Review | Kent Ito “Sain”

Kent Ito Sain

Kent Ito brings a vaporwave aesthetic in which retro sounds and futuristic vibes meld together in the nostalgic 2nd EP “Sain” (or “Sign”).

A note: Kent Ito‘s 2nd EP is titled 咲音 (read: Sain) however it can also be known for its English title “Sign“.


Kent Ito Sain Regular edition
Regular edition
Title: 咲音 (Sain/Sign)
Release date: 27/03/2024
Label: A-Sketch/Astro Voice
Genre: Nu-disco/Pop-Rock

Tracklist:

1 - Sign
2 - My Factor
3 - 戯言
4 - サッドマンズランド
5 - BiT
6 - Follow

Track by track analysis:

A note: instrumental tracks are not ranked, as such “Sign” won’t get a rank/grade in the final review.

1 – Sign

Solemn strings and a choir open the doors to “Sign” with an unexpected dramatic yet hopeful tone. This is a first for Kent Ito, opening an EP with an instrumental track with a chillout/lo-fi vibe.

And let me tell you, the dreamy tone it sets is something you will have to experience for yourself.

2 – My Factor

“My Factor” follows through with a strong vaporware aesthetic and nu-disco vibes. You have disco-inspired string melodies, and a deep bassline punching its way through this soundscape – if you love good basslines, this one will have you jamming along to it in no time.

The verses are quieter yet with a dreamy vibe – courtesy of the atmospheric synths in the background -, a punchy bassline shares the stage with fancy legato strings as the drums shuffle their way through the soundscape.

The chorus is groovy and stylish, making the best of the retro vibe it had in its intro. The energy levels rise, the tempo is comfortable and glitch, and bassy synths, and a deep bassline craft a danceable tune for you.

Add those string hits, slicing the soundscape, creating almost like ripples in this instrumental, and you have in here one of the coolest dance tracks Kent Ito could have delivered to you.

I love the vocals for this song as they always bring something different to this performance. While the brunt of the performance is all about Kent Ito stylishly tackling the lyrics, adding a smooth, elegant vibe, the rest of the song brings some unexpected twists.

During the chorus, the vocal direction goes in a route I was not initially expecting, with Ito adding a lot of flair with flourishes and subtle changes in tone that make him shift from stylish singer to R&B master.

When “My Factor” wraps up, all that is left behind is the glitter, the lights and the stylish vibes that this song brought to the spotlight.

3 – 戯言 (Tawagoto)

[As previously reviewed]

“Tawagoto” kicks off with a semi-acoustic pop-rock sound led by longing guitar riffs.

Its intro is a good appetizer for the laid-back, warm yet nostalgic sound of this song. The pacing is comfortable, the overall mixing is clean and clear and it sounds pleasing to listen to.

The verses have a certain nostalgia to them, as the guitars lead the way. The drums are simple and ride on a comfortable tempo while the bassline is a subtle presence in the background.

When the chorus kicks off, Kent Ito goes all out with his falsetto as the electric guitars go big on the reverb, giving this song an even more intense nostalgic vibe (something that winks at shoegaze rock and post-rock). The acoustic guitars however have something different going on in them. 

They are warm and cozy, making the listener feel this song with a smile plastered on their faces.

The bridge brings cool drums and guitar face-off. This isn’t something too complex but the way it breaks the pacing of the song yet how seamlessly it fits it, is quite pleasing to me.

As far as the performance goes, expect Kent Ito to deliver something quite different from everything else he has done so far as a solo artist. 

He is performing in a simplistic way, more focused on having pleasant melodies than sounding fancy. As such, you will find plenty of falsetto in this performance, raising the tension in the instrumental but never trying to overshadow it.

If you and I make a comparison of his performance in this song, it must be to how he performs with UMake. “Tawagoto” sounds like a song that belongs to UMake more so than to Ito as a solo artist.

But then again, let’s not forget he is the composer for UMake and much of his solo sound is yet to be defined as he is still in his early stages as a solo artist. These variables make it so that it’s safe to say neither you nor I know what may arrive in the upcoming releases (albums or otherwise).

As “Tawagoto” wraps up, I’m left wondering which direction Kent Ito will go next for his music, especially as he is coming from a really strong mini-album (Hanabi).

“Tawagoto” has piqued my curiosity for what comes next and has shown another side to Kent Ito as a solo artist (especially for fans who have not followed his work with UMake).

