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.

Back To The Future

I’ve been impressed lately by the amount of cross-media productions Japan’s entertainment industry has been putting out over the past few years. Last year GACKT fans flipped when he set out across the nation on-stage as sleepy-eyed samurai Nemuri Kyoshiro, hell-bent on raising heart-rates, box-office takings, and samurai-spirit in young and old alike. The production also involved the musical prowess of Visual Kei veteran SUGIZO, who composed pieces for the show.

On the 8th, in honor of the 12th anniversary of hide’s (X-Japan) death, a rock-musical began showing across Japan, featuring hide’s music as performed by defspiral, and the cameo appearance of J (Luna Sea).

Today, March 12th, a movie about a fictional Visual Kei band was released, entitled Maebashi Visual Kei. The movie, a heretical movement on the film-industry’s part to ensure some vibrantly-dyed shackles were raised, stars Johnny’s Ent crony Kazama Shunsuke in the role of a backwater boy in Maebashi, Gunma, who wishes to start a professional Visual Kei band. Legitimate Visual Kei (not a Johnny’s attempt) band heidi. composed the theme song, and appear in the film.

The later half of this month will feature some on-screen time for 2 of Japan’s greatest idols of all time, one being the remake of drama Okusama wa 18-Sai with idol-from-the-future Nishikawa Takanori, and second, a biographical drama series following the life of ’80s tearjerker genius Ozaki Yutaka, idol from the past.

Ozaki Yutaka

Ozaki’s music producer Sudo Akira provided a screenplay for the drama entitled Ozaki Yutaka Oboegaki, “Ozaki Yutaka Memorial”, and the series will document the short, but powerful, lifetime of the musician, who passed away suddenly in April, 1992. For the first time, Ozaki’s life will be portrayed via this medium, beginning with 16 year old Ozaki meeting Sudo for the first time, and depicting his struggles and suffering throughout his debut and off-stage life. The screenplay is cited to be as accurate an accumulation of “facts” as possible, being based on testimonies and various “other sources”.

Ozaki will be played by prolific charisma-actor and risque gravure prince Narimiya Hiroki, who already has some experience as a young, struggling musician from his role as “Nobu” in the live-action takes of popular shoujo manga and anime Nana. Not that I have any business watching that. Narimiya described how he will portray the role as, “It is not about imitating Ozaki, but rather portraying his charisma and his generation in that form.”

Narimiya Hiroki

On February 12th, unseen video footage was shown during the “Hounetsu no Achira – Ozaki Yutaka Shirarezaru Densetsu” in a documentary. The video footage used was intended to unveil various aspects of Ozaki’s life, and was apparently an important addition to the production. The series will begin airing later this month on TV Tokyo as part of the BS Japan 10th Anniversary series “Ozaki’s 20th Memorial Year – Kaze no Shonen – Ozaki Yutaka Towa no Densetu (“Eternal Legend”).

Personally I think that Narimiya was well cast as Ozaki; although I honestly don’t know much about Ozaki’s actual personality and character outside the music that he created and his performances, I think the likeness is strong, and have always enjoyed Narimiya in his past roles. I’m curious to see, too, whether Narimiya actually does the music for the show, or whether they just use recordings. In any case, this is another drama I’m anticipating, even more so than Okusama wa 18-Sai, simply because Ozaki Yutaka was a brilliant artist who left behind a legacy of emotion-packed, powerful music that has influenced many of the artists of today, and his life is worth understanding better.

I also think it’s a great move, marketing-wise, for Visual Kei and Jrock to be mixing with television and other media branches, as a way to expose Visual Kei and Jrock to potential fans who, after Googling half-naked images of Narimiya Hiroki, might even venture to sample some of Ozaki’s music.

Sources: MusicJapan+

giru goes global

Although we’re only halfway through February, I’m already impressed by the amount of overseas activity I’ve seen announced. Compared to the typical moaning and groaning of global Visualists moping about the lack of Jrock in their local livehouses, 2011 is already proving itself to be a promising year for international J-metal moshing.

First we heard of D setting out to vamp up Europe and one of our own hulking southern states with their worldwide debut. Then MIYAVI announced another European tour to promote the release of album WHAT’S MY NAME. The cherry on top was almost headline news that exist trace will be making an appearance at Seattle’s SakuraCon. Almost. But not quite.

