Review | Tasuku Hatanaka “HISTORY”

Tasuku Hatanaka

Tasuku Hatanaka takes the listener on an unexpected roller coaster ride of emotions for the memorable single, HISTORY

Tasuku Hatanaka History
Regular
Title: HISTORY
Label: Lantis
Release date: 19/08/2020 
Genre: R&B-Pop/Experimental pop-rock

Tracklist:

1 - HISTORY
2 - Regret
3 - ボトルメール
4 - HISTORY (Instrumental)
5 - Regret (Instrumental)
6 - ボトルメール (Instrumental)

Track by track analysis:

1 – HISTORY

HISTORY is an uplifting electro-pop tune with some R&B touches on it. Listeners are welcomed with a cheerful piano melody that leads the way into the vast, dreamy soundscape created by a mix of atmospheric, pulsing and poly-synths.

This synths mix was done in a way that it is not overwhelming for the listener and, at the same time, does not take away the listener’s attention from Hatanaka’s sweet vocals.

A minimalistic dance beat and a deep bass line add the a massive groove to this track, wrapping everything up nicely.

Tasuku Hatanaka goes for a gentle performance, resorting a lot to his trademark falsetto while adding an extra bit of flair with a powerful vibrato.

He made sure to go the extra mile for his performance, with this song have a whole lot of flourishes. I must add that I love whenever Hatanaka belts those high notes and adds a bit of vibrato on top. That is something that I’ve come to expect from his performances since his debut release.

It is as if this HISTORY is made to impress the “person” the song is intended for (it can be the listener).

All in all, this is a simple, summery track with a gentleness that stays with you after listening to it.


2 – Regret

Regret is unlike anything Tasuku Hatanaka has released before. The song has an experimental, glitchy vibe and dark undertones that might sound unsettling on a first listen.

Dirty, modular synths, distorted guitar riffs, dramatic piano melodies contrast with brass, funky guitars and warm drums.

I get the feel that the instrumental tries to illustrate conflicting emotions but does so in a really complex way that might throw off many people that are certainly not used to experimental music.

The darker inside is illustrated by the introspective guitar riffs, the heavy distortion in the synths and the glitches on top of what could be a brighter sound – muffled by the bass line – in the background.

As you open the box of emotions, slowly, the song changes dynamics but it is still erratic about it. That is noticeable with how many times the soundscape around the listener changes. One minute you’re listening to distorted synths and industrial, toned guitars with painful piano melodies underneath, the other you’re listening to Spanish inspired acoustic guitar riffs and upbeat brass.

The bright outside (you can also say the front that the “I” in this story is putting up) shows in the chorus, with the dynamics shifting once again, now embracing a louder, happier sound to cover up those “ugly” emotions.

You continue to progress through the song and, after many twists and turns – as if the “I” is running in circles -, you reach the outro and encounter a period of peace.

The sound is clean, the voice is gentle. It seems that the storm has passed. Regret is slowly washing away.

When you reach the end of the song, there is still some dread, but the soundscape is much cleaner than it was in the beginning. It is as if the “I” in the song finally came to terms with their feelings. Regret lingers but it is not as suffocating and maniacal as it was at first (remember the 40 second intro?).

A note: the preview in the highlight medley below is incredibly misleading.



3 – ボトルメール

Bottle mail tries its best to wash away that darkness, coming with a sweet R&B sound.

A simple bass-drum and snap finger beat, simple strings stabs, a deep bass line and minimalistic guitar riffs create a cosy soundscape.

Slowly, the song progresses, welcoming atmospheric synths, and a rhodes piano yet, the song remains pretty quiet and simple at its core, with the focus being put on Tasuku Hatanaka’s penned lyrics and performance.

The end to this track is also unusual, cutting in a place where the listener will be expecting at least another chorus or a fade out with at least most 10 or 15 seconds of instrumental. Instead it just cuts abruptly.

Tasuku Hatanaka goes all out with his vocals for this emotional track. His high notes are gentle, his falsetto is sweet, and the mid-tones are comforting, enveloping the listener in a warm embrace.

Nice track to wrap up this release with, sweet and straightforward.


Final considerations

HISTORY is not what it looks like. On a first listen – especially due to the title track – it might seem like you’re in for a gentle, sweet and relaxing time with Tasuku Hatanaka.

Yeah… Not really. Whether you’ll enjoy this single or not really depends on your music tastes and how open you are to experimentation.

Things change drastically as you progress through the single.

Honestly, Regret is the kind of song that I’d never expect from Tasuku Hatanaka. He usually sings catchy dance pop tunes, sometimes a sweet ballad. But this?

It was unexpected.

It is a hard song to digest as you can, easily, extract 4 different pieces of music from it. I am used to this kind of insanity – industrial rock + experimental rock and electronica fan in here – but finding a seiyuu going this route that, is far from being mainstream, is insane!

First time listening to something like this from a male seiyuu, shifting as much in tone, instrumentalization and vocal direction as this one.

