Review | UMake “TRIPPER!!”

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UMake embrace the elegance and flamboyance of jazz to deliver the mesmerizing album “TRIPPER!!“. Individually, Yoshiki Nakajima and Kento Ito go for contrasting performances to showcase their charms.

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Regular
Title: TRIPPER!!
Release date: 29/01/2020
Label: Art Sonic
Genre: Jazz-Rock / Ballad / Pop

Tracklist:

1 - TRIPPER!!
2 - SING ALONG!
3 - Junction
4 - PRIDE 
5 - レシピ
6 - ショートヘア・ドリーマー
7 - 星の海(acoustic ver)
8 - 深海のシリウス
9 - HOME
10 - ダブルレインボウ
11 - パクチーブルース
12 - それはきっと…夢、かい?

Track by track analysis:

1 – TRIPPER!!

Elegant brass and uptempo jazz drums paint a classy soundscape for “TRIPPER!!”.

The beat is punchy, with a contrabass doubling on the bounce from this track as drums playfully tread those ride and complex bass-snare rhythms.

Guitars are simple and barely noticeable in a song in which brass is king. 

The outro has a certain mysterious, chasing tone that is not only quirky but also really fitting of the tone of this song.

The verses are playful and uptempo, never missing a bit and the chorus is an explosion of color and melodies, putting a completely different shine over UMake. The song counts with a good guitar section by the end of the song, embellishing the instrumental even further than it already is.

On the vocal end, this was an interesting change of pace for the duo, tackling a jazz performance for the first time. Their vocals are full of life and give back to the song a lot of energy, energy necessary to keep the listener interested in their performance.

2 – SING ALONG!

Playful brass and Latin inspired percussion set the uptempo, summery vibe to “SING ALONG!”. The verses are filled with energy, never missing a beat since its sudden intro. The song flows into the chorus, one of the catchiest UMake has crafted so far in their career.

The groove in the bass line, the tropical touch of the Latin percussion, the funky guitars and brass create such a cool sound that, when the time comes for the chorus, UMake shine with the perfect backing track supporting them.

Believe me, this chorus will make you want to sing along to it. Add to it the intense bridge that takes the listen to a party setting in which Latin influences are strong and yes, this is quite the awesome and addictive track.

On the vocal end, it is fun to find Nakajima and Ito delivering quite the energetic and quirky performance that fits their vocals so well.

Top marks.

3 – Junction

Things tone down slightly, giving away from the dreamy, atmospheric synths-led track, “Junction”.

The intro is slow paced and airy, leading the away into a loungy jazz sound that focuses its all in a deep bass line, funky guitar riffs and cool Rhodes piano melodies.

Drums are simple and splashy, being the perfect completement to this slow paced, melodic tune.

The chorus exudes elegance with each note and the intentionally slow way in which Nakajima and Ito perform their parts.

Yoshiki Nakajima and Kento Ito deliver quite the impressive performance, delivering 70% of the song in falsetto. Their breathy performances on top of the soft instrumental of “Junction” make this song shine a whole lot.

Easily one of the best new songs on this album.

4 – PRIDE (Yoshiki Nakajima Solo)

A gun goes off and the bullet’s casing hits the floor and slowly, a dark, groovy beat takes over.

The guitars are dirty, the bass line intense and deliberately slow paced, exuding a slightly suggestive, dangerous vibe from it. Synths are minimal, adding accents to the pre-chorus but what stands out the most is the chorus.

PRIDE” has one of the most intense and “in your face” type of chorus. The snare hits hard, the bass pounds in your ears, atmospheric synths envelop you in this dangerous situation that you, honestly, don’t want to get away from. Yoshiki Nakajima takes the spotlight and your eyes can’t move away from it.

It’s that kind of performance.

Yoshiki Nakajima commands everything on this song, with a magnetic performance that you won’t be able to take your attention away from. This is a charismatic performance with a lot of flair.

The best song in this album, hands down.

5 – レシピ

[As previously reviewed] In a surprising turn of events, UMake explore folk music for Recipe.

The track has an irregular structure, with shares within verses having different tones and instrumentalization, leading to a folk-inspired, slow paced chorus in which strings are king.

Castanets, marching band-style drums, bells, wind instruments and timpani are just a fraction of what you will find in this song.

The vocals are comfortable, riding on the group’s consistent mid-tones and teamwork to grab the listener’s attention however, the song sounds a bit out-of-place in this release, at the same time that the instrumental – for being so exquisite – might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Solid track.

