G’s Faraway Makes Me Long for Oblivion…

 One of his more aptly titled songs of, well, ever, Faraway~Hoshi ni Negai wo~ is just that– faraway from ever being one of his more memorable pieces. Not only that, but the sub-title, Hoshi ni Negai wo is one of those particularly annoying song/album titles that gets used by pretty much every single band ever founded.

 The “2nd Heaven” of his ten year anniversary countdown campaign, Faraway follows suit with the outrageous album cover of 1st Heaven Koakuma Heaven, which showed a crowd of host-girls, one of which is a dragster GACKT. Faraway’s two album covers depict a blonde woman (most likely a CGed GACKT) tossing her bra, and the second is also pretty self-explanatory:

 Jrock bands must really be struggling to get their albums noticed, now that such vast multitudes of bands are flooding Tower Records’ Jpop section. I remember Flumpool used a similar tactic on one of their album covers not long ago. The fan-service covers aside,

 Faraway is another one of those generally un-memorable but sweet upbeat pop songs such as Marmalade and Road that GACKT is not renowned for. Although it has some really precious moments, like the growly vocals, the opening verse, and the bridge to chorus which, although not inspired in its melody, is charming with the clapping hands and everything. This song is basically a feel-good pop-rock song, annoying and charming in equal measure. It has a super upbeat, summery feel, and could be passably cool to blare while driving along in high summer.

 That being said, where Faraway missed the mark, its shortcomings are completely and totally made up for by dutiful B-side Oblivious~Kao no Nai Tenshi (Angel Without a Face). This song is an absolute gem. It feels straight out of the MARS era, and falls into the category of those songs which, although not well known, are all treasures in their own right, such as Birdcage, Emu~For my Dear, and Leeca. Slow and steady, with acoustic effects, and that perfect blend of melancholy and resignation mixed with the perfect feeling of empowerment and downloading the strength to carry on, despite anything and everything–that we originally felt in melancholica-best-ever Leeca. This song is absolutely worth the entire single, and, in my personal opinion, should have been the A-side. Except that then the 2 sad songs + 2 happy songs recipe of the campaign would have been obsolete.

 Although, yeah, it has that slightly understated B-side affectation, this song is in every way glorious. Yeah, it’s not the hit of the century, but it has real feeling, that and the older-era feel (back when lower-case letters were still honorable enough to spell out Gackt). This is seriously one of my favorite songs of 2009, and is one of those rare pieces you can just repeat over and over again without ever tiring of.

 In conclusion, the shallow superficiality of Faraway is totally overwhelmed by, and excused by, the sincereity of feeling and pure empowering qualities of its perfect B-side, Oblivious.

 

 

The Pillow Book of Gackt Shonagon

Our friend GACKT has been by far the busiest Jrocker this year. Perhaps, contrary to popular belief, he’s only just now getting a second-wind in his sails. At least that’s how I see it, because damn, if this guy isn’t sailing, who is?

His latest single, released December 9th, ’09, was very aptly named. 雪月花 ~ The End of Silence may just look like a jumble of pretty words to you now, but let me demystify. One of his more poetically-titled singles, Setsugekka means “Snow, Moon, Flowers” — all things which usually inspire more of a sense of silence and tranquility, as opposed to how GACKT has labelled them: The End of Silence.

All you have to do is put in the CD to understand how exactly this all works.

The title song opens with some GACKT-ish, airy piano notes, which move into a strings arrangement that floats around ethereally for a few seconds, before steadily escalating and ascending into the peak of the intro, opening for– typical GACKT guitar riffs and another Lost Angels? Think again. The strings and piano intro soar right into a totally unexpected arrangement of traditional, elegant shakuhachi (bamboo flute), taiko (drums), some Asiany strings, and some subtle other effects that scoop up the tender, melancholy piano’s tinkly high-notes. Musically, this is almost a poetic polarity of the traditional/metal arrangement he did for 2007’s Returner. The effect of this opening phrase is really striking and refreshing. Get your tissues out, Jrockers, and prepare for a nosebleed– let Gacktpause tell you why!

