have this playful sense to them and melodies that remind me a great deal of the repetitive nature of ska. But it is the layout of their mini-albums and singles that fascinates me. Namely in that, interspersed with the ska-like happy-go-lucky tunes, there are some serious metal rifts going on. When I first saw A&D, they had just released their first mini-album, Aquarium, and the show was about one month after their formation. In other words, they were incredibly new. And yet their music had a confidence to it that most other bands strive to achieve for the duration of their careers.

Aquarium consists of six songs. No->Eternity opens with a gorgeous piano tune before breaking into melodic guitar rifts and vocals. Though the music itself is relatively slow, the vocals are upbeat. Title track Aquarium follows, and is much slower than the opener. It, for some reason, reminds me of the relaxing bubbles of an aquarium, making it an aptly-titled piece. The third track, Revolution Music, was the song they opened with the day I saw them. It’s the reason I am hooked on them. The bass line is stereotypical ska, but the whole thing is interspersed with catchy rock rifts and vocalizations. To this day, it is my favorite song by them. Go To My Way Go should be the background music to a road-trip scene. It’s light, upbeat, and again hold true to the undertones of ska while just being a fun jam piece. Breaker, a dramatic departure from the other songs on the mini-album, shows the band’s musical prowess and grasp of other genres, fully evidenced later on their follow-up single, Quill. There are strong elements of metal in Breaker, and is more of a mosh piece than the rest of the mini-album. Nanairo Sky rounds out the mini-album, with an upbeat tune much like Revolution Music. It’s a fan favorite, and keeps true to the overall theme of the album.

This is an excellent album, not just in the visual kei genre but in regards to music in general. They put on amazing live performances, and actually promote selling higher-quality merchandise in an effort to give back to the fans as much as the fans give them (just ask the manager and Yuki, the leader of A&D!). A&D adds a lot to the visual kei scene, and I recommend them to all my friends, whether said friends participate in the scene or not. Everyone has loved them so far, so I believe that means they are more than worthy of a chance.

Their website is: http://www.air-dignity.com/ and the members are Shizeru (v), Yuki (g), Saki (g) and Kage (b). This particular album might already be sold out on online stores, but I hope they will appear on a download website sometime in the future. Or you can look on ebay or yahoo auctions. Sorry I can’t be much help in this regard to fans outside of Japan. For those in Japan, there are definitely copies floating around, especially in used shops. They are also embarking on a one-man tour this summer, so people in Japan: GO SEE THEM!

Yes, he says OH MY GOD. And Youtube killed this video, but it’s a great example of their high-energy lives and the sound is excellent. If you can’t stand the video, here’s the recording:

Advertisements

Japanese Concert DVDS

So I own quite a few concert DVDs that I bought in Japan, and I noticed something the other day: I can play my region 2 DVD of Suicide Ali on my computer without having to switch regions. This got me thinking: If I could play this DVD on a standard Toshiba I bought in America a few months ago, does that mean other DVDs will play as well?

I grabbed a small portion of my collection of VK DVDs when I was home:

  • Versailles-History of the Other Side
  • シリアルNUMBER-クリップ集2 (which I bought for 5 dollars at Tower Records, brand new)
  • Psycho le Cemu-理想郷旅行Z at Zepp Tokyo
  • Vidoll-リマインドストーリー
  • Suicide Ali – Stitch Doll comment DVD

Of all the DVDs I tested, the only time I was asked to switch regions was with the シリアルNumber DVD. Even the comment DVD worked, though it made me want to smack Goshi because he talks with his hand in front of his face. And Kozi needs to open his mouth more when he speaks. And Hisashi definitely mumbles which is why I can’t hear him on my interview recording. Hiroshi is solid. I’m done ranting.

Basically, I am writing this to let people know that they CAN buy and play a lot of concert DVDs from Japan WITHOUT having to switch the region/buy a region-free DVD player/do some crazy ripping to make the media work.

Not everyone realizes this, and even I didn’t know the extent of how this works. I have yet to try the DVDs that come with the CD/DVD combo sets, but since the Vidoll one worked (though it was a live recording CD/DVD combo) I will assume it will work for most others.

Stitch Doll: Now that I can ACTUALLY hear it!

ボーとして(zoning out)

So the latest single from Suicide Ali, Stitch Doll, came in the mail this past weekend. The single has two new songs and two versions of older songs.

Stitch Doll and Traitor are the newest songs, with Traitor being much more heavy on the screamo vocals.  Stitch Doll, as I said in my previous post, reminds me much more of Revandish Ring in that there is more singing-songy-melodic stuff going on.

What I really want to get to are the new version of Chainsaw and the remix of 誘拐ごっこ (Yuukai Gokko). This new version of Chainsaw is somewhat different from the original version most are familiar with (the following being the original version):

The new version is considerably clearer in regards to vocals and being able to hear individual instruments. Overall, I like it.

