Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams. - Yeats

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#Kalafina ~ so I finally bought a turntable :)

The first vinyl record that I ever bought in my life was also Kalafina's first vinyl record release.  If I remember correctly, it should be ring your bell.  Since then, I have faithfully bought every vinyl release, including the far on the water album release on vinyl as well.  But I never had the means to play it.

So finally, I took the plunge and bought a turntable approximately two weeks ago.  It's an entry level player and according to the reviews, does a pretty good job for the price.  I can't afford to go into the high-end stuff. It would be pointless of me to do so as well since my amplifier is 20 years old and my speakers are also 20 year old bookshelf speakers.  The equipment is good enough of course but the contacts need cleaning and the RCA cables probably need to be replaced etc.  If I got a high-end player, I would need to buy new equipment as well.  I don't really need another expensive hobby and I really rather save the money for trips to Kalafina's and Kajiura Yuki's lives.

The player I got was the Audio Technica AT LP604d USB.  Here are some unboxing photos.


It requires a little bit of assembly but it's quite simple so shouldn't be a problem for anyone.

I haven't had time to test out the USB function yet.  As in, I haven't yet had time to record the LP's audio onto my computer.  I had originally wanted to do that, so that I could lay down the audio track to the slow-mo video shot on my OnePlus 2 phone.  But I know I would probably never get around to writing this post if I did because I think by the time I get around to doing it, it would be months later. :P

Anyway, since I did shoot a slow-mo video of it, I decided I will just use it anyway. :P
I used a snippet from Haru wo Matsu but it's from the CD.

Isn't it pretty?  I really liked how romantic a slow-mo video clip of a record spinning on the turntable looks... kind of "Wong Kar Wai"- ish. :P

Anyway, I did record the turntable playing music via my very old Pioneer amplifier and JPW bookshelf speakers.  I'm also shooting this on a mobile phone and in an uncontrolled environment so, I don't think the set-up does it justice at all so don't use the audio in the video to judge how the turntable or record sounds.  But since I shot it, I thought I would just share a bit of it.

I did find that the music sounds warmer on the turntable and I tended to prefer the slower songs to the faster rock songs.  It's a little troublesome there is no "loop" function which I am so used to on my portable music player.  Still, I'm really glad I got it.  Now I can finally play these LPs. :)

Okay, that's it for now.  I really wanted to write a simple post just to keep in touch with my blog.  I still hope to getting around to writing about the MVs from their latest release.  But that really has to wait.  Those kinds of posts are very time consuming and I'm seriously short of spare time now.... that and sleep.  I need more sleep this week. :)  Good night y'all. :)

Sunday, April 09, 2017

#Kalafina ~ into the world / メルヒェン - comments

This is a relatively long commentary about Kalafina's 20th single release and will include related thoughts.  It has taken a little longer than I had hoped but I think this release is worth taking the time to mull over and worth taking the time to write a lengthy post about. Yup!  I like it that much.

It's likely that I will start writing this post on Thursday night and end up only finishing and publishing on Friday or Saturday night or maybe even later then that, who knows?  But that's okay, I don't intend to win any prizes for speed. :)  What I hope to do, is to try and put my thoughts clearly into words and share my feelings about a single which I completely adore right now.  Now, let's get started! :).

On the surface, perhaps critics might think.... oh, it's somewhat similar to their previous releases. And in some ways it is but in quite a few other ways it isn't.  And that's a good thing, in my opinion.  Critics will always be critical, it's almost as if it's their job to be so.  As true fans of the composer, the vocal unit and their music, it's likely that most of us would like to see them evolve and grow.  But, yet, at the same time a massive departure of what makes them who they are isn't something we fans would like as well.  It's almost an art. How do you change and evolve and yet at the same time retain enough of your core that your fans do not think that you've gone insane and abandoned everything they love about you?  It's tricky.

