Skip to main content.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I have already praised Suga Shikao skills in composing, lyrics writing and playing music. Yet, this metropolitan poetry is still very surprising.

In his song "Hikari no kawa", Shikao talks about her former lover passing him by on another car, in a traffic jam. It's the occasion to rethink to the past, and why it didn't quite work out, and to fantasize about the similarity of their story and what's happening as he loses her in the queue. And there's even space to think about not just the "story of them two", but about love and affection in general, as we live in cities where we become mechanized animals, half flesh and blood and half chips and gears. And all of this, without exaggerations, or epic conclusions; just told as it is, felt as it's felt, daily as it is. With the "stream of light" being just the row of car lights, and somehow, at the same time, being also much, much more. In perfect Shikao's unique style.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I can't stop thinking at this song as a precursor of Sekka No Shinwa (the Legend of the Snow Petals). Takase Kazuya weaves a round arrangement, able to evoke the vastness of an empty sky with whirling wind. A wind, as this song says, that can bring new life.

Eiko words are always more introspective and emotional than Kotoko's. The slow, solemn, female voice of Eiko and the joyful melodic line merges wonderfully with the restless background produced by Kazuya, in one of their best joint works ever.

I've been cherishing this translation for some years now, but I finally decided on a gentle request of a visitor of my Blog, which is also a great fan of Eiko and loves to dance her songs.

Friday, September 04, 2009

There are songs that you overhear without paying too much attention to them. You just generally like them, but nothing more. 'Till, one day, you stop listening really what the singer has to say and you find a little jewel where you just spotted some glowing in the sand.

Shimamiya Eiko's "Ozone", from "Endless Loop", is one of those songs. It's simple and elegant in its melody, yet catchy. You just listen to it and get slowly grabbed by the skillful and female voice, by the solid yet discrete underlying arrangement, by the simple and elegant piano inciso.

And when the melody and harmony finally convince you, you start to listen the song. A monologue thought as a dialogue with her lover, now gone, and the pain he caused. Oh, there's plenty of those songs around, you'd say.

Yeah, but this one is overwhelmingly sincere. In our western culture, where emotion bursts are regarded as clumsy and outrageous, openly saying "I wish you to cry" is considered bold, at least. But here, she goes on about half of the song telling him what her imagination is making up with him now. Precisely.

This description of her state of mind, of what her mind is doing, is so deep, so real, so touchy that you just have to feel like her. A fine piece of lyrics, being able to move anyone while still being not poetic, but plainly, just, "told".

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Looking back a bit in my blog, I found out that it's been a while since I translated some Japanese song. This week, I bought the last album of Shikata Akiko, "Harmonia" and it's definitely fascinating. On the CD leaflet, she writes "There's a rhythm floating in the soul of this planet shining of its life", and that's the introduction of one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by a musician. I have not the talent to say if she succeed or not, but for sure, listening all the songs from the first to the last, you can tell a story of nature, mankind, hope, despair, darkness and light.

The last song of the album, "Harmonia", is the synthesis and conclusion of the work. That song is "all". I couldn't fit it in a frame, because its everything the music has produced up to date. It's lyric, and epic, yet simple and warm. It has some Arabian music remembrance, but it sticks with European traditions, it's Celtic and Gypsy, it's classical and modern, it remembers centro-american popular songs, and has something vaguely African. You could add a Dijeridoo in the frame, and it would be just perfect. And of course, it's so Japanese...

The lyrics are possibly not outstanding poetry, yet they fit the frame so perfectly; they are just telling you what the music is already telling, in another language. This song is not just words-over-music, or music-over-words as sometimes happens. It's words-and-music.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This was one of the first songs of Shimamiya Eiko I wanted to translate. I've been able to understand it fully for a couple of years now, yet I hesitated. This text is so exquisitely Japanese that it was very hard to find a fine balancing both in English and in Italian (as want I translate songs also in my native language).

This songs talks about religions; or better, it talks about cultists, the ones running religions. While the thematic is very similar to that of Uzu-maki, written by Kotoko, this song is much more direct and far less metaphoric. For this reason, while it seems less profound, it is bolder, and thus, courageous. The Japanese employed is yet exquisitely elegant, while being still direct and concrete.

This song has a very sophisticated melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structure; it's an extremely charming blend of oriental scales and works on a 6/4 time broken up in a ternary rhythm (18/12). It has been arranged in two versions; one, in the "Endless Loop" mini-album is mainly acoustic, and involves an ehru (a typical oriental violin-like instrument that Eiko seems to particularly love), a guitar and several acoustic percussions. The other, in "O", is a majestic digial-sound version, which completely alters the harmonic structure. They both are marvelous, but the electronic version feels somehow... more infinite; possibly this is because the sophisticated and elegant harmonic structure of the more-acoustic version, while fascinating, is more "compressed", while the electronic version is somewhat "open", "endless"... somehow, this endlessness seems more adequate to support the meaning of the lyrics.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A so complex text. Still have no words about this Onmyouza song.

Just one note: while the "moon" has a female character in many occidental cultures, it's considered a male entity in Japan.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I am just out from an impressive effort in stabilizing the last release of Falcon, and I need a break and few things are more refreshing to me than Shimamiya Eiko's music. I have a nearly endless backlog of song of her I'd wish to translate, to share the experience of being caressed by her music with everyone, but this one has caught me so much I find often myself seeking and replying it again and again. Maybe because it's autumn.