4 – サッドマンズランド (Sadman’s Land)

“Sadman’s Land” shifts things around, going for a simpler, pop-rock sound that is almost lo-fi in its presentation.

A driving bassline opens the way to this song, serving as the core for this song. But alongside the muffled guitar riffs, bassline, and riveting, fast-paced drums, there’s more.

Kent Ito brought to this performance a refreshing piano – playing in the background – and synths – only noticeable in the bridge -, giving this song a layer of unpredictability.

One thing you will instantly notice when you first listen to this song is that the mixing is unusual. Every single instrument is really on top of you, there is a lot of intentional distortion – bass, guitars, and synths – and some melodies that sound out of place. chaotic.

Something is fascinating about those because Kent Ito has never been this crazy in a song, and I was not expecting unpredictability from him. Also, I was not expecting it would work this well in the overall composition.

I fell instantly in love with the pre-chorus for this song. The quiet focus on Kent Ito’s vocals was welcomed and the perfect way to build up the tension to be unleashed in the energetic chorus.

The chorus has awesome guitar work that really takes me back to the good early 00s. It reminds me a lot of old-school Porno Grafitti and SID – which is a massive plus -, with the riffs and licks being funky and carrying a lot of energy.

And can we talk about that jazz-inspired break in the bridge, leading up to an unusual, dissonant organ and wah-wah guitar solo?

That’s just pure genius in a song that is so disruptive, to add those sections and deliver those in those ways is something I was not expecting (even taking into account how unusual the composition for this song is).

If you’re craving a fun song that will keep you on the edge of your seat with its crazy unpredictability, this is the song for you.

5 – BiT

Things change around yet again for “BiT“, song that starts with muffled vocals by Kent Ito but soon after brings in muted guitar riffs, a deep bassline, and tight snary drums.

The vibe is mysterious and futuristic in a way, bringing atmospheric synths to wash the percussion away and set an ethereal stage for Kent Ito’s vocals.

And oh boy, aren’t his vocals amazing in the pre-chorus? (more than usual, my friends)

The build-up to the chorus with those high notes in falsetto arrived out of nowhere to sweep me off my feet. I was already loving the unusual, distant, future travel to nowhere vibe in this song but those vocals completely locked me in to love this song more than I expected.

The chorus is a beauty, with longing guitar licks painting the dreamy soundscape in a way that will make you want more and more.

The atmospheric synths create an unreal soundscape while Ito’s muffled vocals sound like a distant message to dream, wake up, and go get it.

I love how, to emphasize the futuristic vibe, the vocals are muffled throughout.

In some instances, you have some clarity but for the most part, Kent Ito’s vocals sound like a message being relayed to you in a dream. When this song wraps up you will want to listen to it again, trust me.

6 – Follow

And we wrap up Kent Ito’s “Sain” (or “Sign”, if you want to call it for its English name) with “Follow”.

Once again, fans are presented with a song that strays away from what Kent Ito has been creating/releasing up until now.

And once again, Ito delivers something fans will want more of in future releases.

“Follow” brings to the spotlight a downtempo, blues guitar-driven pop-rock tune with a semi-acoustic vibe. This is a song that screams early 90s ballad.

In the background, you will find a rhodes piano dishing out those nostalgic vibes while the acoustic guitars melancholically play around you (there are two so use your headphones/earphones to experience the uniqueness of both).

The drums are slow-paced and warm with a bassline playing in the same vein, deep and carefully, almost like it is ready to lullaby you.

This results in a sweet song that feels like a “Welcome back” hug after a long trip. It really feels this cozy.

One thing I love in this song is the organ solo in the bridge that, although it never gets the full-on spotlight – as the guitars and drums are still playing -, it helps crank up those nostalgic vibes to the maximum.

Kent Ito fully embraces this vibe and goes for a gentle, sweet performance in which his vocals seem to be gliding in the song. It’s magical in a way while being incredibly grounding at the same time. (yes, this is contradictory as a feeling but listen to this song and you’ll understand where I come from with this).

What a way to wrap up this 2nd EP.


Final considerations

Kent Ito has been creating wonderful, retro, and warm soundscapes since his solo debut and that hasn’t stopped here with “Sain“.

This 2nd EP is nothing like “Hanabi” in its vibes or composition style. There are big changes here that take this EP to a completely different place in comparison with the previous one.

