It’s Morphin’ Time

Yes, I know everyone who follows me on Twitter thinks that I’ve been being mischievous all day. After posting that faux KAT-TUN banner I just know we’re going to have trust issues. The purpose of this post is to inform you all, if you’re reading this, that all of my Tweets from this afternoon were entirely genuine. This is my new favorite song…

Ah ah ah, wait, wait, not yet….

A little backstory: I was killing time when I had no time to kill, watching a bunch of completely random VK videos that I found on this website through this PV bot that I follow on Twitter. (First of all, I was appalled at my own snobbishness. I think the sheer weight of my sighs stopped half the videos 53 seconds in…). This is how I used to discover most of the music I listen to, after all, so it’s not the uncommon to find me immersed in the endless oceans of Visual Kei PVs. In fact, sometimes I end up doing it without even thinking about it. Usually when I have something important to do, like composing important emails or writing business plans, or reorganizing my Netflix queue, I just sort of “come-to” on Youtube, clicking through suggested videos and playlists of the low-budget PVs of the lesser minions of avex’s ‘happy family’- well, if avex’s family is happy, then these guys must be the black sheep. The importance of how exactly I ended up there is always determined by the quality of the videos I discovered. On a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest) the quality of the discoveries made in the forty minutes I spent between writing non-diatonic chord progressions in the key of G and making dinner would have to be….wait for it. 5.

First of all, I thought it was from the ’80s. I had no idea PVs made in the ’90s were such poor quality… I mean, this is really…So yeah, anyway. The actual quality of the PV aside, it’s the content that we care about anyway. And I would watch this ten times in a row even if they took it back in time and remade it in 1948.

The artist is Chisato [千聖], the guitarist for ’90s VK band Penicillin. I’m not much of a Penicillin fan, and that’s my excuse for how I’ve been in the dark for so long. Initially, I heard Wake Up!, which was ok, but then scrolled down a little bit, and, like a young beggar on a cold night in the middle of the desert clinking two pieces of a jeweled scarab together, I parted the sands and there it was- the diamond in the rough. Chisato’s Cyber Rose.

Electronica that should only have existed in the 1980’s. Latin influences. The type of soaring melodies that laid the foundation for anime theme songs as a whole– the kind of melodies that, if we were Power Rangers, we would Mighty Morph and fight badly to-, and one of those voices that we stopped hearing after GACKT made the tenor go out of style in the year 2000.

The steady beat of the song could potentially be annoying after two minutes, but the chorus is killer, and I was totally digging the random (intentional?) Fur Elise clip that just sort of happens. The construction of the song is awesome, the licks are totally catchy, and the whole thing is just exuding raw character. The acoustic salsa-esque guitar solo steals the whole show…well, it might, were it not for the fact that Chisato is wearing a cowboy hat, which is so ’90s Jrock, isn’t it?

Cybernetic Axeman. I couldn't have put it better myself.

Thanks to Dreamsprite.

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Zen Visual Kei

I apologize for not being very active lately. Truth be told, I haven’t really been feeling inspired by anything enough that I would want to write about it/review it. Most of what I’ve been listening to this past month has been pretty much the same old stuff. To put it in internet layman’s terms: meh.

So, recently, instead of listening to tons of music, I climbed into the mountains to hear the sound of the birds, and live off the land, miles and miles from the nearest tub of Gatsby Moving Rubber, without a perm in sight…And while I was in retreat…I wish I could say something like “I became enlightened”, but unfortunately my realization was somewhat lesser. I realized that I’ve been kind of snobbish, mostly because I’ve become paranoid in recent days about the creativity involved in the recent Visual Kei (and Jrock at large) releases. Some of them have felt more than a little mainstream, and of late, I’ve been waking up from gloomy nightmares, the word Commercialism…commercialism…commercialism… echoing around the room.

However, thankfully before my threats of KAT-TUN rebellion actually resulted in the buying of best-of albums and switching my banner out for one of Kamenashi Kazuya with his hair knotted up in a pink hair-tie, I started thinking more about where things stand, not in regards to the music industry and commercialistic totalitarianism,  but in regards to being a Visualist, and the listening to music aspect of our fandom. (I made the new banner just in case though!)

Just being annoying...

I like the Japanese word “Hajime” 「始め」 which means “beginning”. What I like about it is the kanji because it’s an extremely common and simple character, 始, but it has multiple parts, which, in my eyes, kind of represents the causes and conditions that need to be in place for anything to “begin”. In Japanese, the phrase meaning “Nice to meet you/How do you do” is “Hajimemashite” 「始めまして」 which means, literally, “it has begun”. I like this sentiment because, unlike “Nice to meet you”, it has a feeling of continuity and progressiveness.

