Monday, December 29, 2014
Marcos V.'s selection of Daisuke Asakura's works
2014 is ending soon, so it’s time for another Author’s Picks post. As always, it was hard to select a theme and, even harder, the songs that were going to be on the list.
At first, I thought about reuniting my favourite aidoru pop songs of 2014, but I soon discarted the idea as a repetitive one, mostly because I gradually worked on that through the year.
After thinking a little more, I realized that one thing which was very stable and omnipresent in my daily routine through the whole year was composer/producer Daisuke Asakura’s (浅倉大介) works. As he’s probably my favourite composer/producer right now, thanks to his high quality and fun electronic pop songs, it was a fair decision to work on a list of ten songs he created for his bands and other artists over the years.
Like other similar composers/producers, such as Tetsuya Komuro (小室哲哉) or Yasutaka Nakata (中田ヤスタカ), Dai-chan, as he’s dearly called by his fans, developed a very personal style in the domain, so you can really tell when he’s the guy behind a song. Also, his songs can be great even if the vocalists are not among the best, as we’re going to see at some point, which showcases how talented he is as a musician.
Other than that, I tried to be very diverse with this list. Of course I couldn’t cover all of Daisuke’s acts in just one list, and I didn’t even wanted that, but I think the artists I included are able to show Dai-chan’s range as a composer/producer, even though his music can sound somewhat similar according to some fans out there.
Now, let's start the fun!
10) Daisuke Asakura -- SIREN'S MELODY (1995)
The song I chose to start this list is “SIREN’S MELODY”, a song Daisuke released as the first single prior to his “ELECTROMANCER” album, a solo project he released in 1995 after the breakup of access.
Daisuke, just like Tetsuya Komuro, is not among the strongest singers out there, but somehow he managed to create a song that combined well with his vocals. Also, thanks to the angelic feel provided by the numerous layers of vocals during the chorus, I often find myself thinking about floating in the sky while listening to it. The gorgeous synth solo also helps creating this atmosphere.
“SIREN’S MELODY” was released as a single in May 1995. It reached #8 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Makoto Asakura (麻倉真琴), while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke himself.
09) Daisuke Asakura expd. Shingo Katsurayama -- RAINY HEART~Doshaburi no Omoide no Naka (1995)
“RAINY HEART~Doshaburi no Omoide no Naka” (RAINY HEART〜どしゃ降りの想い出の中) was the third and last single released by Daisuke for his “ELECTROMANCER” album, but this time with vocals by actor Shingo Katsurayama (葛山信吾).
As already noted, Daisuke is not a strong singer, so he often invites some guest vocalists to take part on his solo projects. When Dai-chan released his first solo album, “D-Trick”, in 1992, he met Hiroyuki Takami (貴水博之). They recorded two songs for the album together, but the partnership went so well that the two decided to start a new band called access.
Back to “RAINY HEART”, it showcases Dai’s love for power ballads. Like any proper song of this type, it have to build and reach its climax, so Daisuke did the homework very well. The extended instrumental bridge with the synths and the guitars before Shingo returns to sing the last choruses is probably my favourite moment of the song.
Talking about Shingo, I haven’t watched any of his works as an actor (apparently, he starred in “Ju-On: The Grudge II”, but I watched it very long ago, at a time when the only Japanese personalities I knew were Pokémon’s creator Satoshi Tajiri [田尻智] and my beloved Megumi Hayashibara [林原めぐみ]. Nori-P also acted in this movie). Anyway, he sings “RAINY HEART” in a very memorable way with his velvet-like voice.
“RAINY HEART” was released in May 1995 and reached #14 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Akio Inoue (井上秋緒), while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke himself.
08) Fayray -- Taiyou no Gravity (1998)
It’s not a surprise that Daisuke produced more boys than girls, but sometimes he was hired to compose for a couple of aidoru singers as well or, in this case, for the young Fayray.