On February 5th, controversial cherry-boys girugamesh turned a few Visualist realities (including mine) upside down with the release of not only European tour dates for their 2o11 world tour, but also the mind-blowing confirmation that they will, in fact, be performing at the East Coast’s own Anime Boston (April 22-24). I have no more mind left to be blown. Or so I thought. giru is very, very slowly leaking at least a few more US dates, beginning by tacking a Pennsylvania show on right after they blow up Boston. The boys will share the Starlight Ballroom (Philadelphia, PA) stage with Acey Slade & The Dark Party, who opened for D’espairsRay at their Webster Hall live last year

Although more dates are still in doubt, so far things are looking up for at least a modest US tour- major cities might stand to hold their breath, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see giru hit up the usual hot-spots. But remember, that’s simply my assumption, and if they don’t announce other dates/cities, I refuse to be held responsible for any sense of false hope instilled in your tender Visualist heart.

girugamesh WORLD TOUR 2011 “Here we go!!”

EUROPE DATES
03.05 Tochka / Moscow, Russia
03.06 GlavClub / St.Petersburg, Russia
03.08 Nosturi / Helsinki, Finland
03.11 Columbia Club / Berlin, Germany SOLD OUT!
03.12 Diesel / Budapest, Hungary
03.13 Backstage / Munich, Germany SOLD OUT!
03.15 La Laiterie / Strassbourg, France
03.16 Le Trabendo / Paris, France
03.18 O2 Academy Islington / London, UK
03.19 Zeche / Bochum, Germany SOLD OUT!

USA DATES
04.22 Anime Boston 2011 / Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA

04.25 Starlight Ballroom / Philadelphia, PA
With Acey Slade & The Dark Party
Tickets

04.26 Crash Mansion / New York, NY *NEW*
With….Acey Slade & The Dark Party? Presumably.
Tickets

04.27 Jaxxroxx / Springfield, VA *NEW*
With Acey Slade & The Dark Party
Tickets

JAPAN DATES
06.04 Hiroshima Namiki Junction
06.06 Nagoya Electric Lady Land
06.08 Osaka umeda AKASO
06.10 Fukuoka DRUM Be-1
06.18 Sendai Darwin

GRAND FINAL
6.26 Zepp Tokyo

Honestly, the reason it took so long for me to post the announcement was because every time I tried to articulate the news, it came out something like awuhetralksjfvkjalhwe7cbytnle98i3784tGIRUGAMESHjhdgflajhg. Considering giru has long been on my Top 5 Bands to See Live Before I Die list, I was (and still am) incredibly stoked to hear that they will at least be shredding through the US to shred a few stages. Although I originally had plans in place to head out to Seattle for exist trace, fortunately I saw the girugamesh announcement before plane tickets were acquired and cons were reg’ed, and was able to do a 180 turn around and head for Boston. Am psyched for the show, and def hoping for a balanced mix of old and new tracks…More on the latter coming soon, so, as always, keep reading SG.

Tadaima

It is with an intense sense of relief that I am sitting here typing this. The past three or four months have been, easily, the most hectic time of my life so far. I realize this is merely the problem of having a productive life on earth, and fully expect it to get busier as the days, months, years go by. I will accept that challenge when it arises, but for now, this time was intense enough to satisfy the morbid cravings of the last shredded remains of any over-achiever in me.

The reason that I’ve been away from blogging for so long is primarily thanks to my being committed pretty heavily to my job. Working 10+ hour days, 6 days a week while scavenging a life outside of work can start to add up fast, and during the past 5 or 6 weeks, I felt distinctly as though I was running on the final scrapings of the last reserves of my energy, and physically, all I wanted was sleep, all the time. The only thing that kept me going was the thought, I cannot lose to this.

I have a general interest in personal growth and, since my introduction to Japanese social philosophies, an avid obsession with “becoming stronger”. I feel as though this almost-academically-observational sense of perspective of my own experience, as well as that of others’, affords me a certain unsympathetic awareness of my innate human weaknesses and an ability to overcome them.