I find in this song serious vibes of / inspiration from: BUCK-TICK, Nine Inch Nails and Soma Saito.

Putting this release against a Japanese rock band that excels in unique music, a pioneer industrial rock band and a male seiyuu that is a master at twisting both music and lyrics, is the perfect way to analyse this complex piece.

Along the way some comparisons will be made to illustrate just how complicated and layered this song is (also, did I mention awesome?).

Regret morphs every 30 seconds or so. I am talking about a 5:30 minute song. That’s about roughly 10 – 11 changes in tone in the same track. There 2 that repeat itself, the rest do not.

These are a lot of music layers.

Industrial rock plays a big role. There is a lot of dirty synths, muffled sounds, distortions, glitchy stabs, a certain lack polish in those rough patches in the song.

Regret has a lot of dirty synth work going on but it is not simple dirty sounding synths. Distortion and glitches do not follow a pattern, which makes it sound insanely unpredictable and, at the same time, creates a rather uncomfortable soundscape for the listener to be in.

That intensity, that darkness plays a major role in fleshing out this track.

I can’t help but to find that this song takes inspiration from Nine Inch Nails’ “The Fragile” (attention: if you want to check this album – considered one of the best albums of all time -, for comparison, be aware that it was written under really unique circumstances that make it exude a dark, depressive and suicidal vibe that may be a trigger for some people) as well as a clear influence from BUCK-TICK’s style (presentation of their songs).

The lyrics are pretty straightforward but their presentation is not.

Those twists and turns that are enhanced by the instrumental made me instantly compare him to Soma Saito who, among male seiyuu, excels at it, pulling off multiple twists within a song (which leads to the listener no being sure what to expect).

The way he pairs up happy tones with dark lyrics or dark music with simple – at times happy – lyrics is something that I see a bit of in Regret.

This is, of course, where comparisons between the two end as, from that point on, Saito goes insanely complex with his lyrics and the lyrics for Hatanaka’s songs are usually simple and straightforward.

Still, it is nice to see that another male seiyuu is embracing this kind of approach to music (it really is a rarity). It is not conventional but notice how much it has caught my attention – and will catch yours as well -, and it’s all due to its uniqueness.

Tasuku Hatanaka might be experimenting with this sound but even so, Regret is an awesome experiment.

Bottle mail tried its best to bring the listener back to a good place but the damage was already done. It is a sweet track, with a certain end of summer nostalgia vibe to it that I thoroughly enjoy. The R&B sound is not overdone nor dated which is yet another plus.

After listening to this song and with these lyrics – simple but effective – I’d love to hear more from Hatanaka.

It would be interesting to see (more like hear) how he’d sound if he was more involved in the creative process, at least writing lyrics for himself. He showed that he does have the talent for, at least, that.

All in all, HISTORY is a really unexpected single.

I was in for the gentle and summer vibes and went on to be immersed in the darkness of Regret, not being able to leave it even as the closing track, Bottle mail, made its entrance.

There is something strangely addictive about this odd entry in Tasuku Hatanaka‘s repertoire and I am all in for this madness. What a release!


This review was possible thanks to a sponsored copy by reina.

HISTORY is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


 HISTORY is available for streaming on Spotify.


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

REVIEW OVERVIEW
HISTORY
Regret
ボトルメール
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. A year later, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for the review! I was very confused when I heard Regret the first time. I was expecting a happy summer vibe from the whole single but it was not. It was still a refreshing single because of the unexpected twist and it made me feel that it’s telling a story.

    It’s like what you said; Regret is hard to digest on first listen. It is also long; the moment I thought it’s finished on a light tone, there’s more sadness after. It’s not as heavy as the beginning of the song at least. Then the song after, Bottle Mail, sounds hopeful.

    • You’re welcome!
      I was also with the same expectations “this is, for sure, a summer single”. Yeah… he threw us a curve ball in “Regret”
      This is a pretty unique song with lots of mood fluctuations – that follow the constant changes in the sound we’re presented with. You can tell that this was intended to tell a story, which is a first for Hatanaka.
      Best thing yet is how well this whole song was pulled off because as a composer, once you go over the 3:50 minute mark, things tend to start sounding repetitive. Long songs are difficult to craft because of how you are aware that people already heard the chorus 3 times and they will be bothered at the 4th one. You need to create a mood, a setting, and it has to be perfect to capture and maintain the listener’s attention for the duration of the said song.
      With “Regret” keeping its variety – even if sounding pretty weird for most people – you end up breezing through it. The issue is that you are sucked into this story and end up wanting more. * hit that play button again *
      As a fan of industrial rock and experimental music it was really nice to hear someone challenging such a complex track.
      It fits in a rather odd way in the middle of HISTORY and Bottle Message – and I believe most fans will not enjoy the track because of how out-of-place it seems and sounds -, but I can’t help but to think how great of a song this one is.

      Thanks for the comment!

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