The music is gentle and light, but it's extremely rhythmic, with massive usage of phaser effects on synthesized instruments, all in a joyful major tone. And so is the song, happy and light... as it talks of a woman whose spirit raise high in the sky, as her lover runs after her, calling her name and begging her to be back with him.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I appreciate very much the voice of Kawada Mami. She's one of the "I've" girls, together with my favorite Shimamiya Eiko and with the amazing Kotoko. She's extremely skilled especially in what is technically called "voice control"; the precision of her intonation and the constance of her pitches are amazing, literally ranging the abilities of electronic synthesizers.

However, she had been mainly a singer, rarely composing lyrics and often singing things produced for her by the other I've members. I noticed that this was a pity, as her skill was rarely exploited.

But recently, she has released the first album for which she has also written the lyrics. Her past works were satisfactory, but not outstanding. Her lyrics were interesting and above the mean, but they weren't at the level of the other writers in the "I've".

This song is definitely a quantum leap forward. Not only she had been able to match the thematics of the other composers, but she've been able to add a personal touch. She's using a very high register, both in the form of the grammar, which uses chained verbs in suspensive forms (in sequences of three and four), and a coherent and rich set of inversions, but also in the substance; especially the first sentences are very "souseki-like". She also uses interesting rhetorical forms, as the balancing of "toki" (time/when) at the beginning and at the end of a sentence with the two possible meanings, the usage of the ideogram "生" chained in its two verbal readings (ikiru - to live - and umareru - to be born). In general a very elaborate usage of the Japanese language.

Also, while the music of this song is composed by Tomoyuki Nakazawa, it's evident that Mami had been able to slip in a personal touch, or that Tomoyuki wrote this song taking into consideration Mami's skills.

I cannot help but be happy of the fact that the "I've" group gains another active and excellent composer.
Kotoko uses to write cryptic and complex lyrics in her songs. This song of her is one of my favorite because the images it recalls and uses are extremely evocative. Each single word is beautifully chiseled in the song, and Kotoko sings it with emotion and giving a tense feeling of bewilderment and enlightenment, of claustrophobia and agoraphobia, of hope and despair exactly at the right spots.

Probably, this song of her is underestimated, and this is exactly because of its complexity and duality. To me, is a small cameo of perfection, and one more proof of her genius, if there was need for more of it.

Katsuya Takase's music sustain perfectly the lyrics, or possibly interacts with them, with regions of pitch dark and sprouts of blind hopes. The overall feeling is that of a metropolitan, dark sound which doesn't completely gives in to gloom.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I've been willing to try to translate in Italian this marvellous story written by Natsume Souseki in the early '900s for a long time now. I was largely dissatisfied by the available translations, and since the copyrights on this story are already expired, I decided to try to translate it by myself.

More on my blog in italian http://sveglia.niccolai.cc.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The latest Shimamiya Eiko's album, "Hikari Nadeshiko" (Lover of the Light) is very sophisticated. Eiko wrote personally also the vast part of the music, other than all the lyrics, and she put in there her gentle and loving soul. She's intense but delicate. More, she is intense because she is delicate. Her gentleness is so intense that almost hurts.

Another version of this "Ai no uta" (love song) was presented in her first solo work in 2005, Ulysses, a so called "mini-album" containing 9 great songs. I must admit that I didn't like very much the first version of the song, but there was something definitely good in that. It was mainly an instrumental electronic-ambient piece; the melody was simple, but the arrangement was extremely complex, and it was using some "deep ambient" tricks like hiding the melody in a quasi-dissonant harmony. Very relaxing music, the kind of music you'd like to use as a background for a modern art exposition, or for a intimate dinner.

This new version is totally different (actually, it was presented first in the "Ozone" mini album), almost unrecognizable; with lyrics still essential, but greatly expanded, it presents a bridge and a chorus section that is nothing less than an explosion of love, which gives me shivers every time.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It is quite difficult to translate this title, as the correct wordings to translate it may change depending on the unspoken last part of the sentence. The general meaning may be something like "Towards you, that I love".

This song is from ODA Kazumasa, one of the three Japanese male singers that I like; the others two are the bassist and male voice of the Onmyouza and SUGA Shikao. Between the three, this singer and song writer is the gentler one, possibly showing a "yasashii tamashii" far gentler than the vast majority of the female singers/writers I have heard.

"Sou ka naa" (I wonder if it's so...) is an album full of gentleness, but still it doesn't fall in rhetorics and abused love songs themes. This is one of the best songs in the album.

This is one of the songs for which Kotoko wrote also the music; she usually writes just the lyrics.

In this song, Kotoko had been able to convey an happy sadness, both in the music and in the words, sensations that are often present blended together in her songs, but never with this intensity.

The title kanji would spell "nabikaze" (breeze), but Kotoko went for an ateji and changed it into just "kaze" (wind).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Just a short comment: It's hard to find a song more "Japanese" than this wonderful song of Shimamiya Eiko.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

This Shimamya Eiko song is a 7 minutes long cherish. When I hear this song, I can almost feel as if she was here talking directly to me. I rarely, if ever, found so deeply touching and moving words in a song.

Carnelians are dull, red quartz stones. Along with the Indian mythology, they are somehow bound with the first chakra, the chakra of the inner soul and of the life spirit that gives birth to everything. That's where this song penetrates, making the inner life force, and this stones, to vibe in sympathy.