I mean, how easy would it be for Kajiura Yuki and Kalafina to do a complete 180 and put out a techno album for example.  It's not like Kajiura Yuki is a stranger to electronic music and I think the trio is quite capable of singing in that genre if the need arises.  While I'm not opposed to them exploring farther afield, still ultimately, if they do not retain the essence of what makes Kalafina Kalafina, then can they still be Kalafina?  This is why for the longest time I've been such a huge fan of Kajiura Yuki, Kalafina and their work together.  While some singles aren't as strong as others, still they have kept true to what makes them who they are and all this while they were also making slow but quite perceptible changes over the nine years since their debut.  All good bands / musicians / vocalists / composers do it.  They will lose some people on this journey but ultimately, I think while change, exploration and evolution is important; it is also important to remain true and not to succumb by taking shortcuts and making changes for the sake of making them.

Sooooooo... why did I write such a long preface?  Hahahaha... because this is exactly what I feel about this single.  This single has everything I like about Kalafina and Kajiura Yuki but yet at the same time there is enough that's different as to make me feel that they aren't simply treading old ground.

" into the world / メルヒェン" is a double A-side release, hence the titles of two songs as the title for this single.  They also included a B-side song.  So we have three newly released tracks.  Let's not count the TV size versions and the instrumental tracks.

These are the titles of the three main tracks.

1. into the world
2. メルヒェン
3. 春を待つ (haru wo matsu = waiting for Srping)

1. into the world 

In some ways, this song has some disadvantages.  This song isn't actually THAT new.  It's the ending theme for the new season of Rekishi Hiwa Historia which isn't even that new.  I can't quite remember when this song began airing as the ED but I'm quite certain it was almost an entire year ago.

So it's taken quite some time to release the full studio version of this song and it's not just a song in an album release but it is in a single and is an A-side song too.  I felt it was really interesting that they did not simply release it as a bonus track on an album or something.  They probably did feel that this song is strong enough and I agree.  I like the song.

In spirit, this song has some similarities to all the RHH songs that have come before.  Yes, even Storia, the first RHH song and the RHH song which I consider to be the least similar to the others. With the RHH songs, you'll notice that one thing Kajiura-sensei has always kept consistent is how "big" and "wide" they feel.  It's almost as though the songs are trying to evoke a sense of the vast and epic scale of history and the larger-than-life historical figures that walk the paths of time.

That throw-your-arms-wide-open feel was probably best expressed in Symphonia which is probably the grandest sounding of all the RHH songs.  And yes, see above screen capture.  Even Kalafina agrees that Symphonia is a throw-your-arms-wide-open song. :P

Well, I said that half in jest and half in all seriousness.  The trio use their hands and arms a lot when they sing but this almost Julie-Andrews-Sound-of-Music-Hills-Are-Alive-wide-open-arms-swing-around movement is, in my opinion, the most apparent in Symphonia.  To accentuate that sense of vastness, many shots of the trio are in a wide open field and wide-shots, extreme wide-shots and aerial shots were used throughout the video.

[Aside: Hmmmm... one or two of those aerial shots look like maybe they use a drone camera as oppose to a jib arm... although it was 2011... drone cameras weren't quite as prevalent back then.  Well, I certainly hope they used a drone camera because that's a lovely field and a jib arm rig would really mess up that field.  That said, I'm very certain they used a drone camera quite a lot in the "far on the water" music video] 

If you listen to all the RHH songs back to back.  You can tell immediately.  They are similar but yet they are not the same.  I'm not talking about just the melody or the beat etc.  If you really listen to these songs back to back:

Yume no Daichi
far on the water
into the world

"Storia" has that folksy, ethnic feel.  "Symphonia" sounds very epic.

"Yume no Daichi" feels earthy.  Even the color palette in "Yume no Daichi" was decidedly earthy.  The music video for "Yume no Daichi" is most likely their most "claustrophobic" of all the RHH videos. It's shot in a studio and there's smoke everywhere and it seems like they shot footage of footage that was projected.  It feels boxed in even though the song evokes the same feeling of vastness that's apparent in all RHH songs to date.  That kind of juxtaposition is interesting for me.

