Saturday, 23 November 2013

Strange Attractor

I must have really been out of the loop but no one's told me that setzer had left MintJam and become a supporting member of the band, which he had originally founded with a2c in 2003. He is now concentrating on his own group Polo Rockers, whose M3-30 release Imitation is like one of those strangers you can have a nice chat with and forget about soon after. Indeed, as capable as setzer is, his inability to stand out musically is kind of outstanding in itself. This is what happens when you are in a band with a monster, but even the great a2c seems like he's starting to run out of gas a bit. The guitar works on the single Try to be Brave/Weed Spirit and the mini album Little Monster were technically impressive as always, but lacked the melodic sensibility in a2c's earlier efforts. I'm not sure if this were the direction that a2c and TERRA had decided to take after setzer's departure, but I do hope that they can bring back some of the energy and creativity they had back in the good old days. It seems to me that quite a number of my longtime favourite musicians have been showing signs of burnout, and the quality of their compositions have suffered a lot as a result. Take a break, people. It's better to burn out than to fade away, but once you're gone you can't come back.

As old actors exit the stage, new players make their entrances. Released a few months ago at C84, CHIAROSCURO is perhaps the most inspiring album to come out of the event, and certainly the most ambitious offering from An (AcuticNotes) so far.

Influenced by onoken, particularly the track felys -long mix-, while he was still in high school, An began composing in 2009 and was first featured on a certain Diverse System album before releasing his first solo work Encryption in 2012. The dynamic rhythm and skilful arrangements of various instruments on the album quickly caught my attention, though admittedly I was much less enthusiastic when it came to his contributions on Diverse System albums. The full-length Abstreact, which An considers to be his first proper album since he treats Encryption as a prelude of sorts, saw him experimenting with different approaches while maintaining and perfecting his own style. Strangely enough, the concept album Kathalshame went largely unnoticed, which might have had something to do with the fact that it was much mellower and more ambient than his previous releases. Whereas Abstreact hit me fast and hard with its opener Infectious, Kathalshame left a pleasant impression on me with its closing track VIII.『対岸の話』. Both album had their moments, but overall they suffered from inconsistency either through a lack of a coherent theme, or a few too many filler tracks. That's probably the reason why I was really surprised when I picked up CHIAROSCURO, which had a string of solid tracks that tied that album together nicely.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Farewell To Arms

Next year can't come soon enough. Numerous technical issues aside, Sen no Kiseki was a lot of fun and ended on a massive cliffhanger that left me laughing for a good six minutes. I'm quite impressed by the effectiveness of the ending even though Ao no Kiseki had already spoiled the conclusion to the conflict between the aristocracy and the reformists. Indeed, the time for me to rejoice is still a long way away.

Set in the Erebonian Empire, the story follows Rean Schwarzer as he arrives in the town of Trista to begin his studies at the esteemed Thors Military Academy. During the admission ceremony, Rean becomes acquainted with the soft-spoken Eliot Craig and the two talk very briefly about their distinct crimson uniforms, which set them apart from the majority of students who are dressed in either white or green according to their social classes. As the students leave for their designated classrooms after the ceremony, Rean and a few others are instead taken to an old building behind the academy for their "special orienteering". Once inside, their instructor Sara Valestin informs that they have in fact been selected for Artillery Class "VII" - a new and unique class where the students are chosen without regard to their background. This is very unusual given the widespread segregation between the nobility and the commoners within the empire. Machias Regnitz, who appears to bear some animosity towards the aristocracy, immediately takes issue with this arrangement and almost gets into an argument with the seemingly prideful Jusis Albarea, the second son of the Duke of Albarea, whose family rules the state of Kreuzen as one of the Four Great Prestigious Noble. Before Rean and the others can ask for any clarification about Class VII, they are thrown into a dungeon underneath and must navigate their way back to the ground floor. Puzzled and a little troubled by this turn of events, Class VII nonetheless set out to complete their orienteering in hope of getting some answers.

What lies ahead of them, however, are hardships and challenges that they would have never expected to face as a group of students. This is the story of Class VII, and the story of Erebonia, a mighty empire whose very foundations will soon be shaken to their core.