As most of my more melodramatically tragic habits are, I believe I picked this tendency up from GACKT. I thought often of the stories of him literally working until he collapsed, fell ill, etc. While these instances are examples of pushing extremes unhealthily far, the core value demonstrated within them has inspired me greatly, and I’ve carried the base sentiment in the not-so-back of my mind through this intense and hectic period.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
-T.S. Elliot

When natural energy became replaced by caffeine, pain-killers and pure willpower, I got to the point where every day my body was telling me no, while my mind continued to say yes. In the beginning, it was a struggle to make it through the craziness of each day, and in many ways, it only got harder as the weeks went by. But also, like moving through physical pain barriers and the struggles of physical improvement, after a while I could really begin to gauge the progress of my spirit, and how much my capacity to deal with the crazy experience had increased from Day One. Of course, it’s not enough to acknowledge that you’ve grown – from the place of flexing new muscles you didn’t really believe you were building, the desire to become stronger only increases.

I think there’s something really interesting in physically, knowing that you need to stop, and yet mentally, wanting to know how much farther you can take it. In my life, at least, that’s at the root of self-improvement.

Since we’re in the last week of the year, I’ve been considering the hurdles I’ve faced in 2010, and appraising the resolutions I made, and whether or not I was able to achieve them. At the beginning of the year, I wanted to change a lot of things, and part of that was a resounding desire to overcome the things I was afraid of, to be able to overcome the things within my mind that held me back. I wanted to live my life to the fullest that I possibly could — and not in that wishy-washy greeting-card canned response way; I wanted that sincerely. This is very un-zen, and I’ll own that, but I believe at least part of figuring out how to live life fully, is to increase the velocity of your experience as much as you can. Although this isn’t really “living life to the fullest” at all, filling each moment with something and never letting yourself stop, but constantly continuing to add more to your experience is one way of feeling like you’re living life fully, and as a result, discovering, hopefully, what that desire really means.

But as you’re racing along, charging through life, trying to make the most of it, live it to the fullest that you possibly can, at a certain point it seems like it’s entirely too possible to get too lost in the moment, to forget where you’re going, who you are, what you’re working toward and why. The velocity and intensity of experience, any experience, can just completely overwhelm a person’s being, their sense of self.

When you run out of energy, and you feel like you have no strength left to muster, I think everyone has to reach a place where they can acknowledge that there is something feeding their determination. That their “sense of self” is, in fact, rooted firmly somewhere. And the more you get stretched out, the more you drag yourself along independent of that origin, that source, the more you end up on the waning tide.

Drained, exhausted, those last fragments of energy completely sucked dry, feeling sorry for ourselves, the animal need for rest, sleep, rest sleep, overpowering our vision, making us forget who we are and why we do any of it. We forget how we were even able to do any of it.

This is when you realize what your source is. You find that thing that rejuvenates you, restores your strength, reminds you what you’re fighting for. None of it is empty challenge and reaction. For some people, I’m sure that thing that gives you back the will to continue is other people, material pleasures, whatever. For everyone, it’s different. The only thing that is the same is that we all have it, and inevitably, when we’re running on that last store of energy, we return to it. Sometimes we don’t even really know what it is until we’re at the point of total breakdown and suddenly it shows itself to us.

But I believe that whether you know it or not, when you’re there at the point of collapse, some instinct or inspirational nudge leads us back to that source place. Without interrupting the flow of what we’re doing, without taking any steps back, without requiring anything other than a sudden burst of awareness, we tune into that one thing that reminds us, blindingly, of who we are and what defines us, what gives us strength and the will to fight.

Finally, yesterday I had a detestable moment of weakness. Woke up with a pretty lousy cold, and although my now well-trained mind kept telling me to get up and go to work, to push through it, my body was screaming a pretty strong no. My ravaged immune system needs a break, so I’m giving in. Drained, exhausted, feeling sorry for myself, I instinctively turned to something that my being craved more than sleep: music.