"far on the water" feels lighter, dare I say, perhaps even happier than both "Symphonia" and "Yume no Daichi" in the beginning until the kajiurago kicks in and then you feel that scale enlarge quite a bit more.

And finally, we have the new song "into the world" and that light openness in "far on the water" isn't quite there anymore.  Instead "into the world" has this earnestness about it.  But we don't lose the image of the vastness this song evokes.  The song, at approximate 2:50, almost takes on a sense of urgency, as thought they are urging the listener to listen more closely to their message. They seem to have subtlety changed the way there were singing previously.  What seemed like smooth transitions of words and sentences sliding into each other have been replaced with emphasis and accent.  They pretty much keep this up and you can sense their earnestness and sincerity increasing as the song draws to the end.  I particularly like the section around about the 4:40 mark.

Oh and Keiko has a lovely solo and one super lovely solo line at the end.  We get the solo at approx  2:00 and at 5:15 we get that awesome line and I LOVE IT of course.  And we also get lots of lots of Keiko clearly in support which I also love.  I can't help it.  I really like her voice.  That deep sometimes smooth, sometimes throaty, sometimes sensuous, sometimes mysterious, sometimes cute and always enigmatic voice...  I have always been partial to it, from the very first time I heard Kalafina, I was already drawn to it.  That was really one of my biggest peeve with One Light. Even though Keiko was singing throughout in support, it wasn't apparent in quite a few large parts of the song.  And, yes, I know it fit the song but still... I missed hearing her voice clearly in a Kalafina song. :P Although, I did forgive that song for having such a great chorus and having one of their more exciting music videos. And yes, I digress as usual. :P

Anyway, back to "into the world". It's lovely!  I like the latter half of the song very much.  It really feels almost like they want you to enter their world. Come!! Come!! You can almost hear them calling.  Haha!! :)  The first half of the song serves almost like a link to the past RHH songs.  The second half of it you get a subtle difference.  And you get what is at the same time familiar and at the same time different.  And that's brilliant, in my opinion.  And that's what all the RHH songs have done through out the years.  Always maintaining that link to each other through the history of the TV series and yet always bringing something different.  Always evolving and yet remaining the same. Now do you see why I wrote such a long preface before I launched into my thoughts on not just "into the world" but also all the songs of RHH thus far? :P

Just a few more thoughts.  The harmony is really signature Kalafina.  It's really lovely.  Kalafina's harmony has only gotten better over the years.  And I hope they will continue to sing songs with lots of harmony too.  And I say this because their 3rd track, Haru wo Matsu, does the unthinkable, NO Kalafina harmony!!!  But we'll talk about that later. :)

I would like to talk a little about the music video too  But I think I'll probably leave that for when I talk about the Märchen MV and that's looking likely to be in another post because this one looks like it's going to be quite lengthy. :P

2. メルヒェン

Now Märchen is the exact kind of song that I would love.  So it's no surprise that after listening to the single on loop for two days, I started looping just one song for a while.  And that song is Märchen. And while it's tempting for English speakers to pronounce that as "mar-chen", the correct pronunciation of this German word is better represented by the katakana used above.  So yes, it's not "mar-chen", it's closer to "meru-hen" and Google Translate and other online dictionaries can help you with the correct pronunciation of this word.

According to Google Translate, Märchen means fairy tale which is some what interesting since Kalafina already has a song titled Fairytale.  Although its a very different song both in tone and spirit. Also, according to Wikipedia, it could also mean a type of musical composition but I think it's fairly safe to say the reason for the title Märchen is because this is a song about a tale and the song in itself is a tale.

