Story Time With Lc5

Having an acute case of osharephobia, my AnCafe awareness phase hit me during my angsty early days, back before I became jaded enough to have opinions and a sense of distinction about what I listened to. My appreciation for the hyperactive, affectedly-nasal, stressful listening experience was, needless to say, short-lived. Although I never came to dislike the band, and will still even admit to enjoying a few songs (Ryuusei Rocket and Snow Scene pop up on shuffle from time to time and don’t get skipped), I stopped following them or listening actively.

That is, until last year when vocalist miku finally won his battle against the chronic sinus-infection that seemed to last, oh bloody hell, like 6 years (poor guy), put the whole project on hiatus, and went off to develop his ennui and strip down to monochrome for the debut of side-project Lc5 and their fresh-faced new-born first single, Loveless. My first impression of them being somewhat in the gray zone, I put them on the short-list and moved on…until the time was right, and I picked up their second single, Story.

First of all, the concept for the single is pretty sweet. I’m down with the contrast of density and spaciousness, light and dark. Also, the way they worked the cold, clean lines of the background and the soft furs and miku’s mellow expression. Simple and striking, it’s classy and understated.

The titular track, Story, opens with a clean piano line and straight guitar chords that flow neatly into a concise, heartfelt rock piece. The vocals are light and low, and play crisply on the airy highnotes of emotion that prove miku can express elegantly without a stuffy nose. The verses are sweetly satisfying, and the chorus stays out of your face while still being catchy. Like the cover, the title track is all clean lines and soft depth, a sweet rock ballad with a good vocal break and a versatile feel. My favorite part of the song has to be the last third of the track, when they transpose keys, switch up the vocal breaks, and throw in a whammy-riding guitar solo to fade out a well-rounded rock ballad.

Story fades into Deeper Than Fate, the meat of the single. Cruising and rocking from the onset, the bassy track is a great middle-ground between tender Story and heavier DIRTY STAR. miku’s vocals ring strongly of Hyde back in his early L’arc days of melodic emo wails. In fact, the whole sound of Lc5 does follow on L’arc‘s heels somewhat, creating a strong, classic sound that makes for quality Jrock like bands were putting out in the early 00’s before everyone started experimenting with electronic samples and live mixing (I blame [thank] Toshiyuki Kishi for this). The guitar solos are solid, the bass is well-equalized, the riffs are well-put-together, and everything is orderly and very easy on the ears.

The single finishes off with DIRTY STAR, the title of which doesn’t really some congruous, but the actual song is really decent. The jazzy, bassy opening with the airy vocal overlay feels fresh and new, while the vocals spin through another classic Jrock track. The details of the track are great, and I enjoyed the effects they layered on the vocals throughout, mixing things up a bit. The “and”-beat feel of the lead into the chorus creates a trip-up sort of feel that I thought was pretty cool.

All in all the single is a really solid piece of work, and I have to say that I am impressed by what Lc5 has put out so far. The entire single is classy and elegant, with some nice detailing and a strong foundation. The arrangement of all 3 pieces is well-done, and they felt congruous as a set, while at the same time able to hold their own if separated out…

I will certainly be following Lc5 more closely from now on, and should they [not] surprise us with a full-length album this year, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up or recommend others to do the same.

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Nyappy No More?

I find it pretty depressing, the fact that I can skim through my RSS menu and see a steady stream of “I’m sorry, I promise I still exist…I’m just locked in a closet siphoning off the leakage of my brain, which has been thoroughly nuked by the 9-5 and can no longer process basic functional commands such as eat/sleep/speak, let alone blog.”

As far as I’m concerned, blogging is a basic function. But as I have successfully sacrificed the precious luxury of more than 5 hours of sleep each night, I figure the lack of blog action is, thus, if not excused then at least explained. To my credit, October was an insane month. My personal life waged war on me like a bloody Spartan, and this week I am crawling out of the battlefield, nothing less than ravaged.

I admit there’s a certain sense of awkwardness in getting back into the flow of Visualism after being absent for a while. However, I’m interested by a lot of stuff I’ve seen show up on radar of late, which should inspire the onset of more frequent posting? Who can say.

Visual Kei is an industry – and like all industries, major shifts tend to occur at seasonal turn-overs. Each seasonal annex typically sees a new wave of trends, styles, and a great deluge of releases and tour announcements. Band looks change. Their sound alters, album covers begin to reflect the shimmery tinsel of winter, and so on and so forth.
After this arctic waste’s first snow flurry this week, it has hit home that, inevitably, the last tatters of autumn are fading into winter. We have reached another shift (so fast?), and with the snow, it would seem, already a new wave of noteworthy events and releases are surfacing in Visual Kei.

But before we get too carried away, I think I’ll take this opportunity to backtrack slightly to late September. I have been asked numerous times lately for my thoughts on a certain, somewhat controversial, turn of tides, and we should probably just get this on the table.

Lc5, the new artistic venture of Oshare-Kei AnCafe‘s vocalist miku (front center), is something of a touchy subject due to the fact that its advent followed closely on the heels of the much-respected AnCafe announcing their indefinite hiatus.

Not only that, but it’s not just miku starting a new un-needed oshare kei band following basically the same chord progressions with half the same members and a different name. I would put money on there being some fangirls who are having kittens right now because their favorite ryuusei rocket is actually branching out.