Before making her “official” debut as a more mature singer in 2000, with the single “My Eyes”, Fayray released a string of singles produced by Daisuke Asakura in 1998 and 1999, which resulted in her first album, called “CRAVING”. That said, these first songs recorded by her had the distinctive electronic feel that’s always present in Dai’s works.
“Taiyou no Gravity” (太陽のグラヴィティー) was the first single she released under Dai’s wings, in July 1998. As his other 90s works, it followed that strange formula of mixing guitars with noisy synths. Other than that, it’s a bouncy pop song that also highlights some percussions and whistles, adding a light Carnival feel in the middle of Dai’s pop-house madness.
I enjoy “Taiyou no Gravity” a lot, but, apparently, Fayray wasn’t the biggest fan of Dai-chan’s Technopop sound, as she preferred a more mature, balladry and piano-driven style of music for her career.
“Taiyou no Gravity” reached #12 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke himself.
07) access -- Vertical Innocence (2014)
As noted before, access was formed by Daisuke Asakura and Hiroyuki Takami in late 1992. Together, they released three studio albums, eleven singles, two live albums and one best collection before disbanding in early 1995. Basically, they were active through 1993 and 1994.
After the breakup of access, Dai-chan started his “ELECTROMANCER” solo project and also produced a few other artists that I’m still going to introduce further in the list, while Hiro went back to his solo career as a rock singer. It wasn’t until early 2002, with the release of the single “Only the love survive”, that they decided to reunite and release music as access again. However, after a couple of successful releases, the duo started struggling on the charts, which led to a period without new releases and access focusing only on live converts. This scenery was only reverted in 2007.
In 2007, access recorded two songs that were successfully used in anime series. The first one was “Hitomi no Tsubasa” (瞳ノ翼), which became the opening theme for the last two episodes of “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion” (コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ), and the second one was “Doubt & Trust” (ダウト&トラスト), a song used as the third opening theme of “D.Gray-man” (ディー・グレイマン). These two singles gave new life to the duo and they keep releasing music, while also doing lots of concerts, since then.
If the old access (1992-1995) can be roughly described as a fusion of Synthpop with Arena rock, two music genres that were popular during the 80s, the new access (2002-) is way more committed to hard Techno beats, even though they do incorporate noisy guitars sometimes. “Vertical Innocence”, for example, showcases this new direction taken by the duo very well with the complex structure, rushing beat and epic distorted synths.
On a side note, I really enjoy access’s live concerts, and I’m pretty sure the fangirls also have a good time when the duo performs.
“Vertical Innocence” was released in July 2014, reaching #10 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by AXS (Hiro and Daisuke), while music and arrangment were done by Daisuke.
06) Yuki Kimura -- Twinkle Heart (2000)
Yuki Kimura (木村由姫) was a cute gravure aidoru whose singing career was almost entirely produced by Daisuke in the late 90s/early 00s.
At the time he started working with this cute aidoru, Daisuke changed his style a bit in favour of Eurobeat and Trance, so her songs are a good example of how he worked with these genres. Probably, her most famous single with him is the heavy Eurobeat-esque “LOVE & JOY” (the video is hilarious and random with scenes of Yuki Kimura riding a scooter in the middle of the city with the hyper active Eurobeat song playing in the background), but I chose to write about “Twinkle Heart”, mostly because it’s a fairly superior song and I can’t get enough of it.
“Twinkle Heart” is built around a galloping beat that keeps moving things forward in an exciting way. The instrumental sections with the Eurobeat synths taking over are also indicative of the exciting journey. However, the chorus is a bit sweeter and I really like how Yuki Kimura’s vocals sound when she says “romantikku night”. The girl, although a gravure aidoru, could sing well without sounding like a high-pitched aidoru, so kudos for her. Also, as the title suggests, there are a lot of catchy twinkle melodies through the song.
