AKATSUKI mix eastern and western influences in a release that is determined to impress you with the unit’s versatility and improved singing skills.
AKATSUKI consists of Yuichiro Umehara, Shinnichiro Kamio and Keisuke Kaminaga.
Title: Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.8 Akatsuki Label: Pony Canyon Release date: 08/11/17 Genre: J-Pop/Rock
1.剣戟の舞 2.祭夜絵巻 3.剣戟の舞 (off vocal) 4.祭夜絵巻 (off vocal)
Track by track analysis:
剣戟の舞is the embodiment of fun and class at the same time, the kind of sound you’d find being played at a Jazz club. Brass, delicate piano melodies, contrabass, hi-hat drums and blues-y guitar riffs are at the core of this mid-tempo instrumental. Everything, from pacing to progression, works incredibly well. Although we’ve mentioned that this is a jazz tune you don’t need to expect a slow-paced take on the genre. This instrumental’s pacing and progression makes the song a bundle of fun. The verses are energetic and the chorus grabs the listener’s attention. If there’s something a jazz song needs is a saxophone. There’s nothing like listen to a dazzling melody while enjoying and absorbing everything from the instrumental. Luckily, this instrumental follows the jazz basics – at least to some extent – and brings the saxophone into play. All of this to say that those saxophone and guitar solos in the outro were pure bliss. On the vocal end we have everyone Akatsuki giving their all for this performance. Kamio and Kaminaga brought to the table control and stunning harmonizations. While the performance as a whole was consistent and entertaining, we need to give credit to whom credit is due, the force to reckon with, Yuichiro Umehara. Umehara taking the lead and having a go at high notes, melodic sections (and delivering those with emotion), adding some vibrato, all this while displaying an astounding control over his vocals impressed us. Fun, rich instrumental with skillful vocal performances on top. The perfect way to kick off this release. 5/5
Forget all about electric guitars or even anything jazz related as this song is nothing alike the previous one. The best way to describe this song is most likely: a traditional Japanese song. This is the kind of song that you’d hear on a traditional street festival. The shamisen takes over this song, with its melodies being the core to the instrumental. Adding to it are snary drums, shakuhachi and a noticeable bassline. But if this instrumental is too “traditional” for your tastes or seems a little bit by the book, don’t worry. There are minimal glitchy synths in the background giving an odd 8-bit touch to the instrumental. For the most part though, it prides itself in being minimalistic and traditional. The vocals are clean but lack the quality we got on the previous track. Umehara stood out once again with the way he tackled his parts. He was adding flourishes everywhere – something that still feels unusual coming from him. All around interesting performance that lacked a bit in the vocal department. 4/5
Akatsuki brought with this release two completely different music genres. This contrasting release might have failed to impress but the reality is slightly different. This unit has an overall good control over their vocals and can harmonize surprisingly well. Why surprisingly? Taking into account that this unit has seiyuu in their ranks that are usually known for their deep vocals, it comes as a surprise that their singing tones deviate from it and better yet, they skillfully handle singing, adding vibrato or falsetto and even harmonizing at times. Umehara, Kamio and Kaminaga work and sound incredibly well as a unit, with this release being just one in the middle of several examples as to why they are an interesting outfit.
Even if, at times there were some things that weren’t as well executed as we’d expect, this release was determined to showcase the unit’s versatility. The first track 剣戟の舞 was a fun mid-tempo jazz song, on the other side we found 祭夜絵巻, song that takes pride on its traditional Japanese sound. Jazz and traditional Japanese music might seem like an odd combination in the same release, but panned out rather well in the end.
All in all, Akatsuki‘s take on the Unit Song CD series was interesting a completely different from the previous 7 releases in this series. If solid vocal performances and unique songs are your thing, this release will certainly pique your interest.
“Ensemble Stars! Unit Song CD 3rd Series vol.8 Akatsuki” is available for purhase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.