誘拐ごっこ has been remixed by DJ Manik (of HimemaniK, a group you should totally listen to if you dig female vocals and gothic-industrial music). The original version is much slower (I cannot find it on Youtube…) but the new one I can totally picture being played in clubs. It’s pretty upbeat, and DJ Manik has a way with mixing beats that just make you want to dance.

The CD is on sale on Darkest Labyrinth, and there is a regular version and a special package version that includes pictures, a comment DVD and autographs. You may have to email the company if you can’t find the latter listed on the shop page.

This is a clip of the DVD, by the way.

I found my old Japanese cell phone pics!

Incredibly random as it may sound, I just found almost all of the cellphone pictures I took while I was abroad in Kobe. Everything from Purikura to my host family’s dogs…These are the best ones, not all. I used my camera to record landmarks and things I needed to buy, like a visual list, so I excluded those pictures. My cellphone was a softbank one with 7megapixel camera.

Planning For Hokkaido: Not So Different From Pittsburgh?

So my placement is Taiki-cho, Hokkaido. I just found out that they have already scheduled my welcome party and several meet-and-greets. I’m not sure whether I should be terrified or thrilled at this behavior…It seems like such a warm gesture and yet it’s being done now?

A warm welcome...in the fireplace?

I was doing research on Obihiro, and it seems that it is basically like Pittsburgh, only smaller. It has lots of rivers, the winter temperatures are about the same, and the snow is the equivalent of Feburary’s “snow-pocalypse.” Taiki specifically has under 7,000 people. The University of Pittsburgh’s 2010 graduating class had well over 7,000…This is going to take some getting used to. On top of all that, my predecessor has told me that my fashion is going to be quite loud there, and draw attention to my already non-Japanese-ness. I bought some work-type clothing, but it will be very difficult for me to wear slacks and button-down shirts everyday…I don’t know if I can pull it off but I will ask if I can wear jeans on Friday, just for my sanity.

The airport is close by, and my one friend has told me that it should not be so terribly expensive to fly down to Kansai every few weeks, same as with Tokyo. I have people to stay with in each area, which cuts down on expenses tremendously. On top of that, it seems a rogue kohai (後輩=underclassman) will be joining me after his semester abroad for a little exploring. I’m really looking forward to this, especially since traveling with someone else makes me view things in a new light. I always settle down far too quickly in new places (case and point: Italy. I was done exploring within a few hours). Plus, as I will be the only foreigner within at least 50 kilometers, perhaps more, it will be a welcome respite from the constant use of Japanese. We’re starting to make plans now, but unfortunately University of Pittsburgh starts the spring term far too early, so he’ll have to book a more expensive ticket…

What I want to do when I get over there:

1) I will enter the lottery for Miyavi’s birthday concert tickets. If I win, I am soooo going since I am missing his American tour.

2) Get my butt to Kansai for a long weekend and hang out with my friends, old and new.

3) Karaoke with Coral. Hmmm….this should be number one….(I miss you <3)

4) Find a bass teacher ASAP. This is, of course, provided that the airline DOESN’T BREAK MY BASS. You never know with them….

5) Mystery meeting. I’m going to see if I can pull this one off, if I can details will follow.

My attempts at teaching...

Who knows….Maybe I can pull off this teacher/visual kei/social butterfly-thing after all…

自閉症とうちの弟(Autism and my little brother)

(Italian and Spanish: autismo)自閉症(read: jiheishou) is the Japanese word for autism.  I’ll be honest, I love the characters because they describe the disease quite well: self-closed-disease. Basically, autism is where interpersonal communication, something a lot of people take for granted, becomes a huge problem.

My brother was diagnosed when he was very young, possibly around 2 or 3, though I can’t recall exactly as I was quite young myself. He was diagnosed because someone at the daycare center noticed he was pushing kids around and not using words to communicate. Considering this was the early 90s and not much was known about autism, the fact anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary is impressive. More impressive would be my parents actually managing to admit to themselves something was wrong. Years of therapy later, and my brother managed to graduate with honors from a normal public high school….

My bro and his friends

I would like to think that having a brother made me a less selfish person, but sometimes I can’t help but think it made me more selfish. This disease is kind of like a double-edged sword. You learn patience and yet lose it just as quickly, especially if you are the sibling (i.e.: me). I don’t know what his future will hold, but he is enrolled at the community college. And I’ll be off to Japan with a debatable return. There was enough hope for him to graduate from high school, there should be enough for him to graduate from college, wouldn’t you agree?

On another, vastly different, note, I ran into my old AP English teacher at the ceremony. Damn I love that woman, she’s what I want to be like when I grow up. Only not a librarian (which she is now).

Stitch Doll and some S.A.