Like "into the world", the song isn't actually that new.  Well, at least the TV size version isn't that new.  The ending theme song for the anime "Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregototsukai' was already available for listening when the first episode was released on BD / DVD in Oct 2016.  I did actually check out the ending theme and liked it enough back then but I was extremely busy then and a lot of things were shoved to the back of my mind, this song included.  However, now that things have settled a little in my life and now that the single and full version of the song has been released, I have been obsessively looping it. LOL

There is much to like about this song.  The staccato like opening with Hikaru's purposeful and vigorous voice in the forefront and Keiko clearly audible in support is almost rhythmically hypnotic.  And then  Wakana's bewitching chime like voice contrasting beautifully against Keiko's smoky vocals take over the lead and the song becames almost intoxicatingly hypnotic.  Nicely done!!

My favourite bit here is probably this section:

(koishii hito ga
kimi o dakishimetekuretara
aimai na yume ga
chitsujo no soko o uchinuita)

After the above section, we get a section where the rhythmic beat juxtaposed by the soulful lilt of Akagi Rie's flute is particularly pleasing for me.  The TV version of this song goes directly from this Akagi Rie flute section to the last section of the full length song.  It's this missing section that we get in the full length version that pushes this song from a "like" to "love" for me.  My favorite section and phrases in Märchen are in the section that is missing from the TV version.  And what I write after this has to deal with this section.

Hikaru's quite in her element here.  This is a song that's very suited for her because she has this rocky edgy rawness to her style of singing that has always made her particularly good in songs like these.  I particularly like the way she sang this line:

(mukuna douwa wo bokutachi wa ikiteita)

That line is in yet another section of the song that I particularly like.  That starts from 1:30. Keiko's deep voice kicks this section off.  And once again Wakana nice and ethereal, then Hikaru's forceful urgency which quickly transitions to a more commanding Keiko and then its back to Wakana's enchanting chime-like voice and before returning to a relatively measured Hikaru.  That whole section is then layered on top of a strong drum beat with the flute just fluttering in and out.  It's really complex but yet so clearly laid out that it doesn't feel messy at all.  This is SOOOOO good and so Kajiura Yuki.  This is really her specialty, isn't it? Her music is often like kueh lapis / jiu chen kao (nine layer cake).   Carefully layered, layer upon layer, so distinct yet one delicious whole.

And our utahimes, they sound soooooooooo good together.  This is why I love Kalafina.  Their voices and singing styles are really not that similar but they combine soooooooooooo well.  It's really amazing to me and I LOVE IT.

I really like how Wakana sings lines like...


(hoshigatte hoshigatte) this section too.  It breaks up the forcefulness that Hikaru and Keiko are bringing to the song at that point.  Actually Wakana's sections mostly function as a very pleasing counterpoint throughout the song.  I liked that a lot.

However, ultimately my favourite line is this song has to be this line:

(ichi okuta-bu wa hazushite bokura wa utau)
(translation: We sing with one octave removed.)

Keiko sings this line and sings it very low.  And on first listen, this line was what struck me first and I really loved it.  Hahaha... told you for some reason, Keiko's part is often the first thing I notice and like.  After that I'll notice the other details.

I think it's really fitting that Keiko sings this line.  And I think that it can't be a coincidence that Kajiura-sensei also lowered the pitch at this point.  Keiko sounds really awesome here.  I really liked it a lot. :)

After planning to write this post, I also read bits from several published interviews with the trio.

And in this particular interview (link), the interviewer was also struck by this particular line.  I will attempt to translate it loosely (because I am not able to guarantee a 100% accurate translation) because I found what they said interesting.

-- I was interested in this line, "We sing with one octave removed." For Kalafina, it's not possible to remove the harmony.

Keiko なるほど。外す、という言葉をどう解釈するかですね。外すは、ピッチを外すという意味だけではなく、1オクターブ下を歌うという意味にも捉えられます。これも聞く方それぞれの解釈でいいんじゃないかな。
-- Keiko: I see. How do we translate this word "remove".  It doesn't just mean that we remove the pitch.  It also means to sing one octave down. It's good that listeners can interprete this in different ways.