Now, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I wouldn’t touch the oshare scene with a twenty-foot pole. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, I just totally can’t jive with it. Although I’m familiar with most of AnCafe‘s work (know your enemies), I have to say that it’s been years since I rejected yet another teary-eyed fangirl trying to cry on my shoulder over Bou leaving the band, or cared enough to do any follow-through on the remaining members’ activities. However, when it comes to well-known bands up and going on hiatus and their angsty frontmen starting up rebellious, aloof classical-Visual Kei groups on the side, I guess even I’m enough of a drama whore to get wise to that scene.

You all can get wise to it, too, by checking out Lc5‘s debut PV for their single Loveless.

For one, Lc5 answers the ever-irritating question as to whether or not they actually sing like they have a head-cold naturally, or whether it’s affected. I did always  find it hard to believe that 1 out of 3 Japanese men perpetually sing through a stuffy nose; it just seems like it would make scheduling a major bother. miku seems to have recovered from his cold, as he has shed some of the nasal overtones he used to excess in AnCafe, and his vocals, while somewhat less striking, are, in my personal opinion, so much better off for it. The vocals are, I think, slightly underplayed and a little too lightly produced to really catch my attention. The vocal melody in Loveless is pretty good, though, which makes up (somewhat) for this slight discrepancy. Under-produced vocals are a serious pet-peeve of mine, and honestly I assumed miku would be egotistical enough to play it up a bit. All whining aside, miku does have a pretty unique voice, and it’s one of the virtues Lc5 should be working.

Single cover

It’s a relief to see that miku has actually shifted to the dark side of Visual Kei, moving away from his gaudy oshare roots and imbibing in some class. His look has matured, he dyed his hair, borrowed a wardrobe from GACKT, the works. Initially I had some concerns that he would deliver yet another unnecessarily peppy pop troupe and blow us all away with a profound leap into reiteration of mediocrity.

Although the title is less than innovative, and the song isn’t exactly the next best thing since Death Point, Loveless is definitely worth listening to, and I would absolutely recommend the single to AnCafe fans and haters others alike. All in all, although it is not epilepsy-inducing in its amazingness, my expectations for Lc5 were definitely surpassed. I look forward to seeing how miku takes his solo career forward, and I think that the group has potential to bring a breath of fresh air into the realm of uppity new rockers. miku has been successful in the Visual Kei/Oshare industry for a few years now, so hopefully he’s bored enough with what he’s been doing to actually put some creativity into his work. I will be anticipating future releases…maybe an album? Nah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Come to the dark side....we have miku.

Super Lovin’ Miku

The best segment of the Miku x Laforet interview…:

O-san: “Miku collaborated with the brand SUPER LOVERS and designed items like this hoodie here…”

Q: “Wow, don’t you think this hoodie is cute, everyone? You want one, right?!”

*silence from the audience*

Miku: “I don’t think they want it that much… (laughs)”

Q: “Is this unisex?”

Miku: “Yes it is, but I designed it for girls to wear without skirts.”

Q: “Isn’t that pornographic?”

Miku: “Not at all! I didn’t mean it like that! I meant they can wear it as a dress…”

No skirt? No problem!

Miku models the hoodie designed for Harajuku fashion label SUPER LOVERS. You can have one, too– whether you’re male or female, skirted or skirtless…The hoodie is available through Japan Discoveries for 15,000 JPY .

Interview transcription from Miku x Laforet Underground Party Talk Show, credits to MusicJapan+ etc.

Miku x Laforet Talk Show

On November 22nd, ’09, MIKU, vocalist of Harajuku-dance-rock/ oshare-kei band Antic Cafe, recently released a photo-essay book called 可愛湯’s ЯocКレシピ / Kawayu’sЯocК Recipe. The book includes a 20-photo spread of shots taken around Harajuku and Yoyogi Park in downtown Tokyo, including shots from the SEXY DYNAMITE LONDON store and Ura-Hara (back-streets of Harajuku area), as well as photos previously released in issues of Kera fashion magazine, and clips of Miku’s favorite fashion items.


Miku was interviewed about the book, photo session, and his fashion sense at the MIKU x LAFORET UNDERGROUND PARTY Talk Show. See it subbed in English by MUSICJAPAN+ :

Part One:

Part Two

I find it interesting how reserved his personality is when he’s not singing. You get an impression [from his music] that he’s really outgoing, energetic, and happy. Not that I got the opposite impression from the interview or anything, but I find it interesting from a cultural perspective how artists’ personalities tend to adapt to the formalities and hierarchal structures of off-stage Japanese society, television, etc. Miku is obviously being very reserved and modest for the situation. Nyappy~

Video credit: MUSICJAPAN+

Subbed by: misaki (for MJ+)

Translation by: Saki Kato (For MJ+)

Buy the book at YESASIA


Nyappy!

It was announced on August 31st that popular Harajuku-dance-rock band Antic Cafe (affectionately contracted to ‘AnCafe’) has spent some time discussing things amongst themselves, and it was decided that following their January 4th, 2010 performance at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, the band will go on temporary hiatus.

The band members agreed that after 6 years of activity as Antic Cafe, in order to take the band to the next level, it was time for each member to view themselves objectively, and be able to improve and develop themselves independently. Although the band intends to resume activities, as of this time they simply ask for their fan’s continued support, and patience.

AnCafe

AnCafe

AnCafe Official Website (Japanese)

AnCafe Official MySpace (English)