I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

face to ace -- Non-fiction (ノンフィクション)

My first encounter with the duo face to ace dates back to 2004 with this song which I downloaded by chance as part of their then-recent a new day album. Though I was a total newcomer to Japanese music at the time and haven't yet developed a concrete musical taste, that fondness for genre-fusion was already brewing inside of me. I just didn't realize it back then. I think that's why these guys have stuck with me for so long, and from time to time I kept coming back to their songs to enjoy their eclectic mixture of sounds. Case in point: "Non-fiction" (ノンフィクション) is a wonderful mix of pop and techno that doesn't quite fit our generic expectations of how mainstream technopop tends to sound, yet it feels so natural that it doesn't distract us. I also got a bit of a retro vibe from the melody, which is always a plus.

(short version only)

It was only in 2008 that I learned about the unit's background and members. Here's the shocking part: Ace Shimizu (エース清水), their vocalist and guitarist you see in the above video for "Non-fiction", was none other than a former guitarist of Seikima-II (聖飢魔II). If my jaw could actually drop to the floor, I'd be picking up my teeth soon after I discovered that. A member of this bizarre band known for their KISS/Kabuki-inspired make-up and comical heavy metal cliches going all AOR on us. Who would've known! Apparently he already expressed interest in pop and AOR as early as 1993 when he released his solo album Time Axis. It was during that time that he met Kurage Honda (本田海月), the other half of face to ace and the former keyboardist of New Wave group Grass Valley, and invited him to help out with composing and arranging songs on the album. Here's one of the tracks from it.

After Seikima-II disbanded on the last day of 1999 like they had been planning to ever since their debut, Ace launched a new chapter in his career by taking off the face paint and forming face to ace (no pun intended) with Honda in 2001. That fusion style you hear in "Non-fiction" is primarily Honda's doing, as with most of the unit's music, though Ace has composed and arranged some songs for them as well. I talked to J-Canuck over e-mail a few days ago about their style and he compared their melodies and fusion sound to PSY-S. Very insightful observation indeed, and after some thinking I even extended it by comparing face to ace's Honda to PSY-S' Masaya Matsuura (松浦雅也). Reading Honda's profile on the official site of coo:ya (空夜coo:ya...the other unit Honda is a member of) taught me that he likes pushing genre boundaries just to see if they exist in the first place, kind of like what Matsuura has done with PSY-S by fusing elements of pop, rock, techno, and soul into one. I wouldn't call the two units very similar, but PSY-S is the closest thing besides coo:ya I'd compare face to ace to. They both also share a distinctive melodic quality... somewhat atmospheric at times. Listening to "Non-Fiction" after reading what J-Canuck said pretty much reinforced the idea for me.

Here's a couple of other songs face to ace have done over the years.

"Flaming Days" from their debut album FACE TO FACE. The unit started off with more of a pure AOR and Jazz Fusion sound before would explore techno/electro. Ace wrote and composed this track, while Honda collaborated with him in the arrangement department. The above performance is quite impressive, especially that guitar vs. saxophone battle that begins halfway through.

"Pandora no Sora" (パンドラの空) from a new day. A nice way to briefly describe this song would be "Electro Summer". So lovely.
face to ace is still active in the music business as of today and releases their stuff from an indies label. Their latest album is Promised Melodies, which came out in December 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up on this band, nikala. I'm still marveling at the resemblance in style between face to ace and PSY-S, although both have their own distinctive sounds. Still, would love to see if Chaka and Matsuura from PSY-S ever decide to jam with Ace and Honda (if they haven't already...although I think Chaka has been firmly in the jazz category for many many years now).


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