The intense opening piece (that actually could make anyone believe that GACKT was born in the 16th century) gives way for a soft, very subtle backing layer that is barely perceptible, but serves as a kind of ethereal palette for the tinkly piano to continue on its own– well, until GACKT sings the opening line: Mikazuki wo daita, kimi ni tsubuyaita and then the stars fall out of the sky.

三日月を抱いた君に呟いた

“… Mikazuki wo daita, kimi ni tsubuyaita…”

The poetic, flowing lyrics fly on through the opening verse and into the chorus, where everything picks up. The elegant verse soars perfectly into full-on-rock-band, with a back-layer of Asiany plucking that, paired with GACKT’s beyond-perfect vocals, keep us rooted beneath the snow-veiled, crescent moon– right where he wants us.

The next verse is more concentrated than the opening, with some dominant bass, acoustic guitar, and violin where the piano was before.

The lyrics and vocal melody are some of the most innovative of GACKT’s releases this year. The ethereal high notes, which dip right into gravelly, growling half-screams are exquisite, and keep everything as fresh and unpredictable as freshly falling snow.

The traditional accompaniments keep everything from getting too rocky, and the rock-band keep the traditional elements from getting too Genji, while a soaring violin binds us into more tension than you would have initially imagined on hearing the first notes.

Keeping us caught in confusion between whether we should head-bang until we have migraines, or weep openly into our kimono sleeves, Setsugekka ~ The End of Silence is a refreshing, innovative masterpiece. Neither ballad nor metal crescendo, this is truly some of his best work since Returner.

But it’s not over yet. Let’s not get all caught up in GACKT’s poignant, howling crescent moons and snow falls blooming like sakura– the masterpiece doesn’t end with the title song. B-side 斬 ~Zan~ (the kanji is actually read as Zan, so Zan is not really a sub-title, but a translation.) picks up where its predecessor left off– but let me warn you, better put your maccha bowl aside, because you’re going to need all available limbs in order to rock out hard-core enough for this one.

Shamisen (not like the kind that the Yoshida Kyoudai play, but like the kind you usually hear before a kitsune possesses you, or a kappa eats you) and traditional sound-effects (like the kind that happen right before a bad-ass decked out in Kabuki get-up starts shouting samurai war-cries)  open for this a-class b-side. But nobody is messing around anymore– Genji is all geared up and ready to go, and isn’t prepared to wait around for geta-ed girls. Zan kicks off almost instantly– barely giving the intro enough time to decently be called an intro. We’re right into the thick of things– and by things I mean hardcore, thrasher riff-ridden, katana-wielding hard-rock the way we like it. Heavy, melodic, and uncontrollably cool. (Tissues cue. Just in case your nose fountains worse than a decapitated head.)

Traditional instruments and effects are still readily at hand in this metal melange– shakuhachi galore (courtesy of Kominato Akihisa– and you said it wasn’t a hard-rock instrument? Tch…) keeps everything beautiful– in sort of a ninja-battle-about-to-break-out kind of way. But alas, or thank goodness, nobody can control themselves, and Gacktjob lets loose, complete with shouts of what sound like (but could merely be mistaken for) Die!

The vocal melody, and lyrics, are quite a bit more intense than Setsugekka. GACKT has his semi-evil thing going at first (you can just see his bestial glare), in the bridge it smooths out slightly, but right back into full-on-intensity for the chorus and return to evil war-lord for the verse.

Zan is a bit more “fun” than Setsugekka, in a grim, hardcore bad-ass way. The arrangement messes with your head a bit– like, you never expected the high, ethereal vocals right there in the middle. Just at the point where YOU finished his rough, wild metal-style rap session. GACKT uses a lot of compositional versatility, playing around with different musical styles and bringing in plenty of variation to keep you on your toes.

