Hai Fidelity Denki Groove: J-Pop
by Rachael Carothers,
Click below for a clip of the song "Ichigo Musume"
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Time to break out your glow sticks everyone! After eight years of little more than re-releases, techno-pop duo Denki Groove released two new singles, Shonen Young and Mononoke Dance, on December 5, 2007 and February 14, 2008 respectively. This all lead up to a full-length album, which was released on April 2, 2008, titled J-Pop.
True to Denki Groove's tongue-in-cheek lyrics, the first song on the album is titled “Kanpeki Ni Nakushite” (roughly “If It Wasn't For Perfection”). A snare drum with a bit of a bass line starts everything off. Slowly more sounds are introduced to fill the gaps. The vocals aren't particularly interesting; however, they are almost hypnotic once all of the synthesizers come together. Not a bad start after an eight-year silence.
A thumping beat draws us into “Expo Hiroshima.” This would probably be considered the typical type of song you would hear at a rave. While it starts out with just the one-note vocals, it doesn't take long for the thumping bass drum to chime in. Luckily, there are a few rhythm changes within the song that makes the song worthwhile. Without these, “Expo” would be extremely boring.
Where the other songs started off slow, “Zoo Desire” decides to be different by jumping right into the main beat. Unfortunately, since there aren't a lot of changes within the music or the vocals, the song gets tedious after a few short seconds. At the end of the song, a toy piano gets to be the star for awhile. The sad part is that is the most interesting part of the song.
“Ichigo-Musume” (“Strawberry Daughter”) is a completely instrumental track. Once again, here is a song that takes one melody and just repeats it over and over again. Granted, it is a somewhat catchy melody but after listening to it a few times, there isn't much to keep you from switching to the next track. Though I can see this as the song a DJ would play at the beginning of the rave to get everyone warmed up and ready.
Taking it down a notch, “Hanbun Ningen Damono” (roughly “A Protesting Half-Man”) isn't nearly as danceable as the other songs. On the contrary, it has a rather dark sound to it. You can almost hear the anger or frustration of the singer even though there aren't very many lyrics. All of the instrumentals are kept in the lower range in order to keep any feelings of happiness out of the overall feeling of the song. All of this together makes the song stand out from everything we've heard so far.
The theme song for the anime Hakaba Kitarō anime, “Mononoke Dance” (“Ghost Dance”) arrives next. Another completely different sounding song, it's easy to understand why this song was chosen as the opening theme for a supernatural show. The somewhat typical trance beat has returned but it brings a spooky sound with it. Synthesizers bring a couple of different insect sounds, such as a grasshopper and a cicada, into the mix, giving everything a creepy ‘someone is watching me’ feeling.
Despite the fact that “Oscillator To Arpeggio” has an interesting title, this is yet another dull song. We should be getting some sort of back-and-forth sound here, like an oscillating fan slowly moving from side to side. What we get is another unchanging, repeating beat with a vocal line that is nothing more than the song's title. If “Ichigo-Musume” was the opening song to the rave, this would be the ending song that tells everyone to get out of the venue. This isn't a good sign for the halfway point of the album.
“Shounen Young” (“Young Boys”) is only slightly more interesting than the previous song. There are a few slight changes in the instrumental part of song. However, it just might be the female vocals in the chorus that give the song that little extra something. There is also a weird piece that sounds like a record played backwards. Perhaps, if that instrumental track had just a few more changes in it, this could have been one of the better songs on the album.
It took almost a minute and a half for there to be any changes at all in “Super Star.” Even then, all that changed was the addition of the vocal track. At this point, I'm almost begging for those faster paced dance songs from the beginning of the album. Next year is the band's 20th anniversary. Is it possible that they've outgrown this type of music and are looking for something a bit mellower now?
After listening to “Zizo,” it's tempting to think that this album was aimed at the elderly techno fans. That deep bass line is there but it's not quite as thumping as it used to be. The synths are there but they are toned down too. I think I might have even heard some snapping and a harmonica in there as well. This whole second half of the album just doesn't seem to fit with the first half.
To continue our journey to Naptime Land, “Szczecin,” which is a city in Poland by the way, completely leaves out the bass line and the drums altogether. All we are given is a very slow, very laid-back synthesizer. This has to be on some ‘Sounds of the Night’ CD somewhere.
Finally, the album is over. “Ringing Bells,” which is exactly what the song is, finishes us off. About halfway through the song, the bass beat comes back to us. The bells haven't completely left but that isn't a terrible thing. After all, the second half of this song is much, much more interesting than the first half was. It's still rather slow for a techno song but it is still good. If you are looking for something with a techno feel without the headache of the pounding bass line, this may be for you.
While I've never been a huge fan of the techno genre, I can appreciate a really good techno song. Unfortunately, there isn't really a stand-out techno song here. Almost all of the songs from the first half of the album sound exactly the same while the second half puts everyone to sleep. It is really and truly confusing. Techno songs don't have to have the same sound. Experiment with some different instruments; try a different setting on your synthesizer. Just give me something to get excited about. I hope that for their 20th anniversary next year they can create at least one awesome song because there isn't one here.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history