“Twinkle Heart” reached #50 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Makoto Asakura, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
05) Iceman -- DARK HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS (1996)
Like I said earlier, Daisuke’s early post-access career came down to recording a solo album and producing a few artists here and there. In 1996, though, planning to form a new band, he organised a number of auditions, which resulted in the selection of vocalist Michihiro Kuroda (黒田倫弘) and guitarist Kenichi Ito (伊藤賢一). Composed of these two guys, plus Daisuke, Iceman was thus formed.
If access already had that distinctive Arena rock feel in songs like “MOONSHINE DANCE”, Iceman was even more devoted to noisy guitars, mostly because it had an official guitarist on the band. Besides that, Daisuke’s synths were also a big part of Iceman’s style, something that confuses me a lot when trying to categorize them.
“DARK HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS”, for example, showcases this constant battle between guitars and synths in a very epic way with the exciting arrangement and rushing beat. Although kind of heavy in the overall sound, the band manages to maintain “DARK HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS” in a poppy vein with the catchy and powerful chorus. I can’t even count how many times I caught myself humming its melody. Apparently, the fangirls were also very fond of Iceman when they were at their peak.
According to generasia, the band stopped their activities in 2001, when vocalist Michihiro Kuroda officially left the band to pursue a solo career as a rock singer. Maybe Daisuke’s heavy electronic interferences were not well accepted by him after a while.
“DARK HALF~TOUCH YOUR DARKNESS” was Iceman’s debut single, which was released in July 1996, and reached #5 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics were written by Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
04) Daisuke Asakura expd. Takanori Nishikawa (T.M.Revolution) -- BLACK OR WHITE? (1995)
Probably Daisuke’s most famous act, T.M.Revolution started working with him, still as Takanori Nishikawa (西川貴教), during the “ELECTROMANCER” recording sessions in 1995. The second single released prior to the album was “BLACK OR WHITE?”, a song that was later remixed for Takanori’s debut album “MAKES REVOLUTION”, re-released as a single in 1997, and also re-recorded and re-released as a single in 2000 under the name of “BLACK OR WHITE? version 3”. Moreover, Takanori still performs it sometimes.
“BLACK OR WHITE?” is simply a great pop-rock song with Dai-chan’s catchy hyperactive synths in the background. The “L.A. Mix” included in the “ELECTROMANCER” album, and also presented above, is just even more exciting, because adds an entire minute of pure repetitive instrumental near the end (I just love the synths in this song). As for Takanori, I think he’s a great vocalist, even though I don’t really like the majority of his songs.
“BLACK OR WHITE?” marked the first time Daisuke and Takanori worked together. After the release of “ELECTROMANCER”, the two would start their historic partnership in 1996, which led to a big success during the later half of the 90s. Even today, Daisuke is still involved in a good portion of T.M.R’s songs.
The first version of the single reached #17 on the Oricon charts. The re-release in 1997 reached #51. As for “BLACK OR WHITE? version 3”, it reached #6. Lyrics were written by Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
03) LAZY KNACK -- NATIVE LOVE (1996)
I start my top three with an unnusual choice in Daisuke’s long history as a producer, the “almost aidoru” male duo LAZY KNACK.
Comprised of Sou Shimizu (清水聡) and Yuuna Katsuki (香月優奈), LAZY KNACK’s early songs were created by Daisuke. Their first album, “FLASH” (January 1996), even included some access’s covers like “DRASTIC MERMAID” and an acoustic version of “VIRGIN EMOTION”, but the one song from them that really caught my attention was “NATIVE LOVE”, an infectious and catchy pop tune with Dai’s well known happy and “not-very-subtle” synths (something I just love).
About LAZY KNACK, I really like their lack of talent. Although it may be strange, I do like how the boys sound strange at certain parts, almost struggling, like in the lines before the choruses, for example. That said, it’s interesting how Daisuke’s production can still shine with average vocalists like Sou and Yuuna.
