Review | Kaoru “Air Quotes”

Anthos

Kaoru’s “Air Quotes” recaptures the dreamy and ethereal essence – with a touch of maturity – that fans adore in Anthos* music.

Anthos 2nd solo series -Air Quotes- KAORU
Title: Anthos* 2nd solo series -Air Quotes- “KAORU”
Label: AIЯRIDE RECORDS. / Movic
Release date: 17/08/2023
Genre: Minimalistic Electronica/EDM

Tracklist:

1 - Imitation Flower
2 - Girl, it's you

Track by track analysis:

1 – imitation flower

Kaoru (CV: Shunichi Toki) kicks off the Air Quotes digital single series with “imitation flower”.

A dramatic piano melody plays in the background, ushering the entrance of washy synths.

The stage is set for what is a massive tune to kick off this series.

The bassline may go unnoticed for many of you because it is purposely muffled and distorted in the background but it is a massive driver for this song.

When you notice it pulsing in the background, you won’t help but feel this song even better. It’s like a heartbeat, calm and steady, guiding the listener throughout the song.

The build-up to this song is unreal. It brings the dramatic piano alongside the ethereal synths and slowly raises the curtain to unveil a beautiful soundscape with no end. 

The chorus is downtempo but incredibly punchy as the bassline leads the way, populating the soundscape with a warmth that is cozy to the listener.

When it comes to the performance, you can expect Shunichi Toki to sound gentle and delicate throughout the performance as he technically sings this song.

One thing that stands out as a negative in this song is its mixing. Toki’s vocals are buried in the mix for most of the song. 

I can understand it in the verses as the bass and the washy synths quickly create an overwhelmingly lower-toned instrumental. It’s the opening of the song, the introduction to the story unveiling in the next couple of minutes.

But when the chorus kicks in and more elements join in, it sounds like Toki is really far back and is not as clear as this song – due to its theme – demands. It gets quite murky in the chorus with all the bass elements completely muffling Toki’s tenor vocals.

Just a little bit of a breather in the mix would have made it possible for the vocals to sound clearer and cleaner. And for it would have made this song perfect.

As it is, Kaoru’s “imitation flower” is a beautiful and dreamy song with a delicate performance that will grip your heartstrings however a poor mixing makes a big chunk of the song not as clear as expected.

2 – Girl, it’s you

The single wraps up with “Girl, it’s you”, song that brings a downtempo, sexy danceable sound with progressive synths, a clap track, and a sitar far in the background.

The curtains close and Kaoru gets close.

The instrumental illustrates that by making the wide open soundscape in the instrumental get tighter and most of the instruments in the composition are more concentrated in front and up close to the listener.

The verses have a hint of mystery to them, keeping up with an intense yet down-tempo beat. The piano has a bit of a jaunty touch but never goes full-out funky. It’s minimalistic in the best way.

The stage is set for the vocals to take over – and believe me, Shunichi Toki makes sure you will be entranced by his performance – and the instrumental has a lot of breathing space, making sure each instrument is easily picked from the song.

When “Girl, it’s you” wraps up, I am left wanting more and more from KAORU as a solo performer.


Final considerations 

Impactful start to the “Air Quotes” series. As one of the main vocals in Anthos*, I was anticipating Kaoru (CV: Shunichi Toki) to arrive and dazzle me with gentle yet technical singing and that is exactly what I get here aplenty.

“Imitation flower” brought back that dreamy, ethereal vibe and sound I love about Anthos*. It has the right amounts of funky and fun in there but ultimately, it is a song that takes you on a journey through a big, bright, and uncharted territory. It is beautiful and has a really good performance by Shunichi Toki.

But there is a big “but” in here.

This is one of those cases in which the seiyuu’s performance or vocal direction isn’t at fault. This is a case of poor mixing that ended up almost completely muffling Shunichi Toki’s vocals. 

While listening to this song with neutral headphones or monitors can give a bit more clarity to the song – the clarity intended for the song -, those of you who listen to this song with bassy headphones will have a hard time finding Toki’s voice in the chorus (and it’s even worse for those that may use cheap headphones or in ears as that clarity Will be nowhere to be found).

With that being said, it was a bit disappointing to have such an odd mixing mishap in this song because it was set to be a flawless entry (if you aren’t as picky as I am with the mixing, then this song will be perfect for you).

And wrapping up this single listeners get to have another glimpse of Kaoru’s mature side with “girl, it’s you”. This is a song made for the dancefloor. 

Downtempo, with a progressive beat that gives a sense of intimacy and a stellar performance by Shunichi Toki – who goes on to deliver falsetto midway through the song, giving way to one of its highlight parts -, this is a song that easily stands out as the best in this CD.

All in all, Kaoru’s inaugural entry in the Air Quotes solo series is mature, dreamy, and gentle. It is an entry that will make you crave more by Kaoru and most certainly be impressed yet again by Shunichi Toki’s quality as a singer and performer.

What is Hana-Doll*?

Hana-Doll* is an idol project created by Movic (TSUKIPRO, VAZZROCK, Tsukiuta, etc.). Anthos* and Loulou*di are groups signed to the fictional talent agency Amagiri Production.

All CDs in this franchise include drama tracks and songs by each group.

Anthos* consists of Kent ItoWataru KomadaToshiki MasudaShunichi TokiDaiki HamanoSeiichiro Yamashita, and Shun Horie.

Loulou*di consists of Toshiyuki ToyonagaShunsuke Takeuchi, and Daiki Yamashita.


“Air Quotes” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support Anthos* by streaming via official outlets.

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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REVIEW OVERVIEW

imitation flower
Girl, it's you

SUMMARY

"Imitation flower" recaptures the dreamy and ethereal essence that fans adore in Anthos* music. It combines a touch of funk and fun, taking listeners on a journey through uncharted territory, and Toki's performance shines. However, there is a significant drawback – the mixing made the vocals sound murky and and buried in the background for most of the song. This is rare in the Hana-Doll* franchise so I will treat it as a freak happening but it certainly made "imitation flower" - which is an unbelievably good song - lose a bit of its appeal. The single closes with "girl, it's you," revealing Kaoru's mature side. It's a dancefloor-ready track with a downtempo, progressive beat that exudes intimacy. Toki's exceptional performance, including a mesmerizing falsetto midway through, makes it the standout piece on the CD. Kaoru's debut in the Air Quotes series is a mature, dreamy, and gentle entry that leaves you eager for more.

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"Imitation flower" recaptures the dreamy and ethereal essence that fans adore in Anthos* music. It combines a touch of funk and fun, taking listeners on a journey through uncharted territory, and Toki's performance shines. However, there is a significant drawback – the mixing made the vocals sound murky and and buried in the background for most of the song. This is rare in the Hana-Doll* franchise so I will treat it as a freak happening but it certainly made "imitation flower" - which is an unbelievably good song - lose a bit of its appeal. The single closes with "girl, it's you," revealing Kaoru's mature side. It's a dancefloor-ready track with a downtempo, progressive beat that exudes intimacy. Toki's exceptional performance, including a mesmerizing falsetto midway through, makes it the standout piece on the CD. Kaoru's debut in the Air Quotes series is a mature, dreamy, and gentle entry that leaves you eager for more. Review | Kaoru "Air Quotes"