Monday, March 4, 2013

March Feature: Satsuki's "LUMINOUS"


In the early 2000's, it was hard not to hear the dark and soul wrenching sounds of Rentrer en Soi as they entered the visual kei scene in 2001. Making their way and reaching popularity in the visual kei world, vocalist Satsuki made his presence known. Following ReS’ disbandment in December 2008, Satsuki stepped away from dark images of the past and launched a solo career based upon the concepts of purity and light.

There is a strong sense of power and beauty to his concept that resonates deep throughout his music. With each song, you feel his voice enter your soul, leading you to a place of enlightenment. With this, he proceeds to break through the shadows like a ray of light that reaches into the darkest depths of your heart. With each lyric, his voice releases you from hesitation and darkness held within. This passionate description comes to mind when trying to convey the musical concept created by Satsuki 砂月, which is undeniable in his long-awaited first full-length album LUMINOUS. In this soul-touching, refined and masterful piece of work, Satsuki brings to life his heartfelt musical concept, one piece at a time.

Luminous begins with the soft rock sounds of "AVEC LE TEMPS...” as it sets setting the tone with its timeless, masterful composition. It starts out slowly with the echoing sound of rain trickling lightly at :08. This beautiful effect creates a mystical aura that transcends through the music as the melodic guitar riffs enter the piece at :15. This enchanting feeling heightens as you hear the delicate sounds of the piano at :24. When put together, the smoothness of the guitar and piano blend perfectly in this composition, especially at from 2:05-2:35.

The magic that completes this masterful composition, letting it reach it’s fullest potential, is Satsuki's refined voice. As his passionate voice enters the piece at :42, it gently envelops you and moves your soul. It is this beauty and elegance that makes it fitting as the first song on his first full-length album.

After "AVEC LE TEMPS.... " fades, "DETERMINATION" waits for no one, immediately taking off with a rocking beat. The piece explodes right from the start with its hard-rocking, heavy beats that set the mood for the entire track. This explosive energy is the main reasons why it is one of my favorite sections. As the piece progresses, there is an edge to Satsuki’s passionate voice which has similar feel to the previous song, “AVEC LE TEMPS ...”. This passion can be felt in one of my favorite sections during the ending guitar riff at 3:14-3:53. In this section, it sounds like a small choir singing together when in reality, it is just Satsuki playing off of his own voice. It creates a light and enlightening mood to a more aggressive and intense melody than the previous song. With this lighter touch at the end, it possesses the same energy as “AVEC LE TEMPS ...” while evolving it into its own masterful composition. It is this continuous flow of energy from song to song that makes this album magical.

This continuous energy transfers and warps in "ROMANCE", by embracing a lighter energy than "DETERMINATION", yet at the same time maintaining similar intensity level of the previous track. This lighter energy shines through the most when combined with delicate touches of a piano in the background, especially prominent in the first 20 seconds of this piece. Although subtle, the lightness of the piano creates a warm, gentle feeling that sets the mood for the remainder of the piece.

Despite this lightness, “ROMANCE” does not slow down. The piece is riddled with intense explosions, one after the other, which creates a similar feel as “DETERMINATION”. You can feel this intensity resonate in the aggressive buildup of energy leading into the chorus each time, which I greatly enjoyed. Yet, this aggressiveness is balanced out by Satsuki's ethereal vocals in the chorus. As you hear Satsuki's voice call out, it sounds as if he is singing from a distance and trying to reach you. There is a soothing, yet highly controlled effect to his vocals that blends perfectly with the flow of the harmony between the instruments. This lightness of this piece continues in the next two pieces.

The next two pieces of the album "TWILIGHT" and "INSIDE", both show the light, meditative, and reflective side of Satsuki. This is the most apparent in "TWILIGHT" as the beginning of the song feels like you are about to embark on a meditative journey. As the piece progresses, Satsuki's voice illuminates the way, shining through and enveloping all the instruments. Out of all the songs on the album, this piece is one of the slowest yet also one of the most heart felt.

