Hello there everyone out in MikuDB-land! Petridisch here bringing some focus back to some ‘vintage’ and truly classic Vocaloid albums. Today I’ll be ‘discussing’ the major-label debut of the fairly famous and highly respected producer, sasakure.uk. Expertly titled “Do Vocaloids Dream of Doomsday Birds?”, this year-2000 release absolutely blew my head off upon hearing it for the first time. I thought, “Wow! There’s some *real* production going on here!” For something released fairly early on in Vocaloid’s history, there’s way more to chew on than (admittedly irresistable) hyperactive arrangements and melodies that sort of seem to dominate the scene.
For starters, this is an ALBUM. There may be very famous songs that spawned from it — “Hello, Planet” for just one prime example — but this album weaves a sonic tale complete with not just the earworms, but also a serving of the experimental and unchartered. This often occurs simultaneously, which is one of the true delights behind this record. sasakure.uk does not sacrifice a catchy tune for forward-thinking arrangements, the variety of some even recall to these ears even such a determinedly experimental pop group as another of Japan’s treasures, After Dinner. I kid you not! Like I said, “*real* production”.
This is gonna be a bit of a weird review. It’s so much of an album to me that every song deserves mention, so we’re just gonna go track-by-track into this multi-colored vortex…
The journey starts with an intro. Yup, an honest-to-goodness 8-bit intro. Setting you up. For an album. Now we’re talking! The slight uneasiness of this absolute beauty (the melodic and bass lines weave in and out with perfect counterpoint — VERY rare in pop music) heeds to the extremely ‘cute’ and triumphant sounding “PICO@LUV(☆彡とvとAIのウタ。)”. The 8-bit album intro obviously was deliberate: some of the lead instrumentation on this track features a lot of the same timbres. This one’s got it all, for all: crazy time shifts, 8-bit wonderousness, some cleaner studio backing, and a not-to-be missed Miku performance complete with flange, phase, and filters.
Veering into Shibuya-kei, Rin’s “モバイリ:センセーション” is one of my favorites from the tapestry. I’ve always been a massive Pizzicato Five fan, and this song pleases those impulses to hear new music of theirs, knowing it will never happen in real life. If this is as close as we get, I’m good! I EVEN hear some good old Kid Creole and the Coconuts in there! The song builds to a rush, then surprises you with delicacy. But oh no, let’s go back to that Coco-nutty world till fade out 🙂
The next track (which incidentally there is NO break from the last track to this one…..YES!) is a ear-stretcher as it employs some of the more extreme stereo imagery I’ve heard in a pop setting: “ニジイロ＊アドベンチュア”. Great beat, nice switcher-up fills, and just a sense of real FUN. You can tell sasakure.uk must have had a blast upon playback of the completed album, despite the probable fact that the effortless overall musical sense of fun was probably (and even obviously) METICIOUSLY CRAFTED and combed over: this track is a prime specimen of such. If you’re still shaking your head, you should know Miku’s vocals on this track are subject to some of the most attractive processing on the entirety of the album. Simply BEAUTIFUL vocals.
I appreciate the “Bjork-i-ness” of the following track, GUMI’s “カムパネルラ”, even the ‘breakdown’ consists of a pleasant mishmash of samples, microbeats, backing vocals, and popping keyboards. Additionally, the eye-bulging power of “マリィの世界” is not due to rockiness or metallic flashes, but a simple piano ballad with EXTREME harmonies and just such a melancholy feel (and a pretty strong focus on oh, just some more WILD arrangement) that one can be, well, overwhelmed. In the best way, though.
I’ve not mentioned how much I love Miku’s Dark Append. I use it when I can, wherever I can. “ウタカタ永焔鳥” is perhaps the smoothest example I’ve heard of the use of the Dark Append, set to a ‘period’ 1930’s-America feel piano-driven tune, of course brought into the 2010s.
Get your glowsticks out! The next track is “はるのはるか”, a classic Miku ballad which rises and falls on emotional cue, complete with deep strings and piano starkness. That said, this one is also later home to one of the densest arrangements on the album. And those chord changes! Expected, expected, expecte….WHAT? Seriously, love it. Glowsticks!
Moving on, we now approach what is obviously the second “side” of the album with a pretty wild cut that defintely falls in line with more of my tastes outside Vocaloid. Miku’s bare “la la”‘s setting the tone for the track, a simple bassline and string plucks rises up to shrieking wind and probably some really screwed Morse Code messages. Similarly to the first “side”, this interlude leads way to something a bit more fun. The bully-meets-mischevious-girl voice of Rin is delightfully twisted and turned with telephone filters on “しゅうまつがやってくる！” or as the music would at least dictate to me, “The Weekend is Coming!”. It sure sounds like it: it’s Friday afternoon, work is ending, and this song plays when the clock hits six.
Now, as one who is always up for some dramatic boss-battle style rock and roll, “ぼくらの16bit戦争” (featuring the always awesome GUMI) is just a big “YES” at this point. Even though I adore the pop — and I do, muchly — my ears rejoice at this 8-bit badassery. Love the 60’s Hammond Organ touches in the chorus-verses. And the Mike Oldfield-style guitar solo breakdown, pure genius. And talk about twisting and turning! This song might be an album on its own, I’d have to ask…
The following track is one of pure emotion: the (to me) underrated Luka’s “ワンダーラスト”. What’s most effective on this track are the shifts, the noise, the increasing modulation on the vocals, it’s all very placed from the heart, if that makes any sense at all. Many people associate Vocaloid music with machines — this one, yeah, it’s sequenced probably — but the human quality is undeniable, and in spades. sasakure.uk clearly has quite a bit to say sonically, and this track may be the highlight of such.
Anyone reading this I’m pretty sure knows “Hello, Planet.”, so I won’t get INTO it. Easy to see why this was singled out: some heartbreaking lyrics, and an opposite-but-equal happy caffeinated pop track. Also, even in the context of such an innovative album, it’s hard to deny one of the best Miku ‘performances’ is on this track.
Another true classic in the Vocaloid field is next. “＊サヨナラ、ワールドエンド。” indeed hits those heartstrings by allowing oneself to insert your own thoughts into the track via the intro’s stark arrangement. At times the intro even has a Cocteau Twins feel, something I can definitely get behind. It then quickly changes to something ‘lush’ (I use that word well, 4AD fans) except with like xylophone trills tacked on for good measure.
The simple, piano-through-death sound of the final brief “outro” features the same melody as the intro, truly bringing the album full circle, and leaving one feeling complete — as you have gone on a continuous, fascinating stream-of-consciousness pop expedition. In fact, as much as I adore the 2 remixes at the end — one done by uber-famous producer DECO*27, the other by Treow — I feel the ideal format for this would be a very tightly mastered single LP with just the two “sides” of sasakure.uk’s material. Nice for a CD bonus, but for such a headtrip I think it would have been cool to just end the album on that somber yet uplifting piano note. Ah well…one can dream.
If it’s not obvious, I’m STRONGLY encouraging you to check out this absolute gem of not only Vocaloid, but of MUSIC. We have it on the site RIGHT HERE so what are you waiting for? Give it a gander and maybe make it part of your physical collection. I know I have!