6 – ショートヘア・ドリーマー

[As previously reviewed] The pacing quickens and the sound shifts from pop-rock to electro-rock with ショートヘアドリーマー(Short hair dreamer).

This song bets heavily on its bass sound, be it from the reverberating slap bass line, bassy synths or the bass-drum driven drums.

Adding to this deep sound are fast paced synths and electric guitar riffs. This instrumental will certainly delight fans of vocaloid music.

There are hints in the style of this song – from music to vocal performance – that certainly hint that way.

Vocal manipulation completely takes over UMake‘s performance.

For some people that, like us, do not fancy, excessive usage of auto-tune, pitch correction or vocoder in performances, this song will certainly not be easy to find enjoyable.

But if it does not bother you in the least, this fits the bill of an entertaining song in which technicality is not the main concern.

7 – 星の海(acoustic ver)

Hoshi no Umi” gets a stripped-down acoustic version. The song is almost unrecognizable, bringing to the table acoustic guitars, cajon + bongos rhythms, gentle strings and piano melodies, creating a warm, sweet overhaul.

The verses have a lullabyish tone to them whereas the chorus channels a late summer, bonfire type of vibe. It is cozy, fun and intimate.

Vocals wise, UMake have improved a whole lot since the original version’s release. Yoshiki Nakajima and Kento Ito have cleaner singing and the overall recording is of better quality, making the little details on their performance stand out.

8 – 深海のシリウス (Kento Ito solo)

A haunting piano melody plays in the middle of an empty space for “Shinkai no Sirius”. The chords are deliberate and slow paced, carry a lot of weight to them.

Slowly, these accompany the drama in Kento Ito’s vocals, with the piano melodies going lower down the scale.

The soundscape is empty and solemn, carrying over to the chorus and 2nd verse. Urgent drums, dramatic strings and a choir – this one in the background – create an eerie atmosphere that you can’t help but envelop you, taking you on a journey.

Kento Ito delivers a masterful performance, with his vocals carrying a lot of emotion, sometimes on the verge of breaking and, when its time for those strings swells, his vocals rise to the occasion, much in the style of what you can find in dramatic visual-kei.

Haunting performance to listen time and time again.

9 – HOME

[As previously reviewed] A catchy, distant guitar riff opens this sweet-sounding pop-rock tune.

HOME” brings a fully electric sound however it sounds cosy and laidback as if we were listening to an acoustic song.

Pizzicato strings, a noticeable bass line and simple, splashy drums complete the instrumental for this song.

On the vocal end UMake continue to showcase their skills and the members’ individual vocal prowess.

Kento Ito and Yoshiki Nakajima laid it all out in this performance.

Their sweet mid-tones, those flourishes of vibrato and falsetto in some sections, the emotion they put on their performance stands out, making this song all the more memorable.

10 – ダブルレインボウ

[As previously reviewed] “Double Rainbow” brings to the table reinvented citypop music.

Gentle, washy synths introduce the listener to this track, as slow paced, groovy bass line and funky guitar riffs envelop the listener.

The instrumental takes us to a nostalgic neon-lit city but at the same time it has a unique summer touch with a rather romantic vibe.

The bass line is one of the highlights, gently taking the listener by hand and taking you on a laidback yet nostalgic trip.

The guitar solo in the bridge is another highlight, it just so well crafted, so old-school and disco-y, with a comfortable length that fits perfectly in this song and its vibe.

Double Rainbow” might feature the best performances by Kento Ito and Yoshiki Nakajima as a duo.

Their gentle mid-tones, the sweet high notes, the falsetto and the way both worked together in the chorus – complementing each other instead of one or the other take the spotlight –, plus the quality they deliver easily make this one their best song to date.

11 – パクチーブルース

Things change quite a lot and you’re greeting with a high-octane punk-rock meets blues and folk tune “Pakuchi Blues”. The verses are fast paced and intese and the chorus doubles-down on that, leading to quite the brief song.

There’s no big care for the vocals quality for this song, something that is both hilarious and endearing.

The freedom of punk-rock led to them to scream their lungs out, spouting nonsensical lyrics but, as you can tell, having a blast while doing it.

12 – それはきっと…夢、かい?

Sore ha kitto… Yume, kai?” brings to the spotlight a song that is a staple of this duo. Comfortable mid-tempo, big focus on acoustic elements, toms-driven drums, groovy bass line and funky guitar riffs take over and this song ends up being a sweet bundle of fun.

