Friday, April 4, 2014

Plastic Tree - echo

On March 5th, 2014, four-piece visual kei band Plastic Tree released a new mini-album, titled "echo". Seven tracks in total, its tracks ranging from bright and upbeat, to songs more subdued.  As with many of Plastic Tree’s works, it’s the subtle in-betweens and variations that make their music shine; the hints of melancholy, the touch of romanticism, a tinge of warmth, or a lingering chill. This is very much true for echo, which I consider to have a rather light sound overall; none of the songs are really slow or very sorrowful in melody.

echo starts off with 木霊(Kodama), a short but beautiful intro track. Slightly haunting with its mildly warped and withering sound, it managed to have somewhat of a cleansing effect. As I listened to it, I felt my entire body relax, my ears primed for what awaited me in the remainder of the album. The slow, borderline eeriness of 木霊 (Kodama) is immediately replaced with the upbeat melody of 曲論 (Kyokuron). This song feel simple, in a great way, made of sharp, steady, repetitive notes and a playful vocal delivery from Ryutarou, it’s easy to be uplifted by its energy.

echo’s third track, 嬉々 (Kiki), amps up the previous track’s energetic tempo and enhances it with a more complex composition. Guitarist Akira and bassist Tadashi create a groovy type of melody, but during the chorus, that groovy sway transforms into a very bright sound, a fun harmony which at times are aided by equally bright piano notes. 嬉々 (Kiki) possesses a shimmering kind of glow that makes it very infectious, a song you’ll find yourself repeating.

Next is one of my favorite tracks from this mini-album, 輪舞 (Rinbu). It starts off with an instrumental intro, the power in the beat is maintained only briefly, breaking into softer tempo as Ryutarou’s vocals join in. The chorus is what makes 輪舞 (Rinbu) a favorite for me. The first word of each line in the chorus is accentuated by a dreamy echo, sounding much like a wistful sigh. This charming and unexpected touch made the song very memorable.

瞳孔 (Doukou) stands out with the fact that while it still has a good pace to its tempo, overall the melody is deeper, holding a rich and slightly darker quality. This is further pressed by Ryutarou’s vocal delivery, his tone more straightforward throughout, lacking that child-like lilt that was more prominent in the previous tracks. Kenken’s drumming too is a bit deeper and pronounced in this song, standing out nicely. Released as a single back on September 4th, 2013, this gorgeous song was already familiar to my ears and it fit well as a transition to the remaining songs on the album.

雨音(Amaoto) too, carries a deeper, more mellow quality. Verses are softly murmured in a rapping rhythm with a smooth melody to match, whereas the chorus breaks from the near trance-like mood, entering with a burst of energy in both the music and the vocals. This contrast, along with a tranquil feeling of the song's bridge gave 雨音(Amaoto) a very pleasant ebb and flow.

The piano and Ryutarou’s voice start off seventh and final track, 影絵 (Kagee), another of my favorites from this album. Kenken’s drumming caught me yet again, this time outstanding in its subdued simplicity. One thing I love about chorus, aside from the passion in Ryutarou’s tone - heart-wrenching at times, as if on the verge of tears - is that you can hear the melody from the intro track, 木霊(Kodama), echoed in the background of this song, which really brings it all full circle. Kenken’s sharp drumroll, accompanied by piano keys finish the song off beautifully.

Plastic Tree does not disappoint, and I highly recommend adding this mini-album to your collection. I give "echo" a solid 10/10 and I gladly name Plastic Tree as Visual KEIOS’ feature artist of the month. Their 20th-anniversary tour, also titled "echo", began on March 16th and will end with a 2-day finale at TOKYO DOME CITY HALL on May 2nd and 3rd.

Plastic Tree OHP

Plastic Tree echo (Regular Edition)

1. 木霊 (Kodama)
2. 曲論 (Kyokuron)
3. 嬉々 (Kiki)
4. 輪舞 (Rinbu)
5. 瞳孔 (Doukou)
6. 雨音 (Amaoto)
7. 影絵 (Kagee)

This review was written by Alicia R. Thomas (arthomas), and edited by CMT.

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