With a similar delicate and meditative energy as "TWILIGHT", "INSIDE" starts off as a slow song before it transforms while illuminating Satsuki's refined voice. The piece starts with a light and breathtaking piano solo before the abruptness of the guitar and drums at :15. This sets the mood for the remainder of the track, creating a world of conflict. It feels as though he is reflecting on himself and lost within his own mind. As the song progresses, as he reflects deeper and deeper into himself, the song becomes more aggressive and intense, like a battle raging within. This occurs most noticeably in the chorus, especially 2:16-2:27, when Satsuki is yelling at himself briefly as the guitar and drums ramp up their intensity. Yet, as the sound transforms from slow and delicate to aggressive, Satsuki's voice shines through it with the same passion and light.

As if balancing the light elements of the album, Satsuki answers with the next piece "NVN." This piece is more like an all out jam session that just makes you want to head bang. With rougher vocals than the rest of the album, this song is the most hard-hitting out of them all. From start to finish, this song is relentlessly jam packed with amazing guitar riffs, bass lines, and drumbeats. The amount of high energy in this piece is amazing. While listening to it, I found it very hard to sit still and not throw my hands in the air or head bang. By far, this piece is one of my favorites.

Listening to “NVN” on the album, it was the first time I’d heard an official recorded version of the song. That does not mean it was the first time I had heard it at all. After seeing it performed live two years ago at Anime Weekend Atlanta, I wanted to hear a studio version of this song. At AWA, Satsuki performed as a part of American unit Moon Stream, alongside guitarist Tomo Asaha, who is known from American-based Japanese band Echostream, alias, and other projects. "NVN" was their encore piece and I couldn't have asked for a better piece to end their already amazing show. The fans threw their hands in the air as they jumped up and down; when they weren't head banging at the same time as the band (Read our live report of Moon Stream here). From the moment I saw that “NVN” was a part of LUMINOUS, I couldn't wait to feel that energy again that had previously only been sung at lives. This amount of intense high energy is exactly what I feel when I listen to Satsuki's studio version of "NVN".

Coming off of that energy high, the mood shifts and transforms into a soothing, beautiful piece called "In a Lucid Dream." There is a feeling of serenity in this piece that leaves me breathless. The piece starts off with the light falling of rain before the introduction of a beautiful piano solo at :10. It is purely instrumental until Satsuki's voice enters at :40, where he leaves my soul feeling moved and enchanted by each word. The beauty and emotion that this song illuminates lies in the majestic feel resonating from his elegant voice. Another element that makes this piece magical is the addition of the violin. It blends perfectly with the piano as it glides like the wind around Satsuki’s vocals.

After the piece fades away, it sets the stage for a more upbeat beginning to the next song. Different than the other hard-hitting pieces on this album, "FATE" is more upbeat while using a touch of techno synths. As the piece progresses, it makes me want to dance, in contrast to “NVN” where I wanted to head-bang. The uplifting feel of this song is only increased as you hear helped by a crowd in the background shouting "FATE" during certain sections of the song.

Carrying on the uplifting feeling of “FATE”, "SYMPATHY" continues the usage of techno synths in this light rock piece. Unlike previous pieces on this album, this composition is full of smoother guitar riffs as it moves with the keyboard in this piece. The electro synths blend wonderfully with Satsuki's voice in this energy filled song. "AFTER GLOW" comes next, maintaining a similar style to the previous song. Though, the feel of the song is more light hearted and positive than "SYMPATHY."

The energy of the album balances out with the final piece, "MALACHITE". Throughout the piece, there is forcefulness and power in Satsuki's voice that creates an aggressive tone from start to finish. This aggressiveness explodes with the thunder strokes of the drums and the guitar along with the gothic undertones resonating from the keyboard. This piece reminds me of the darker days of Rentrer en Soi with an arrangement filled with aggression, power, and command. With its grander sound, this powerful hard-hitting song is an epic way to end the album.

By the end, this album proves one thing: Satsuki is a masterful composer. From start to finish, this album possesses an amazing sequencing of the songs. With each piece purposefully placed, this work of art has an enchanting flow of energy to it. Satsuki, through each sound, holds such control and authority over his voice that it’s breathtaking. For his first full-length solo album, Satsuki did an astounding job and made an album that is truly memorable. I give Luminous a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

To learn more about Satsuki:

Satsuki's twitter

Satsuki's OHP


This review of Satsuki's LUMINOUS was written by Rita Nokkaew (Ayva Trance)

Edited by Kaitlin Maginnis (Rain)

Follow me on twitter at @AyvaTrance


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