Ridiculously stylish in its presentation while presenting impressive quality and cohesion on the vocal end, XlamV steals the show with its 1st EP “Climb”.
Title: climb Release date: 14/07/2023 Label: REISEN RECORDS Genre: Nu-disco/Pop/EDM
Tracklist (regular edition only):
1 - Groovy Night 2 - This is my way 3 - アワソラ 4 - From Me 5 - Groovy Night (Inst) 6 - This is my way (Inst) 7 - アワソラ (Inst) 8 - From Me (Inst)
1 – Groovy Night
Prepare yourself to fall in love with XlamV’s mature take on nu-disco music with “Groovy Night“.
The intro is the slickest you’ve heard from the group. Synth hits slowly fade in and out, serving as the background to the funky guitar riffs, simplistic snary beat, and punchy bassline.
The stage is set. The vibes are good and mature, with the instrumental being quite close to the listener as is each singer.
You can feel the warm vibes coming from this song and the intimate tone to it as the song progresses.
Stylishly, the song takes you to a funky chorus that is sparse in its words but quite generous in its groovy vibes.
It feels like listening to a dancefloor tune. There isn’t much focus on the lyrics in the chorus, leaving a lot of room for the beat and bass line to sink in and for you to jam along to it. I believe that the chorus would be perfect for a massive choreography if the group ever manages to perform live. It certainly has that potential.
“Groovy Night” is all about its downtempo, mature take on nu-disco, and as such, the vocals are all about being melodic and warm.
All members are performing a bit lower on their vocal range for this tune and, at the same time, you will find plenty of ad-libs and riffing coming from Tasuku Hatanaka, Makoto Furukawa, and Ayumu Murase.
But the focus on the vocal end is on Kengo Kawanishi, Shintaro Asanuma, Reiou Tsuchida, and Chiaki Kobayashi. They spend the most time in the spotlight for this song and what a job they are doing, making things ridiculously funky for the listener.
From the groovy vibes in the instrumental to the little detail of “the sun rises again” then we get a cut to people on the streets, and even to the chants in the chorus and all the empty space in the instrumental – intentionally left that way -, this song is a punchy treat to listen to it.
With a stylish and mature nu-disco sound, featuring confident, smooth performances, “Groovy Night” is an addictive entry in XlamV’s repertoire and another exciting look at the group’s potential going forward.
2 – This is my way
“This is my way” arrives with atmospheric synths and beautiful R&B-style riffing from Tasuku Hatanaka leading the way.
The verses are dreamy for the most part, with subdued piano hits painting the soundscape in front of you.
However, as you get closer to the chorus, you will notice drums and a tropical synth lead joining in. These additions make it so that the verses have a unique duality to them. The first part is always quiet, creating a perfect stage for the clean vocals to shine whereas the 2nd part of the verses is all about its high-tension synths and powerful rapping.
The chorus has a washy style of percussion and synths, creating the feeling of a wave crashing by the shore, going back and forth in – this case – the instrumental.
As a result, Tasuku Hatanaka and Shintaro Asanuma – the two leads in the chorus – have to deliver a tricky performance, resorting to a lot of legato and subtle raises in tone to keep everything tight and in line with the rest of the groovy performance.
Also on the vocal end, it is easy to notice that you’ve got Tasuku Hatanaka’s vocals leading the way. He opens the track, leads the way in the chorus, and gets most of the spotlight throughout. As a result, this tune is ridiculously melodic and follows much of the R&B style which is a big part of Hatanaka’s singing style.
This time around you have a rapping duo giving their all in the background. Ayumu Murase and Makoto Furukawa are a force to be reckoned with. Their speed, diction, clarity, and precision are off the charts, adding a lot of energy and groove to this performance.
I’m an absolute sucker for the ad-libs in the background, leading up to the final chorus. In a song with so much tension, they feel refreshing, unleashing much of that tension in a really stylish way.
As a whole, XlamV’s “This is my way” brings a powerful EDM pop sound that is clean, and ethereal while all focused on the vocals. And yet again, the vocals shine for this group in what is, currently, one of the most cohesive 2D groups out there.
3 – アワソラ (Awasora)
XlamV kicks off “Awasora” in an unplugged fashion with an electric guitar and bass setting the tone to this dreamy tune.
The verses have an interesting duality to them with a quieter first part and a more intense 2nd part in which it feels like you are riding a car towards the sunset.
The beat and clap track join in that part to give more movement to the composition.
The chorus keeps up with that dreamy, R&B vibes with the atmospheric synths creating a warm soundscape that is all about relaxing you.
The beat is tight, creating the perfect stage for the reverbed funky guitar riffs in the background.
That distance -, provided by the reverb – helps further fleshing out the dreamy feeling you get from listening to this song.
When it comes to the vocals, XlamV does show a lot in this performance. In a way, this performance feels to me like a perfect showcase of the skills of all members.
You have Tasuku Hatanaka performing high notes in falsetto, Makoto Furukawa goes all out with rapping, groovy singing, and a sweet falsetto, Kengo Kawanishi and Chiaki Kobayashi bring a smooth, gentle edge to the performance while Shintaro Asanuma and Reiou Tsuchida bring their R&B riffing to the spotlight.
And adding the cherry on top of this performance is Ayumu Murase with beautiful high notes and a crystal clear high voice tone, serving as the perfect contrast to the rest of the vocals.
On top of a warm, laidback instrumental, XlamV is all about the good vibes in the beautiful “Awasora”.
4 – From Me
Breathy, atmospheric synths and a triplets-driven beat open the curtains to this tune however what awaits us may not be a deep EDM tune.
The verses are clean and bright, with dramatic piano hits and a muted guitar riff playing in the background, leaving more than enough space for the vocals to – one by one – shine in the spotlight.