The verses are simple, riding on a comfortable tempo and building up to a gentle chorus in which acoustic elements are strong yet with the piano standing out a lot.

The vocals are on brand with what UMake have done in the past however, slightly different from what fans find among the new songs on this album. Yoshiki Nakajima is back to his natural tenor range, with that nasaly, higher tone making its comeback whereas Kento Ito has a more relaxed performance on this track.

Gentle way to wrap up this album, a bit below the quality of other tracks on this album but still quite the enjoyable song to listen to.


Final considerations

UMake make a big impression with “TRIPPER!!“.

The duo has improved a lot since their debut, constantly adding new bits, new tricks and tackling songs in completely different ways however, this time around, they went the extra mile and the new songs on this album are out of the this world.

“TRIPPER!!” is all about its elegant and playful take on jazz music, making it easy listening and, for avid fans of the genre, quite the tasteful listen.

In this vein were “SING ALONG!” and “Junction“, songs that stood out the most among the new tracks by the duo.

Latin Jazz took the spotlight in “SING ALONG!“, with its sound being insanely danceable and tasteful while retaining the elegance of traditional jazz at its core.

Junction” is a delight of a loungy jazz song with minimalistic electronica elements on top to give it a wide soundscape, sometimes even a dreamy and airy vibe that flows pretty well with Nakajima and Ito’s vocals.

TRIPPER!!” – the song – is also jazz-driven however, I would have loved it if UMake had changed their performance around to have a flamboyant touch instead of a mild variation of what they usually do – even if it has worked pretty well in the end.

This duo has the skills and capabilities to pull off an all-out flamboyant jazz performance, a pity we only get an appetizer here. At its core, the jazz in that song is awesome, filled with punch and class but the performance pales in comparison.

The album has its quirky moments, with “Pakuchi Blues” being the epitome of those.

This song is crazy, charging forward at full speed, not caring for song structure nor vocal quality. In the end, it sounds like something you’d do with your friends just for fun, singing and shouting along to a song.

Individually, Yoshiki Nakajima and Kento Ito go for contrasting performances to showcase their charms as singer-songwriters.

PRIDE” shows a darker, intense and slightly alluring side to Yoshiki Nakajima as a singer-songwriter something that, I fully wish that we could all agree we’d like to have the chance to hear more of. His charisma shines through, it’s as if he has always been a pop artist and this performance comes as second nature to him.

Powerful display of technique and singer-songwritting skills. This song makes me wish even more that Nakajima will venture as a solo artist in the future. He already sounds like a seasoned one.

In contrast, “Shinkai no Sirius” is beautifully empty, pensive and emotional, being a song that perfectly showcases who Kento Ito is as a singer-songwriter.

This is the kind of song that will suck you in and when it stops, you’ll be left with loads of questions in your mind. Great song and awesome display of Ito’s singer-songwritter skills.

These 2 charms together create the insanely talented UMake and make “TRIPPER!!” quite the auditory experience.


TRIPPER!! is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.

TRIPPER!! / UMake (Kento Ito, Yoshiki Nakajima)
UMake (Kento Ito, Yoshiki Nakajima)
TRIPPER!! / UMake (Kento Ito, Yoshiki Nakajima)
UMake (Kento Ito, Yoshiki Nakajima)

SUMMARY

UMake embrace the elegance and flamboyance of jazz to deliver the mesmerizing album "TRIPPER!!". Out of the new songs "SING ALONG!" and "Junction" stood out the most, with their quality shining in the middle of an album filled with high quality, tasteful tunes. Individually, Yoshiki Nakajima and Kento Ito go for contrasting performances to showcase their charms. "PRIDE" shows a darker, intense and slightly alluring side to Yoshiki Nakajima as a singer-songwriter something that, I fully wish that we could all have the chance to hear more of. His charisma shines through this song and I can only imagine how this song will play out on a live setting. In contrast, "Shinkai no Sirius" is dark, empty, emotional, being a song that perfectly showcases who Kento Ito is as a singer-songwriter. These 2 charms blend to create the insanely talented UMake and "TRIPPER!!" is quite the auditory experience.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

TRIPPER!!
SING ALONG!
Junction
PRIDE
レシピ
ショートヘア・ドリーマー
星の海(acoustic ver)
深海のシリウス
HOME
ダブルレインボウ
パクチーブルース
それはきっと…夢、かい?
Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, 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).

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