Wakana オクターブ違いのことです。
-- Wakana: It means the octave is different.

Keiko 私はWakanaちゃんのオクターブ違いを歌うことが多いんですが、実際に1オクターブ外すという言い方します。しかも私が歌っているパートなので、「いつも1オクターブ外して歌ってま~す!」という感じなんですけど。
-- Keiko: Wakana-chan and I often sing in different octaves but, actually it's more like one octave removed. Moreover, the parts that I sing, "it's always 1 octave removed". 

-- Ahhh, is that right!

Wakana でも、私もそのフレーズはすごく好きですよ。1オクターブ外すという言葉の意味は、心を低く持って少し落ち着かせているのか、逆に高くすることでタガが外れたおかしな気分になっているのか、どちらにも受け取れると思っていて。


 -- Wakana: But, I also love this phrase. "One octave removed" can mean, when your heart is at a low point and you are trying to remain calm or, conversely in trying to raise it you lose all restrain and and create a strange feeling. I think both interpretations are possible.

In this anime, "Kubikiri Cycle", there are characters that cause a lot of suspicions. There is a feeling that there is an unknown criminal laughing.  This phrase is particularly suitable for this kind of situation, it is like "one octave removed".  (laugh).

 LOL!!! I don't know why but I laughed at this part of the interview.  Keiko answers the question directly and earnestly.  And then Wakana takes over and it becomes a completely different animal.  LOL!!

[Actually, I found many parts of the various interviews about  into the world / メルヒェン interesting and would have liked to have attempted more translations to share with fellow fans.  But I'm a slow reader and an even slower translator and I doubt if I would have the time to do it. :( ]

3. 春を待つ
This screen capture is from the "into the world" MV and I had intended to use it in a possible post about the MVs that are included in this release, but since I don't have a suitable image for this song, I thought I'll use it here first. :) 

Now, this is a first.  Kalafina's songs are known for their beautiful harmony.  Some songs have more harmony, other songs have less, but they all have harmony.  Sometimes it's a full on classical choral harmony, other times its just sections and bits in a rock or pop song.  But till this single, they have not sung a song where there wasn't at least a three part harmony somewhere in there or where they don't at the very least all sing at the same time.

This is also the only song on this single that doesn't have Yuriko Kaida in chorus support.

The song opens with an enigmatically sensuous Keiko before we get a very passionate Hikaru and a soaring and emotionally moving Wakana.  Three very different styles and three very different ways of singing accompanied only by Sakurada Hirotaka on piano.  The girls all get a second solo in the same order and then the song ends  The setup is very simple but it works.

This song really showcases the trio's voices.  Often times when they harmonize in their usual songs, you can't hear all of them or hear them clearly.  Sometimes they could be mixed under and barely audible. You can really hear them in their acoustic lives but they will often break off into harmony or they will harmonize through a large part of the song.  However, in this song there is absolutely no harmony and you can hear them all nicely and clearly and they all sound awesome.  Oh...and one more thing, there is NO kajiurago as well. :)

The song is refreshingly simply and so effective that there really isn't much to say except that it's lovely and would be something I think they will probably sing often at their acoustic lives.

Okay, I think this would be a good place to end.  I really wrote a lot.  It's much more than I thought I would but I liked this single a lot and really wanted to express that in writing.  Also I think, I've not written something so extensive for a while.  I just felt like doing it. :P

If you made it all the way to the end, thank you very much for reading it all.  As usual, it's a little "streams of consciousness" but I did try to be a little more structured and restrain this time. :P

I had originally thought about including my thoughts about the MV in this post.  I really liked the 
Märchen MV but I think that would take too long and I'm too tired.  I also have quite a few things I will need to attend to now that I have finally finished this post.