With no surprise, the duo ended a couple of years after their debut. As an “almost aidoru” duo with lackluster sales, they couldn’t succeed in a scenary where Johnny’s acts dominates the whole “boys” side of the coin. Nonetheless, with all that in mind, I still like LAZY KNACK a lot. They have pretty good gems like “NATIVE LOVE”, such as “CRYSTAL GAME” (1995), “SPARK” (1996), “DESTINY” (1997) and “KNIFE” (1997), in their catalogue.
LAZY KNACK’s “FLASH” album reached #16 on the Oricon charts. As for “NATIVE LOVE”, it was written by LAZY KNACK and Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
02) Akiko Hinagata -- REMAKE IT! (1996)
After the “not-very-talented” male duo LAZY KNACK, we reach the “not-very-talented” gravure aidoru Akiko Hinagata (雛形あきこ) and “REMAKE IT!”, a song included in her second album, “Hina Collection 2” (ヒナ・コレ2), which was released in November 1996.
At first, it was decided that the Akiko Hinagata song I would cover was going to be “Yureru Koi Shoujo Iro” (揺れる恋乙女色), a brighter song that I listen to a lot more than “REMAKE IT!”. However, after thinking a little bit, I changed my option and decided to introduce the more subversive and chaotic “REMAKE IT!”, an electronic pop song full of stormy synths that probably represents Akiko Hinagata’s most interesting moment.
Funny thing about Akiko Hinagata is that she wanted to be produced by Tetsuya Komuro, but, in the end, it was Daisuke who worked on her small singing career. In fact, I consider he did magic with her, because she was probably even less talented than LAZY KNACK, but, thanks to Dai-chan, had pretty interesting electronic pop songs like the aforementioned “Yureru Koi Shoujo Iro” and other gems such as “Wonder Girl”, “DESTINATION” and “FUNKY GAME”, for example.
“Hina Collection 2” reached #73 on the Oricon charts. Lyrics for “REMAKE IT!” were written by Akio Inoue, while music and arrangement were done by Daisuke.
01) access -- REALTIME LOVER
I couldn’t end my list without an old access song, but I have to say... this was a pretty hard and unusual choice.
I could talk about any of access’s early singles here, besides the gay themed “MermaidTrilogy” (“DRASTIC MERMAID”, “SCANDALOUS BLUE” and “TEAR’S LIBERATION”) and the Arena rock inspired “MOONSHINE DANCE”, which I already covered before, but I just decided to talk about a minor song in access’s discography. That said, I will probably regret myself later, but whatever...
“REALTIME LOVE” was not a single, but one of the highlights coming from access’s second album, “ACCESS II”, which was released in September 1993.
About the song, it’s one I always listen to while traveling to somewhere. I don’t really know why, but the verses are sensual and mysterious, which makes me like them more than the chorus itself. It’s probably the combination of Hiro’s vocals with the cold synths. Other than that, it’s a song that reminds me of 80s Synthpop or New Wave bands, such as Duran Duran, for example. In fact, some fans accuse access of ripping off Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” on “REALTIME LOVER”, and I see where the comments are coming from, as the arrangements are very, very similar at certain parts.
What else can I say? Daisuke took a little too much inspiration from “The Reflex”...
The “ACCESS II” album reached #2 on the Oricon charts. “REALTIME LOVER” is credited under AXS (Hiro and Dai).
That’s it for today, guys!
Although I could change some songs here and there, I’m pretty satisfied with the final product. Also, I’m happy that I decided to talk about Daisuke’s work, because, with the exception of access, I’ve never talked about any of the acts in this list here on Kayo Kyoku Plus before.
As I said in the Introduction, I spent most of 2014 covering new aidoru music for the blog, so, consciously or not, I managed to ignore Daisuke’s productions. However, they were a big part of my daily routine of traveling back and forth from Resende, where I actually live, to Rio de Janeiro, where I study.
In the end, it was great that I had the opportunity to talk about the overall happy and fun pop music produced by Daisuke Asakura. I just hope you guys enjoy some of the songs I chose to cover here.
Happy New Year!