Slowly, the song leads the listener to the chorus, introducing a sweet and slow-paced beat back into it while strings delicately paint the background.
If it was not noticeable until now, the mixing for the vocals is really well done. Instead of putting all 7 members performing the chorus at the same time, you get a lead vocal and a backing one, with members intercalating those positions between them.
There is no instance in which unisons take the lead which is quite impressive for 2D groups.
When that chorus kicks in, you will feel that hope and excitement in the lyrics, with those delicate strings putting a smile on your face as sweet piano melodies and vocals cozy around you.
After the bridge, the way Makoto Furukawa tackles that note, adding vibrato and outputting so much emotion will make you gasp.
Better yet, following that part, the instrumental completely changes key, opening up and getting even brighter while sounding tasteful, ready for the last chorus and outro. How that is done with a smooth fade in and fade out is ingenious. Such a simple thing made the song open this much and wrap up so powerfully.
XlamV wanted to impress and for sure they did with a song that follows the same quality standards as all songs released so far in the VS AMBIVALENZ franchise.
The final lineup for XlamV is lower ranged than the – once – 14-member lineup that VS AMBIVALENZ had.
As a result, their performances are more robust as well as melodic and mature, something that, in a way, I expected from this group but that is still rare to find among 2D groups.
At the same time, with the lineup having a lower vocal range as a whole, it provides more opportunities for each singer to perform comfortably, only slightly changing their tone if needed to harmonize with other members – like what happens in the chorus.
After listening to this song, I feel like this lineup is perfect. The skills and vocal ranges of each member fit well together and, individually, each member is well-equipped to impress.
Standing out in this performance is Tasuku Hatanaka – which opens this song up with a beautiful part -, Chiaki Kobayashi, Kengo Kawanishi, and Makoto Furukawa. They are a force to be reckoned with in this performance.
At the same time, Shintaro Asanuma, Ayumu Murase, and Reiou Tsuchida provided the perfect core to this group, complementing all members with their versatile vocals.
“From Me” breaks away from most clichés for pop tunes by idol groups, avoiding a high-tension EDM tune – although it hints at it -, having a perfect vocal direction and mixing that highlights all vocals, giving them not only an equal number of lines but also making sure they always sound clean.
Additionally, there are no forced unisons or filler “la la la” parts going on.
“From Me” is all about its pure, clean singing on top of a stellar composition that is daring enough to change keys midway and evolve in front of you.
And honestly, I want to listen to more and more of this and can’t wait for what XlamV will show us next.
It is an understatement to say that XlamV is an insanely talented group.
If the digital singles – also included in this EP – were an indication of anything, it was that you and I were experiencing the birth of a new group set on delivering quality performances that stray away from what is a trend, instead focusing on what makes sense taking into account the outstanding vocals at their disposal.
I’ve loved the build towards XlamV’s debut, starting with 14 members, each seiyuu voice two (and eventually, only one of those they voiced would make it to the final lineup), and then, through a series of voting rounds – mind you, free voting rounds as you didn’t have to purchase any CDs or pay for anything to have the opportunity to vote – get to decide the final 7 members for the group.
Starting with a big lineup and refining it to a reasonable number of members with voice tones that work really well was something I was not expecting would happen, especially when there was a popular vote in the mix.
This is one of the rare cases in which fans created a behemoth of a 2D pop group with not only an amazing seiyuu cast but also characters with voice tones that feel right in the lineup.
The journey for this group has been quite amazing since its official debut in 2023 and the series of digital singles – culminating in this EP – proves this group has everything to be in conversation as the biggest surprise of the year and one of the best 2D groups active in 2023.
It is rare to have a group so in sync vocally right off the bat but XlamV sure has impressed in this regard.
While everyone is impressive on their own – and I’ve talked extensively about them through this review – I feel like there are a couple of seiyuu that deserve the spotlight again.
I keep on being impressed by Makoto Furukawa’s evolution as a singer, now being fully confident in his falsetto and high notes (mind you, this is something he didn’t have in his singing skills until recently). He is proving to be lethal both on his natural low baritone range as well as in a faux tenor/high baritone, hitting those high notes and pulling off falsetto flawlessly.
At the same time, Chiaki Kobayashi continues to be a show stealer for me. He is really confident in his performances and the warmth he carries on his vocals always end up attracting my attention. He is also surprisingly consistent and cohesive in his performances (in comparison with the few 2D group experiences he had prior to joining the group).
Worth mentioning as well is Tasuku Hatanaka who honestly carries the group on his back for most of the performances, doing a bit of everything on the vocal end from driving a song forward to harmonizing with others and providing a lot of power to the group’s core.
Wherever you look, Hatanaka is there for XlamV’s performances which is impressive. I still wonder why not more people appreciate this and give him credit for being an awesome and technical Singer you can always rely on as well as the driving force for this group.
All in all, XlamV’s “climb” easily enters the top 10 best CDs released in 2023, bringing refreshing performances and a stylish sound that will have you come back for more.
What is VS AMBIVALENZ?
VS AMBIVALENZ is a 2D music project by NIZISTA. It has a pretty unique format in which only 7 out of the 14 members were chosen through voting that went on from 2021 up until late 2022.
XlamV (read: Kranve) consists of Jintaro (CV: Chiaki Kobayashi), Nagomu (CV: Shintaro Asanuma), 39YEAH↗ (CV: Makoto Furukawa), Issei (CV: Kengo Kawanishi), Lion (CV: Tasuku Hatanaka), Auguri (CV: Ayumu Murase), and Subaru (CV: Reiou Tsuchida).
To get to know more about this project, please refer to THTFHQ’s extended article about VS AMBIVALENZ.
“climb” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN (limited edition only).
“climb” is also available for streaming on Spotify.
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