Just make sure that if you’re listening to this single, keep your katana packed tightly away. I know that mine somehow found me while I was listening, and by the time the instrumental versions started playing, my living-room curtains were mere shreds of ribbon. x

In the PV, you may notice a few unfamiliar faces. GACKT has recruited (god only knows why or for what purpose) some new friends to accompany him for the sake of the PV. Credits go to:

VOCAL/ GACKT (some how he still made the lineup. How unfair is that?)

GUITAR/ YOU, Shun (Duel Jewel)

BASS/Ni~ya (Nightmare)

DRUMS/TSUKASA (D’espairsRay)

VIOLIN/ Naramura Mika

So if you were wondering why he had separate credits for a super-secret “music clip”, that’s what that means.

She loves me, she loves me not…

…seems to be one of the leading topics of GACKT’s lyrical compositions. Fortunately we have a much easier question at stake to pluck to clarity– and it would seem that GACKT’s final installment of the 4-week consecutive singles would land on the love-petal. Here it is in all its glory– enjoy.

Live on Music Fighter July 10th, 2009

Did I ever mention, you know– just as a side thought, that I was in Japan while GACKT’s Requiem et Reminiscence II Visualive Tour was happening? And, y’know, that I didn’t get to go? It still stings to watch…but here it is (as long as YT allows, anyway):


From what I’ve been able to see online, the tour looked absolutely mind-blowing. Although GACKT has changed his bass and drums lineup since his DruGparty performances in 2008, it appears that, as usual, ChaChamaru and YOU are both going strong. Ju-Ken, being off touring with Hyde for VAMPS couldn’t make the 50-city tour plan this time around, but was replaced with the jovial and extremely capable Nell. Drums feature the explosive percussive talents of Minami. Both support members give an excellent performance, as can only be expected. I cannot wait for the tour DVD to be released. I wonder if it comes with a pack of GACKT-insignia-ed tissues.

And here’s some fun ^o^


The B-side to the single Flower is titled In Flames.




RequiemWhen you first hear a GACKT song, it’s understandable how it could easily be mistaken for ‘just another Jpop song’. That’s one of the things about GACKT’s talent that I’ve always been able to appreciate– it’s, in a way, quite subtle. If you only hear a song once, it’s possible to blow it off as something un-remarkable. Once you actually take the time to listen, you begin to understand, and that is the key to truly appreciating Gackt’s music. Once you’ve seen a song performed live– there is no return.

Although not all of GACKT’s latest releases are really his “best”– especially on first listen, the more you listen, the more they blossom into the incredible musical and lyrical compositions that they truly are– until finally you are left with a complete bouquet. We are extremely lucky that in this case, these flowers are eternal.

3292143273_5e53084a67

WOWOW HEAVEN!

WOWOW is right! Here is footage from Gackt’s Saitama final performance that concluded the long-awaited, nationwide Rebirth et Reminiscence II tour that went from December 2008 to July 2009. Gackt performed all of his anniversary-countdown singles during this tour, and today I present to you proudly, Koakuma Heaven, as aired on WOWOW.

I know I already mentioned this in the post on FLOWER [She loves me, she loves me not], but I just have to say it again– the tour looks absolutely incredible. I think it’s great how GACKT’s tours are never too BA for some fun– harking back to the early days and cat-suited romping in U+K–and even in the incredibly macho-sounding Rebirth et Reminiscence tour GACKT indulges us with some hand-style DDR-type game. Am I the only one wondering how they practiced for that?

In any case, enjoy the video. Gacktpause, over and out. +

Thanks to SqueeltsPara for re-posting the video.

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小悪魔へヴン

If, after seeing the first installment in GACKT’s ten-year-countdown campaign, you were like me and felt skeptical, and possibly a little disappointed, I have good news for you. My first concern when I saw GACKT’s most recent singles was that he was leaning too much to the mainstream of Jpop. Considering everything GACKT has on his plate right now (five singles, a nationwide tour finishing up, filming a movie in Romania, etc), it wouldn’t be unjustified to be worried about the quality of all these releases.

