Media There's always a good reason to listen 3776

UglyBastard

UglyBastard

People die when they are killed
Mar 28, 2023
1,212
The unit from Fujinomiya, a municipality in Shizuoka Prefecture located at the foot of Mount Fuji, whose imposing figure also appears in the form of lyrics on other records by the group, as well as the aesthetics present on the cover of the first one, as well as on this album (a representation of one of the mountain's most iconic paintings), once again presents a solid and surprising work. "Saijiki", released on 28 August, soon caught the attention of online niches, attracting new listeners to those who had already realised that there was something magical about 2015's "3776 wo Kikanai Riyuu ga Aru to Sureba". At the time, little Chii-chan (Chiyono Ide), now 18, was attracting attention with her energetic dancing at small concerts in her hometown, then broadcast on the internet, while singing about the features of the volcano or the site's photo shoot. The local idol group was carving out its own space within the niche, and the music produced by Ishida Akira (guitarist, he had the idea of making a kind of local AKB48 when he started out with Team MII, which gradually gave way to Minanaro), polyphonic and eclectic, brought something new to the table when looking at the independent Japanese pop scene.
If on the first disc the concept revolved around climbing Mount Fuji (a metaphor for overcoming life's obstacles), including the length of the album itself (3,776 seconds, a reference to the highest point of the volcano-symbol of the Japanese spirit), this one is also built around a central theme. Starting with the number of songs and their names - there are twelve, one for each month of the year. "Saijiki" (歳時記) also refers to a specific dictionary of haiku poems, and other forms of traditional poetry, with their themes organised according to the seasons. This musical journey is progressive in its conception, taking the change of months and seasons as an opportunity to show the listener new things. "Saijiki" is by definition ambitious, and this could jeopardise the chances of the experiment succeeding; fortunately this is not the case.
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In an era of ephemeral virals, where trends are often dictated by the algorithms of sites like YouTube, from the popularisation of extreme right-wing channels to previously obscure songs like "Plastic Love" popping up every now and then in the recommended tab, the discussion about what is the "natural" way to get to know cultural products is complicated. There are those who say there is an organic, disconnected way, where experimentation and analogue discovery would prevail, by word of mouth, as it was before there were specialised networks like last.fm and RateYourMusic, as well as the internet in general as a means of acquiring such products more easily (without having to go to a shop or video shop, for example). It often starts from a romanticisation of the past, of that so-called pure culture of cassette tapes recorded by friends from hard-to-find LPs and radio programmes. It's true that this discussion is older than the web, and can be related to the debates about art and the culture industry that intellectuals such as Adorno and Walter Benjamin (both accused of "cultural Marxism" by "philosophers" popular with obscurantist groups) raised during the 20th century. It's impossible to claim that there was ever a "pure" way of consuming music, totally devoid of external influence - even before there were record labels and popularity ranking systems for artists, with their magazines and television programmes, there was already a certain favouring of what was popular at a certain time or in a certain region.
You might not think there's anything romantic about discovering a disc like "Saijiki" on the internet, curiously looking at lists of prominent releases, or even receiving it as a recommendation from a colleague on Twitter, but these conditions given by modern life broaden the horizon of the listener. Engagement such as that received by this disc, within a niche for the time being (even if it is an influential niche) and in the short space of time since its release, can be debated as not being organic, as it is mostly built by people who would not have access to this type of music were it not for the facilities provided by the web, but it is not artificial, given its quality as art.
When a poet consults a saijiki, he looks through its examples of haikus and terms to find the best way to express a feeling in a particular season, time, holidays, traditional festivals and everyday life in general. "Saijiki" tries to emulate this kind of catalogue by presenting a variety of themes and sound textures that are renewed with each track of more or less 6 minutes each (some with an extra 12 seconds, others with exactly 6 minutes, with the exception of February which has 29 days in leap years, as will be the year 3776). Every second an animal from the Chinese zodiac is enumerated by one of the girls, as a way of marking time and playing with the tempo, as an additional layer that ends up creating another texture that is very pleasing to the ear. Polyphonic music is all about the textures that two or more voices (or instruments) can create while maintaining a certain melodic character, as in the choirs of the sacred music of the high middle ages, the fugues of Bach and the dodecaphonism of Schoenberg and Arrigo Barnabé. The use of samples was already commonplace, starting as Chii-chan's play with a sampler, whose sound developed to use the recording and repetition of her voice, like a drone, in the shows of the experimental project 3776Extended (also released as an album in 2017), with Ishida on guitar, in contrast to the other lives with recorded instruments. Chiyono has matured as a vocalist since 2015 (in the meantime she has also recorded a solo debut, with songs more orientated towards j-pop and references to idols from the 1980s, such as Marina Watanabe), and now has a lot more artifice to put on the wall of sound.