Sitting around in the dark, WHAT’S MY NAME playing through at full volume, it was like I was hearing Jrock for the first time all over again. It was like I was hearing music for the first time all over again. All the wiring in my blasted zombie brain seemed to fuse back together again. I was able to remember something I knew all along, but somehow had completely lost track of: Visual Kei and Jrock are that source place I return to when I’m at the point of collapse. Visual Kei and Jrock are what define me, what give me strength and the will to fight. They are what give me the obsession with accepting challenges, and they are what lend me the strength needed to overcome the weaknesses that arise when I am teetering on the point of collapse. It’s this sense of unwavering courage that happens when I’m led to GACKT or MIYAVI‘s music at the right moment that is something I wish I could express in words when I am asked why I am a Visualist.

++

I find that when I don’t write on Secret Garden for an extended time, when I log into my Dashboard, I always experience this strange paradox of both feeling like a complete stranger, and at the same time, like I’ve finally made it back home.

Tadaima.

The Announcement You’ve All Been Waiting For

Di$tress + C0mA: Infected by Japanese Visual Kei

 

 

I know a few of you have been around for a while now (and I’m still happy to have you, rest assured), and some of the really good ‘uns will probably remember my mentioning a particular anime con that has been honored by my attendance several years in a row. Although I keep saying I won’t go back, and have little to no active interest in anime, I keep going back, utterly unable to resist the gravitational pull of the organized culmination of Japanese pop culture and its cult following.

This year will also mark my first step outside the blogsphere representing Secret Garden. You guessed it (or, I don’t know, maybe you haven’t), I have been granted the honor of appearing at the con as the first Visual Kei/Jrock panelist since circa ’07.

I’m pretty psyched to have this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to working with the con as a presenter, thus being able to expand the world’s awareness of Visual Kei, one step at a time.

Di$tress + C0mA: Infected by Japanese Visual Kei
Presented by gacktpause

Friday, Oct. 22, 5:00 PM EST
Panel Room 2

BakuretsuCon 2010 Oct. 21-24
Colchester, VT

Say you saw it on Secret Garden.

A Ray of Despair

Despite the tough title of their latest tour (currently tearing up Europe), Human-clad Monsters, as of this morning, most of the Jrock community is probably ready to agree that a more fitting description for the band would be Monster-clad Humans, as an announcement on the D’espairsRay official website today shows the band is more human than perhaps we thought.

From the D’espairsRay official website, Tuesday Sept. 21:

D’espairsRay Announces Hiatus

To all our fans who have followed us and supported us throughout the years;

After much consideration and discussion, all 4 members of D’espairsRay have decided to take an indefinite hiatus following the conclusion of the ‘D’espairsRay World Tour 2010 “Human-clad Monsters”‘. During this time the band will be taking a break from all concerts and recording.

The reason for this hiatus is to allow HIZUMI (vo.) to fully recover from a past illness that has affected his throat and made it difficult to sing. HIZUMI has dealt with this rare throat condition for over a year, but the band’s busy touring and recording schedule hasn’t allowed him the time to fully undergo treatment. He currently plans to spend the early part of next year in recovery, and return to the band as soon as possible.

Although HIZUMI has undergone treatment to temporarily allow him to continue the current tour, it is not a permanent fix and there is no guarantee as to how long it will last. All 4 members of D’espairsRay plan to give their all for the remaining shows on this tour, both in Japan and overseas, and thank you for your continuing support in these difficult times.

D’espairsRay

HIZUMI

Karyu

ZERO

TSUKASA


Even after the band goes on hiatus, we will continue to update all websites and media outlets with the latest information.

While consulting with various voice and throat specialists around Japan we have tried many treatments, but have not yet found one that has a high chance of success.

If anyone has any information regarding promising treatment options, including those done overseas, please contact us. Thank you.

email:info@despairsray.jp

Sword Records Inc.

Everyone who saw their shows during their US tour remembered to buy the limited-edition D’espairsRay hankies, right? Not to try and make the fan-girls cry into them or anything, but it’s that final message that really struck me as the most melancholy. The call for assistance, that seeming plea for help, hit me like woah. I suppose I appreciate their raw honesty, though, rather than some syrupy, vague message we usually get such as “But everything will be ok. HIZUMI is seeing the best doctor in Japan and should be good to go in a couple of months.”

What really shocked me the most was really not the news itself, but more my reaction to it. I realized that in my eyes at least, D’espairsRay was one of those bands that always seemed so invincible. Like the only bad thing that could ever happen would be ZERO’s makeup during their Love is Dead era.