When I first heard the previews for first and second ‘heaven’s, Faraway ~ Hoshi ni Negai wo and 小悪魔へヴン, I felt like I was in for some disappointment. They were not the style I was expecting from GACKT, and, unlike Ghost and Jesus which had immediately striking previews, I was not possessed by the un-exorcisable need to pounce on these singles.

But I did the sensible thing, and took my own advice: I trusted GACKT’s unpredictable latest swing, and ordered 小悪魔へヴん [hereby referred, for ease of comprehension, by its Romanization: Koakuma Heaven].

l_p1020055302Koakuma Heaven sounds like an unusual GACKT-song title, so let me clarify: Koakuma Heaven is named after the young-women’s fashion magazine Koakuma Ageha [小悪魔ageha], which is marketed primarily at host-club girls. This is the reason why, when looking at the lyrics, they are written in Japanese girl- txt-speak (the equivalent of our “L337”), full of emoticons and smileys etc, and sung from a woman’s perspective. ‘Koakuma’ means ‘little devil’. ‘Koakuma ageha’ translates as ‘little devil butterfly of the night’. We can all guess where GACKT is going with this.

Here’s something– after browsing around on the web for a while, I noticed one recurring theme in reference to Koakuma Heaven. Webbies appear to have created bandwagon codes they slap onto GACKT songs. Their all-time favorite is the ‘four words:’ one– “As. Perverted. As. Vanilla.” Before we continue, I’d like to address this. Two things. 1) why is it such a huge deal? 2) As perverted as Vanilla? As perverted as Dispar? As perverted as…No. I didn’t think so.

Let me explain. First of all, if the only reason anyone cares about songs like Koakuma Heaven and Vanilla is because they’re so risque, that’s just plain immature. (An almost laughable statement, considering it is webites we’re talking about). Secondly, sex is just not a big deal in Japan. In the US if people sing about sex, they tend to kind of whisper through it, like they know how bad they’re being and isn’t it so cool and all that. In Japanese rock, they love to sing about getting game. And they don’t pinch pennies either. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way!

When I was visiting Japan with Roukun, we went to karaoke with a group of middle-aged friends. Roukun opened the session with the oh-so-terribly-perverted Vanilla, and the only comment they had was on the quality of his performance. Nobody said anything about the musical content. This song would have been embarrassing to sing in English for our grandparents, though, yeah?

Here are the lyrics, so you can see the odd combination of katakana, hiragana, and emoticons that create Japanese L337:

小悪魔ヘヴン

巻き髪を かき上げて ☆
濡れたリップで Up and Down
欲張りッしユに 3回戦 4回戦 5回戦…
オシャベリゎ 上級者なωデス (*^ロ^*)

愛情の欠落ゎ サイフの厚みで
ガマンしてま~すゥ m(__)m

恋をするのも 気楽ぢゃないんで
頑張ッてま~すゥ ハイッ (-_-#)
ナニが何でも 頑張るウチらゎ
いいオンア…なんデス、ハイッ♪

ブチアゲな 曲に合わせ ☆
濡れたヒップを Upside Down ★
好きなナンバーゎ 6(*・Д・)9
ハイッ、 脳脳脳脳天気… なんデス ∖(^o^)/

サイコーな決めポーズで
「本命のカレシ!? wow 性してますゥ!!(^_^)!!」
(ホントだョ)

いやになるほど キライぢゃないんで
小股者デス、 ハイッ (¯ロ¯;)
ナニを何度も 頑張るウチらゎ
いいオンア…なんデス、ハイッ♪

恋をするのも 気楽ぢゃないんで
頑張ッてま~すゥ ハイッ v(^_^)v
ナニが駄目でも 頑張るウチらゎ
いいオンア… (デショ?)

濃い~のするのも 若くはないんで
頑張ッてま~すゥ ハイッ (¯ロ¯;)!!
ナニが誰のでも 頑張るウチらゎ
いいオンア…なんデス、ハイッ♪

Koakuma Heaven is a petite single, with only 2 vocal tracks + the complementing instrumentals.