Yes, “Sain” is, in my opinion, an amazing EP, another awesome reason to bring Kent Ito yet again into the conversation about the best singers among male seiyuu.

This EP sounds and feels like Kent Ito has a well-defined sound and vibe and is finally able to play around with all the tools and weapons at his disposal. As a result, while in the past his iterations to citypop were awesome, they feel, in comparison to those in this EP, more contained (which was something I didn’t feel at the time I reviewed “Hanabi”).

In “Sain” there is a natural sense of freedom, and pure creativity – leading to some of the craziest and most unpredictable compositions or instrumentals you can find in Ito’s repertoire.

But you can still expect the explosive – almost fantastic – danceable, bass-driven sound that Ito has used us to in previous releases (but cranked up to the maximum here!).

It was the first time Kent Ito opened a CD with an instrumental track.

I was not expecting that – as I didn’t check the running time for the track – so it was a nice shift in tone for him.

It was also a perfect summary of the vibes, the sights, the emotions, and the quality that would expect me (and you) in this EP.

When it comes to the saying which is the best song in this EP, I struggle to find just one.

For starters, I love the intro “Sign” and “My Factor” was an instant love for me – and proof that leading tracks should be this powerful and a good representation of what people can expect of an EP – but “BiT” has all the vibes, composition quirks and performance I love.

Those futuristic vibes arrived out of nowhere but where exactly I wanted to find when the EP hinted at those retro sounds and vaporwave aesthetics in its intro. “BiT” is an aesthetically pleasing song with plenty of cool things happening that kept me replaying the song to no end.

But then again, I love “My Factor” a whole lot, and even the craziness of “Sadman’s Land”, and the warm rock vibes in “Tawagoto” and “Follow”.

So yeah, I’d say you should check this EP for yourself as what you will find in here will blow your mind away – especially if you’re a fan of funky, groovy songs with retro, nostalgic vibes.

When it comes to the vocals, Kent Ito keeps showing why he’s one of the best singers among male seiyuu. His control is crazy, he never – ever – sounds like he is straying his voice or doing things he can’t do.

He’s pure control and confidence when it comes to singing and this is really charming and, in a way, makes the performances sound effortlessly good.

All in all, “Sain” is a flawless EP, Kent Ito’s best to date, and a good sign that things will only get even better from this point on. If you haven’t checked this EP yet, don’t miss it.

And yes, this EP is already in the run for the title of best album of 2024.


Sain” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN. However, you can find it at Amazon Japan (they ship internationally).


“Sain” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support Kent Ito 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

My Factor
戯言 (Tawagoto)
サッドマンズランド (Sadman's Land)
BiT
Follow

SUMMARY

Kent Ito brings a vaporwave aesthetic in which retro sounds and futuristic vibes meld together in the nostalgic 2nd EP "Sain" (or "Sign"). In "Sain" there is a natural sense of freedom, and pure creativity - leading to some of the craziest and most unpredictable compositions or instrumentals you can find in Ito's repertoire. But you can still expect the explosive - almost fantastic - danceable, bass-driven sound that Ito has used us to in previous releases (but cranked up to the maximum here!). When it comes to the vocals, Kent Ito keeps showing why he's one of the best singers among male seiyuu. His control is crazy, he never - ever - sounds like he is straying his voice or doing things he can't do. "Sain" is a flawless EP, Kent Ito's best to date, and a good sign that things will only get even better from this point on. If you haven't checked this EP yet, don't miss it.

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Kent Ito brings a vaporwave aesthetic in which retro sounds and futuristic vibes meld together in the nostalgic 2nd EP "Sain" (or "Sign"). In "Sain" there is a natural sense of freedom, and pure creativity - leading to some of the craziest and most unpredictable compositions or instrumentals you can find in Ito's repertoire. But you can still expect the explosive - almost fantastic - danceable, bass-driven sound that Ito has used us to in previous releases (but cranked up to the maximum here!). When it comes to the vocals, Kent Ito keeps showing why he's one of the best singers among male seiyuu. His control is crazy, he never - ever - sounds like he is straying his voice or doing things he can't do. "Sain" is a flawless EP, Kent Ito's best to date, and a good sign that things will only get even better from this point on. If you haven't checked this EP yet, don't miss it. Review | Kent Ito "Sain"