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Mutating all the time, Minanaro's music doesn't limit itself to one musical genre either. An unsuspecting ear might think it was a meaningless mess, mixing synths with layered vocals, modern and traditional music and at times evoking compositions by Beethoven (pieces from symphonies no. 6, 9 and the piano sonatas Nos. 8 and 14) and Claude Debussy (in a way that reminds me of another avant-garde project by a Japanese musician associated with concrete music and avant-gardism, "Doopee Time" by Yann Tomita - with vocals by Yumiko Ohno, as the character Caroline Novac, and Suzi Kim). According to the producer himself, in notes attached to the disc, even though it is divided into 12 tracks, this number doesn't correspond to the number of songs they contain, since there are several songs on each track, including those that had already been released as singles, which were already named as being part of the 歳時記 project (but with completely different mixes, as well as other layers, adding an air of novelty to the material), interpretations of traditional Japanese songs and classic compositions, as well as new ones, organised in a way that Akira describes as "not unlike a DJ mix". According to him, with each track the pitch (which is fixed in all of them, and is indicated in the title itself, as well as the month and the time) increases by a semitone. The first, for example, is about the month of January and is in F major. As for the tempo, things tend to be more fluid, and the marking only indicates that one of the songs will be in that tempo. The producer couldn't help but take part in the instrumental himself, and his guitar goes from shoegaze to post-punk according to the occasion. One of the traditional songs sung by Chiyono, part of the track referring to March and April, announces the cherry blossoms, whose blooming is the great sign of Japanese spring. It begins simply, at the end of the third track, until it bursts into different tones in the next, becoming a kind of rap. Its name is "Sakura sakura", such a well-known and iconic melody (popular since the Meiji era) and universal in its meaning, because even if the listener doesn't know the translation of the simple verses, it manages to create a mental image of wonder at the sea of flowers, metamorphosing into clouds or mist, and calls us to admire them. The album is full of moments like this, which with simplicity and emotion remind us of the inexorable passage of time, linking popular culture and nature. Another moment, more obvious to Western ears, comes in the December track, dotted with Christmas themes and good wishes. More traditionally Japanese than Christmas, some songs highlight the other festivals throughout the year, with their characteristic matsuri rhythms (and smells). On other occasions, nature is present, and we hear echoes of field recordings - birds, frogs and cicadas are also part of this musical experience, as they are on the sound horizon of our daily lives.
With so many details in its composition, all pointing to a single theme, it's easy to classify "Saijiki" as another example of concept before musical quality, as is the case with some progressive albums that get lost in intricate flourishes, in their eagerness to achieve a specific artistic ideal, and end up producing music that looks complex but is devoid of meaning. Above all, 3776's latest album maintains its musical quality, a highlight in Japan's already fertile "alternative" idol scene, and reaffirms itself as an avant-garde multi-genre project. It even goes beyond previous releases, including the debut and the "link mix" of the two versions of "公開実験" (similar to the Flaming Lips' "Zaireeka" album in concept: several versions of the same song intended to be played at the same time, as a way of exploring the polyrhythmic nature of the resulting sound), radically changing the direction of the concepts previously addressed.
The result fills us with curiosity about what the future holds for Chii-chan and Akira, not least because of the increased attention received by the group, both inside and outside the bubble of those who already like experimental music and Japanese pop. I already know one thing for sure: "Saijiki" is already on my list of the best releases of the year, and it will remain a classic for years to come.
 
UglyBastard

UglyBastard

People die when they are killed
Mar 28, 2023
1,212
Sorry for the wall text, but she needs to be recognised as one of the greatest musicians of the current century.
 
UglyBastard

UglyBastard

People die when they are killed
Mar 28, 2023
1,212
muh japan
You know that I'm actually talking about Saijiki and not specifically Japan, right?
She could be born in Cuba I would still love her with all my heart and my soul.
 
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