Where Papa Lapped a Pap Lopped goes left and right, Koakuma Heaven goes up and down– as GACKT sings in the first verse. He uses the same voice-effects that he used in GHOST, and even though I usually prefer him au natural, it really works for this high-energy dance track, unlike anything in his repertoire so far.

One thing I thought on my own and later matched up with what other people were saying about Koakuma Heaven is that it has a very DDR-track feel. I would not be surprised if the Japanese versions of the game incorporate this song down the road. It’s utterly irresistible– even if you nailed yourself to a chair, you’d still find your head bobbing or your feet tapping. Interesting, seeing as GACKT has not supplied much dance-fare up till now.

Along with a moody melody, brought up to euphoric techno bliss by all the crazy effects, GACKT is accompanied by a female chorus of “hai!”s here and there that enhances the feminine pop feel. Similar to Vanilla (but only in this regard), Koakuma Heaven is upbeat with spunk, but has that particular dark thread in there– GACKT’s dark humor? Most likely. The yellow, pink, neon-flashing sparkle of a song is sung from the perspective of a hostess*. Nice.

[The general conclusion is that the song is sung from the perspective of a prostitute, but in keeping with the ageha theme, this seems unlikely. Japan, especially Osaka, is peppered with ‘host clubs’– places where men and women go and spend money to hang out with gorgeous, funny, cool “hosts”. Yes– there’s sex involved (for a high enough price), but basically one host-boy described the work as ‘faking romantic relationships with clients’. It’s therefore likely that GACKT is singing from the perspective of a hostess, and not a prostitute.]

So do it, look for the unlike-GACKT piece you were expecting. Put the CD in and crank it up, and expect to be blown away. It may take a few listen-throughs before you can begin to pick out everything you like about GACKT, but I assure you, once you do, you will be proud to add Koakuma Heaven to your collection.

arena37_0901_gackt_05

The second track was also surprising, although not nearly as striking as Koakuma Heaven— which admittedly is quite something to follow up. Nonetheless, My Father’s Day is one of those songs you may think at first you can’t get into, but let yourself be surprised by this one, too. It starts up feeling like we’re in for another Marmalade, but My Father’s Day, even if it lacks certain ‘somethings’ at times, is cheer-ifyingly unique and uplifting.

GACKT loses the voice-alteration for more of a traditional rock piece. The melody is a carefully crafted blend of happiness and melancholy, another one of those GACKT pieces that makes you feel like you’re sitting in a sun-shower or something. It’s raining and you’re bawling your eyes out and yet there’s something about it that makes you feel happy anyway.

Koakuma Ageha Magazine

Koakuma Ageha Magazine

Gackt 5th Summer Single to be Released

GACKT fifth summer single info unveiled! Following his final 10 Year Countdown release, Gackt will release a fifth summer single: THE NEXT DECADE, on August 8th, ’09.

The Next Decade / Gackt

Following Gackt’s collaboration with “Decade“, AKA the Masked Rider Japanese television program, this past spring, Gackt’s 5th Summer Single will continue with another Decade song: Kamen Rider Decade All Rider VS. Big Shocker.

The single is the song for the Kamen Rider Decade ultimatesuperultracool feature film that will be released in Japan on August 8th, three days after Gackt’s single hits shelves.

There will be an A version disc including a DVD for 1800 Yen (about $18.47)– DVDs usually include bonus material and/or music video.

Side note: All DVDs that come with Japanese releases are Region 2 and without subtitles. Everyone knows that Region 2 DVDs are non-playable on Region 1 DVD players, but for anyone who doesn’t know already, they play fine on a computer.

Gackt New Releases

Gackt’s ten-year countdown campaign is well underway! The first two singles are on shelves, and available for order!

Official song previews from Gackt.com

First Heaven: Koakuma Heaven (Can you spot Gackt?)

released: June 10

Second Heaven: Faraway

released June 17

Faraway -Hoshi ni Negai wo- / Gackt
Gackt