Suicide Ali and I

So this past April at Tekkoshocon (the local anime convention), Tainted Reality brought Suicide Ali and Luzmelt to perform. To be honest, I could have cared less about Luzmelt, as they were too new and I didn’t have a good feel of their music. I was, however, ECSTATIC for the opportunity to see Suicide Ali. During my year in Kansai, I was unable to see them due to either schedule conflicts or just a general lack of shows to choose from. La Carmina managed to score some passes for my friend Shiori (who took all these wonderful pictures) and I, so off we went! Unfortunately, I was coming down with the flu during the week, so when the con-time came, I was dying. I did a ton of stupid things I shouldn’t have/didn’t want to (I left a voice recorder in the interview room, and Suicide Ali had to return it to me later, and also I was shaking people’s hands [I am a germ-a-phobe], so I had multiple mini panic attacks). But the performances did not disappoint in the least, and I am trying to get my butt to Tokyo for their one man (solo show) on Christmas. It was the first time I had seen them perform live since I found out about them back in 2006…sadness.

There will be a new single out the 23rd of June, Stitch Doll, and Tainted Reality had a preview on the broadcast. Now, here’s where I have to bitch a bit: It was INCREDIBLY hard to hear most things on that broadcast. I don’t tune in enough to know whether that’s a regular thing or just how it was that night, but my speakers were knocked up to 11. However, after making sure I was guaranteed an earache by pressing my ear onto the already-turned-up speaker, I really liked what I was hearing. It was much more in line with the song レバンディシュリング(Revandish Ring), which is probably one of my favorites of theirs (but 人間の要[Ningen no Kaname] is my all-time favorite, which was played an as encore THANK GOD). I immediately pre-ordered the Stitch Doll single from Darkest Labyrinth, and paired with the Variable Messiah (Goshi and Hiroshi’s old band) best-of album.

Goshi

Suicide Ali has been around for six years now, and Goshi and Hiroshi about ten. It just amazes me that not many people know about them when the music and vocals are extremely well done. I take that back, the first time I heard Suicide Ali induced a WTF expression on my face that caused my insane Venezuelan roommate to laugh at me. I wish I could remember what the song was, but I suppose I just got so used to their style that I blocked it all out…At any rate, I adore this band and will make every effort to see them in either Osaka or Tokyo, despite the fact I am stuck in Obihiro (with an airport 20-30 minutes away ;])

I recommend:

正しい魔法の作り方 (Tadashii Mahou no Tsukurikata) (single, includes 人間の要 new version. The video on youtube now is the older version of the song, fyi.)

受継がれた指輪 (don’t trust me on this, but Uketsugareta Yubiwa, I THINK) (mini-album, has the version of Ravendish Ring I like the most)

Youtube. Use youtube on this because it links you to so many other songs. CDBaby.com also allows you to preview before you buy, whereas Darkest Labyrinth sells only the CDs with no preview, but also sells signed pictures and posters.

Kozi

I love these pictures. More for the hell of it.

Hiroshi

Hisashi

My CDs shipped today! I can’t wait to get them ❤

What band should I review next? Any opinions?

Hisashiburi ya nen…

Well, it has been nearly 4 months since I last posted. Sorry about that, but life went to hell faster than I could keep dibs on. But after struggling through an insane thesis, research problems that would boggle your mind, and an insane restaurant gig, I’m back! With results!

Last time I posted, I explained the JET interview for CIR. My results were: I got into JET, but as an ALT for Taiki-cho in Hokkaido.

Where?

Taiki-cho is about an hour south of Obihiro on the eastern part of Hokkaido. It is known for….dairy farming. Yep, my neighbors will be cows and volcanoes (though I truly don’t mind either). The apartment is brand new, sitting on the riverfront, and the car…well, the car is used but in good shape. I’m also extremely close to an airport that will get me down to Kansai or Tokyo every-so-often.

I’ll primarily be teaching middle schoolers, however I also have one day a week where I teach elementary classes AND conduct my own adult English classes. On my own. Without help from another teacher. INTIMIDATING!

Since I am about 3.5 hours from Sapporo, I’ll be looking for a bass and piano teacher in the Tokachi sub-prefecture and bandmates out in Sapporo. If I can find a band, then I will be spending long weekends in Sapporo and teaching on weekdays. This will be all on top of finding a steady job, mind you!

All in all I am grateful for this opportunity, and though I am crazy-far-out-there, I think this will be an overall great experience. Plus, in all the downtime, BASS PRACTICE TIIIIME!

Oh, and my latest outfit creation (because I’m sure you all know and care about how I dress):

New Ero Loli?

New Ero Loli look?

On top of that, if you are curious what else I did in the last few months, check out this page on La Carmina:

http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/2010/06/tekkoshocon-anime-convention-in-pittsburgh-jasmine-you-cosplay-versailles-mana-lolita-fashion-show/

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing the latest single by Suicide Ali (Stitch Doll), so stay tuned! ❤