[A3!] Winter Troupe “Blooming WINTER” (Review)

Winter troupe

The Winter Troupe wraps up the Blooming CD series with “Blooming Winter“, a mini-album that doesn’t lack consistency, refined instrumentals and classy performances.

The Winter troupe counts with: Atsushi TamaruTakuya SatoJunta TerashimaToshiyuki Toyonaga and Tetsuya Kakihara.

Title: Blooming WINTER
Label: Pony Canyon
Release date: 01/11/2017
Genre: J-Pop/R&B/Jazz


1. esの憂鬱(Toshiyuki Toyonaga & Junta Terashima)
2. 正体 (Tetsuya Kakihara & Takuya Sato)
3. トロイメライと空白(Junta Terashima)
4. 奇天烈ポエマー(Toshiyuki Toyonaga)
5. 月虹上のアリア(Tetsuya Kakihara)
6. esの憂鬱 (off vocal)
7. 正体 (off vocal)
8. トロイメライと空白 (off vocal)
9. 奇天烈ポエマー (off vocal)
10. 月虹上のアリア(off vocal)

Track by track analysis:

1. esの憂鬱

A mysterious, classy vibe takes over as soon as esの憂鬱 kicks off. The instrumental is jazz imbued mixing the best of the 20’s and 30’s classic jazz tunes: slow paced, mixing strings and timpani with the contrabass, delicate piano melodies and timeless brass and vibes. If you fancy these kinds of instrumentals that focus more on creating a landscape for you instead of showing off as well as if you really enjoy a pure jazz tune, this instrumental is exactly what you need. It’s simple and it is classy, all while keeping a comfortable pace. On the vocal end we need to point out just how incredibly well did Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Junta Terashima fit with this whole classic jazz vibe, and how their tones worked out together. Both Toyonaga and Terashima are capable, skilled singers that have proved time and time again that they are reliable, but having both on the same track giving their all in a genre that demands emotion and control was something that impressed us. Having Toyonaga’s versatility mixed with Terashima’s sweet melodic singing tone did wonders to our ears. esの憂鬱 is a gem of a song. 5/5

2. 正体

Things change drastically as a dramatic tone takes over. Delicate strings, eerie piano melody, simple bassline and guitar riffs plus snary drums make this pop-rock song with some orchestral twists shine in the middle of this release. The instrumental relies on a slow to mid-tempo beat, making good use of that eerie, dramatic vibe that the strings and piano have a hand in right from the start. The vocal performances were surprisingly impressive. On one end we have Tetsuya Kakihara, known for a smooth vibrato and softer tone that can easily tackle high notes, on the other side we have Takuya Sato, a powerful and sweet baritone packed with a skillful vibrato and an impressive range. What we didn’t know was just how satisfying they’d sound together, that is, until we listened to this song. Both brought their A game for this performance. With Sato in charge of a lower register and Kakihara of a higher one, whenever they had to perform together their harmonies shone. They also brought to the table plenty vibrato and a whole lot of control in their vocals to tackle their solo parts. It was also interesting how in one chorus the focus is on Kakihara’s vocals and the other is on Sato’s vocals, giving an opportunity for both to shine. Yet another solid performance on this release. 5/5

3. トロイメライと空白

トロイメライと空白 has, perhaps, the most complex instrumental on this release. At first it sounds like a mix of a music box with some glitchy synth lead but soon it evolved and, with a marching band pace, we were introduced  to pizzicato strings, vibes, washy synth pads and a simple bass line. Well, with this description you’ll certainly wonder how messy it might sound when you listen to it. It’s not messy at all. On paper it might sound complicated but as you listen to the instrumental, you’ll end up understanding that everything is on its right place and sounds perfectly well. This instrumental is as I’d like to say: perfection in the middle of chaos. Junta Terashima is in charge of performing this song. For those that might be used to Terashima’s lower register, this song will certainly sound slightly different. He’s performing this song on a higher key, making good use of falsetto and tackling notes that we usually don’t listen to him tackle. All of this led to an overall consistent and entertaining performance. 4.5/5

4. 奇天烈ポエマー

And a warm welcome to the playful 奇天烈ポエマー. It’s not often that we find these kinds of instrumentals in which you really get the idea that someone thought about all the unusual instruments you’d generally avoid putting together when composing a song. Well, this instrumental brought to the table timpani, vibes, cowbell, strings, acoustic guitars, accordion and more. Once again, it does sound a bit odd but anyone that listens to this song will soon end up having fun with its quirky sound. I dare say that its quirkiness it’s its selling point. For the vocal performances we find Toyonaga delivering a melodic and playful performance that grabbed our attention right from the start. 奇天烈ポエマー is a quirky and fresh song with an equally entertaining vocal performance. 4.5/5

5. 月虹上のアリア

As the end of this release closes in, we’re presented with 月虹上のアリア, a song that embraces an acoustic and sweet sonority. This acoustic pop song delivers delicate piano melodies, sweet strings sections and melodic acoustic guitar riffs, all while the drums are kept to the bare minimum. This instrumental sounds a lot like a late 90’s R&B pop tune, it’s sweet, simple and interestingly quieter in comparison with all the other songs on this release, a fitting way to wrap up this release. Tetsuya Kakihara is on vocal duty for this song. Between vibrato and falsetto, Kakihara swiftly captures the listeners’ attention. The sweet instrumental is a perfect fit with his smooth and honeyed vocals. The kind of song that you’ll want to listen to in order to relax. 5/5

Final rating:

Blooming Winter never went out of its way with far-fetched sounds or all over the place instrumentals. Consistency was key to impress us.

Starting from the jazzy esの憂鬱 that paired up Toshiyuki Toyonaga and Junta Terashima in what was one of the best performances on this release; passing by the dramatic 正体 that showcased two powerful vocals on both ends of the spectrum, Tetsuya Kakihara and Takuya Sato; visiting 奇天烈ポエマー, the quirkiest song we’ve had the pleasure to listen to during this past year, a perfect fit for Toyonaga‘s impressive range and versatility; and completing this release with the acoustic R&B tune 月虹上のアリア, performed by the smooth operator Tetsuya Kakihara, this release had a little bit of everything.

We’re particularly satisfied with how consistent the release was. All songs managed to fit within the same mood and seldom strayed away from it – even when they did, those songs still sounded like they belonged on this release -, the vocal performances were top tier, as expected by one of the troupes with the overall best vocals/singing skills. The duet songs were undoubtedly the highlights on this release. As for the individual songs, all were entertaining and unique in their own ways, managing to grab our attention. 月虹上のアリア stood out in the middle of the solo songs for its delicate and sweet vibe.

In the end, Blooming Winter is easily the most consistent and complete release part of A3!’s second CD series. All songs are unique and well crafted, the vocal performances were classy, plus the whole release feels right and consistent after a full, uninterrupted listen to it. If we had to recommend one release from A3!‘s second CD series, this would be it.

Blooming Winter is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.


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Vanessa Silva
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder, content creator, and music reviewer. Basically, the only person managing everything at The Hand That Feeds HQ. Stumbling upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" in 2011 was the start of this journey. If music is thought-provoking or deep, you may find her writing almost essays (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). She's the producer and host of the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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