Strangely, HIZUMI is one of a few vocalists who have had to cut out for some R&R time this year. A few months ago fellow Visual Kei veterans Vidoll suspended activities for the same reason – needing time for Jui to overcome his throat condition which went so far as to necessitate surgery. Somewhat recently, as well, The GazettE had to postpone tour dates due to Ruki contracting an infection of the vocal chords. Slightly different in the alignment of physical woe, yet relevant all the same, megastars guitar-genius Hotei Tomoyasu and everybody’s idol GACKT also had medical misfortunes this year, requiring hospital visits for both when Hotei had serious wrist problems, and GACKT ran high fevers, finally resulting in his collapse in Munich.

It’s a tough time to be delivering, and receiving, this message. The band just stirred up a ton of hype in the overseas Jrock communities with the release of their brand new summer album MONSTERS, and their world-tour. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m still on my D’espa-live high, which is amplifying this rancid sense of disappointment by a healthy margin.

I think that the important thing is for Visualists and fans alike to be able to discern between ‘disbandment’ and ‘hiatus’. Even so, in this moment, I am extremely grateful that I had the chance to see them live this summer, and didn’t pass it off with the thought ‘they’ll be back next year’. Although I have absolutely no doubt that D’espa will pull together and HIZUMI will fully recover, he will need some time and space to let his throat heal. Let’s all continue to support and rally around D’espairsRay and HIZUMI, causing such a universal uproar that his condition has no choice but to completely and permanently heal, bringing the band and their epicness back to us.

www.despairsray.jp

Yoshi’s Island

It is currently 12:03 AM, EST, on September 11th, 2010. Assuming the TIFF folks are as punctual as the Japanese, which they likely aren’t, 12:00 saw the onset of the screening of the official premier of the long-hungered-for film that has been hinted at hither and thither, along with horrible teases such as “2011” and “pushed back”.

That’s right, yo. 10 minutes ago (as I am writing this) at the Toronto International Film Festival, they began screening BUNRAKU.

I’m not sure what it is. But I feel somehow uncomfortable knowing GACKT is on the same continent. We haven’t quite reached that point of same country or same city or, ideally, same building, but I figure same continent is progress. Still not sure why I feel like I’m being watched, though. I guess it’s ‘his’ overwhelming aura stretching itself across the Canadian border. Well, that’s more or less how I articulate “I wish I was there”.

I still haven’t figured out yet whether it’s going to get rough around here when YOSHIKI realizes the American continent isn’t this trembling, vulnerable, innocent creature waiting to be violated by (1980’s) Jrock. There is already a “One” that we have been waiting for, a “One” that will mobilize fans across nations. A “One” that set out to conquer Asia, and having done that, is making his way steadily West.

Sorry to interrupt the mood, but, is it just me or does that sword look *very* long?

This summer, GACKT left Asia to hit up Europe with a limited international debut tour. And now he is encroaching on the Americas with a (rather brilliant) new step into internationalization. Premiering as I type, before a sold-out audience in Toronto consisting of at least a few Canadian and devoted Various Other GACKT fans, TIFF’s Midnight Madness likely has no idea what it is unleashing on the West. And no, I do not mean Josh Hartnett with his banker’s ‘stache.

Hartnett is standing on a (thick) phonebook for the photo

Films, particularly should they be really excellent ones are a superior form of forcing people to expand their horizons. Unlike music, which, even if you can handcuff someone to a post, stick headphones on them, crank it and hit play, often will go in one ear and out the other, especially if it’s in Japanese (a “foreign language”, god forbid). However, many more people are likely to see a film, especially if it gets decent hype, and awareness of certain persons in the film is much more likely to spread than if we attempted to hijack a shopping center’s sound-system and jack our iPods through it (not that I’m discouraging any attempts).

So the question I think we’re all wanting answered is, is his appearance in BUNRAKU, an American film starring big-name American actors, presumably primarily without subtitles for the benefit of our extremely cultured populace, a bold step toward the globalization and mobilizing of the GACKT fandom? As far as GACKT’s interview with “Darryl” of TIFF is concerned, the answer is yes.

Did I just read the words “US, South America, Canada” and “next year” used in the same sentence by GACKT?

The answer is yes.