I still hope to write the post about the MV but I may only start on that a few days later.  We'll see. :)

For now, good night and thank you.  Thank you Kajiura Yuki and Kalafina for the music.  And thank you all who took the time to read my rambling comments too.  Cheers. :)

P.S. ~ My proof reading is likely to be quite terrible because I'm quite tired now.  I've always been terrible at it anyway. I'm likely to make minor changes over time, so please bear with it. Thanks. :)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

#Kalafina ~ into the world / メルヒェン - unboxing

I'm listening to the single on loop as I write this unboxing post and I must say, I quite like this single. :)  It has many things that I like about Kalafina in the songs.  But first, let's do the unboxing and then I'll write a few of my thoughts  (postpone till another day) about the single. :)

ANALOG (Vinyl) version


I really like Vinyl releases because they are BIG and the images look so nice. LOL.

This is their standard vinyl release. One single insert sheet with the lyrics and a nice photo of the trio. They include all those little application and information forms in all the versions.  This time there is a lottery for stuff you can win as well as info on the 9 + One lives and info on how to join "Harmony", their new fan club.

Regular Edition


I shot photos of the RE version with the shrink wrap on and off.  And also shot a close up of the sticker on the shrink wrap because I liked it that they printed the graphic versions of the titles of the shows these tracks are from.

Again, this is pretty much the same format as their usual singles releases.  The RE version has Keiko's solo photo like usual.

I actually quite like the print / design on the physical CD itself.  It's pretty.



As usual we have Wakana's solo photo in the LE + DVD version.  You might be wondering why the background for her photo is black.  Hahahaha... well, there is no special reason.  The original photo was out of focus and I just can't put an out of focus photo of Wakana online, can I?  So I took another photo. :)



Again, nothing out of the ordinary.  And here we have Hikaru's solo photo :)

Anime Version


As usual, for the Anime version, instead of a jewel case, they release it as a digipak.  The design on those discs are quite cool, in my opinion.  Fits the theme of the anime I think.  Well at least the title of the anime since I haven't had the chance to watch it yet.  The anime is called "Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregototsukai"  Hence lots of circles which equals cycle. :)

I'm a little disappointed that this release doesn't get a mini storyboard insert booklet.  I'm very fond of those. :(

I'll put up the images for the postcard tokuten that comes if you purchase the single from the "support shops".  I didn't try for the full set of postcards this time.  It's actually quite a pain to do it and I have to ask people for favours. So I usually only do it if the postcards are really, really, really awesome.

Tokuten postcards


This time I didn't take them out of their plastic cover to shoot photos of it.  I kinda want to keep it pristine for now because I'm going to give at least one away.

This is apparently NOT their first double A side release. BUT that said, it is their first double A side release that has tracks from two different shows.  At least that's what I understand from an interview I read this afternoon. (link)

This is a first time they have released TWO MVs at one go, if I remember correctly.  But I could be wrong.  I didn't use to get all versions in the beginning and I started getting the CDs about a year after I fell in love with them, I think.  And by that time, there were only RE versions left.

So anyway, the "into the world" MV can be found on the LE+DVD and LE+BD release.  The MV for "メルヒェ" (Marchen) can be found in the Anime Version.

It's getting late now so I think I'll reserve my thoughts on the songs and the music videos till either tomorrow or day after.  I come home late tomorrow so am not sure if I have time to write another post.  But I should be fine to do it on Thursday night if I can't do it on Wednesday night.

I hope you guys enjoyed this quick unboxing.

And I do encourage you all to buy to support the people who bring you good music.  I will include links to CDJapan's product page.  Please note that these are affiliate links and you are not obligated to purchase through them if you do not wish to but if you do, I do appreciate it. :)

into the world / Marchen [Regular Edition]

into the world / Marchen [w/ DVD, Limited Edition/Type A]

into the world / Marchen [w/ BD, Limited Edition/Type B]

into the world / Marchen [w/ DVD, Limited Pressing]

into the world / Marchen [Vinyl Edition]  -- although, this version is currently OOP on CDJapan

Okay.... that's it from me for now....


good night :)