In the same way that a personal relationship has a “it has begun” moment, which then develops and progresses into a “now we’re bros” plateau of mutual acknowledgement, media and music has the same patterning (in fact, most things do). In this case, you’re hearing a song for the first time– that’s the “hajimemashite”. Then, if you liked that song enough to look into it further, you will continue to explore that artist’s works (music, movies, media), to the point that maybe you will even travel to foreign countries to see them perform live (is the personal-relationship equivalent engagement? just kidding).

A while ago I read a book called Zen Guitar, which, you guessed it, applied the concepts of zen to playing guitar. The format of the “method” in this book was that the “student” was supposed to think of playing the guitar in the same way you would practice a martial art. The first thing the author tackled was the “black belt” issue. People wanted to know what it took to become a “black belt”. Sparing you the sentiments about how “one will forever be a student” and all that (he doesn’t spare you, but I will), I did like his comment on the topic. He said (paraphrased, as I can’t remember it verbatim) that “in the way of Zen Guitar there is only one belt: the white belt. The student must always return to white belt, every time. The only way that you can attain a “black belt” is by practicing to such an extent that your white belt becomes soiled, and steadily, blackens from use.”

Now, taking all of this philosophy into consideration and then looking at the actual experience of this developing relationship with the experience of listening to certain music, there is no definite point of fulfillment, is there? And yet we rush (it’s a side-effect of visualist dementia– don’t worry, we all have it) forward as if there’s some sort of finish line, or black belt. Essentially, there isn’t one.  At least I don’t think there is– not for me, anyway. And yet it’s interesting to see how, even with something as circular in nature as the appreciation of music, impatience develops. We obsess over when new material will be released– forgetting that there are still songs on old albums that we haven’t even listened to properly.

Essentially, it’s hard to avoid becoming jaded to something. At first and for a while it’s exciting, but if you do something enough, live it and breathe it enough, it becomes a habit – something done without thinking. Even if new material comes out, are we really as excited about it as we were right when we first started listening to The GazettE? I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, or state that this is just how it is. But for me, at least, Visual Kei and Jrock isn’t just a “phase” or something that I will lose interest in after a while. I would never “break up with it” as it were, just because I’ve hit a flat area. These are the points in ones relationship– with anyone and anything– where it actually starts to take awareness and conscious action to keep something alive, strong, and healthy. When you stop appreciating something properly, the jadedness creeps in, lethargy soon follows, and then who knows what’s next– gangrene, maybe. Or even worse, you find yourself actually checking out DBSK albums on eBay (don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying I’ve done that. Not yet, anyway.).

What I’m going to do about it, to both help refresh my appreciation of Visual Kei, and bring some new material to SG, is go back through all of my albums/singles/DVDs/whatever, many of which are dated from several years ago and haven’t been reviewed (I won’t do repeats) yet. I will do my best to listen to them with a “white belt” ear, and review them. It will definitely help me get back in touch with the older stuff, hopefully it will help newcomers to VK check out some classics, and maybe it will send some of you vets back to your dusty collections. Who knows, right?

From Now On, I Will Only Be Reviewing Kat-Tun DVDs.

This is really the last straw. I’ve had enough of this melodrama, this outrageous psychological torture. Visual Kei isn’t good for me anymore. For the sake of my nerves…it’s probably time for me to convert to the more soothing fandoms of Johnny’s Entertainment.

Recently there was a whole boom of summer release announcements, and they became available for pre-order. Being the naive, over-confident, far-too-trusting Visualist that I am, I spent at least a week planning out which albums I was going to buy (it was very difficult), and finally selected the 3 singles that I was going to be willing to amputate for. After this tedious and emotionally straining process, I realized that two of the singles would be released within a week of each other, but the third single wouldn’t be released until a month later. Frustrated, I was able to compromise by ordering the two matched singles together, and put off ordering the third single because it wouldn’t come out until a month later and I didn’t want to wait a whole month to get the other two that would have already been released. And then guess what happens? I go away for five minutes, FIVE MINUTES, and then I come back and there’s this odious order-update email in my inbox informing me that

the release date for GACKT’s summer single has been changed from June 16th to July 28th.

…This is not okay.

I’m going to rebel by canceling the order and buying KAT-TUN dvds.

My pointless rebellion