Tribal Link Review

I don’t really do music reviews, but why not. I really enjoyed these covers, and this is just as good as any other excuse to listen to Makkun’s Abyss over and over again.

Release Date : 2011.07.29

TRIBAL LINK-R

1. Velocity of sound Vo. Faylan
2. The Maze Vo. Utatsuki Kaori
3. Jet Smash! Vo. Momoi Haruko
4. Ever stay snow Vo. nao
5. Lupe Vo. Kawada Mami
6. Automaton Vo. Okui Masami
7. Close to me… Vo. Shimamiya Eiko
8. jihad Vo. Sakakibara Yui
9. Permit ~Yurushi no Tou~ Vo. Satou Hiromi
10. Lilies line Vo. Larval Stage Planning
11. Philosophy Vo. Hashimoto Miyuki
12. FLY TO THE TOP Vo. KOTOKO
13. Double HarmoniZe Shock!! Vo. MAKO and Kawada Mami

TRIBAL LINK-L

1. IMMORAL Vo.KOTOKO
2. Abyss Vo. Okui Masami
3. blossomdays Vo. Larval Stage Planning
4. birthday eve Vo. Kuribayashi Minami
5. Suna no Shiro  -The Castle of Sand- Vo. Kawada Mami
6. Anata dake no Angel☆ Vo. Sakakibara Yui
7. Jōshiki! Butler Kōshinkyoku Vo. nao
8. Face of Fact Vo. Utatsuki Kaori
9. For our days Vo. MAKO
10. Collective Vo. Faylan
11. Princess Brave! Vo. Momoi Haruko
12. Leaf Ticket Vo. Satou Hiromi
13. SHIFT -Sedai no Mukō- Vo. Shimamiya Eiko

So for the uninitiated, I’ve Sound is a brand of trance/denpa style electronica stuff. It is just a bunch of Hokkaido-based musicians. Over the years they’ve tied up some female vocalists (utahime or whatever people call them) and among eroge and anime fans they have gotten some name recognition. KOTOKO is probably the most famous vocalist to make it out of it, but regardless of who, there’s like a 80% chance that Kazuya Takase, the founder and a big part of what I’ve really is, wrote the song. You can read about it on Wikipedia.

The two Tribal Link albums are a tie-in with an associated event that took place in early July, when the artists covering these I’ve classics teamed up for a day-night double-header anison marathon. You can read about its first initial announcement here; the show was on Nico live stream, so maybe a copy is floating around too. The recording on these two CDs are studio recordings though, and the arrangement is the standard version, not some remix. It all feels a little unpolished, but the main interest here is the sort of music. It’s kind of like how they still put up crossfade preview tracks for their stuff. It’s this kind of details that I like about I’ve. And it’s also kind of ghetto. But hey, they even have a Comiket booth.

Some more about the vocalists. Overall there are three categories: ex- or semi-ex I’ve Sound artists, current breed I’ve Sound artists, and totally not associated types. Tribal Link features all three groups, and it’s kind of a Lantis mash-up; I believe all the non-I’ve associated artists on these discs have Lantis distribution deals. For that matter, please remember Larval Stage Planning, the new-ish idol-pop trio from the brand, is doing an anison tie-in for the first time this season (Bakatest 2 OP).

And all this text is just to give you some background. Being able to appreciate the cover singers is the major draw, beyond that you’re definitely buying a Best-Of collection as well. Tribal Link is definitely for fans of both I’ve and the attached artists. I mean when you hook in the likes of Momoi and Yuinyan you’re going to get a certain group of people interested. Or the group who like like Faylan or Makkun. There are also some old-timers on the list, and one doing an appearance for possibly the first time: I’ve Sound’s MAKO.

[Yeah, I’ve’s is evil, but I’ve Sound’s is less. Then again, only crazy Japanese would have the word “larval” in anything that isn’t biology or SF horror.]

So, anyway, R first. Because I am backwards like that. I’ll try to link to clips when I see it.

  1. Velocity of sound is as much as a signature I’ve piece as they come, and I think Faylan did justice. The problem is more that her singing style doesn’t really mesh with the trance-ness of it all. It feels as if she’s just singing it like one of her own songs. Which is to say, maybe someone should vocode her or something, it could work much better. The end result, as is, is a good try but it probably disappointing the nature of Faylan’s music as hypothetically merging with I’ve Sound’s … sound.
  2. Disclaimer #1: I never really liked Utatsuki’s songs. The Maze is a pretty okay piece especially considering how the previous track was kind of disappointing. It’s pretty decent, even when considering the original.
  3. Momoi goes all moe-moe depna on Jet Smash! is something to be expected. But I think it’s the kind of thing that either works or not at all. Yeah, those refrain clauses are cute, and the fact that she tunes it to her singing voice for the rest works pretty well. I just don’t think it’s got as much crack as the original.
  4. Ever stay snow is a classic; that’s going to be a trend. I’m not sure if nao did it justice. And why am I so hung up on justice? I guess it’s partly because it’s not really that different than Shiho’s interpretation. I would say this is probably slightly more pleasurable to listen to than the original, but it’s got less of a bite. I never really got into her FripSide stuff either… No real opinion here.
  5. I definitely dislike Kawada less among the newer crop of I’ve Sound utahime. Well, she’s not exactly “newer” by 2011 standards. Her version of Lupe is really good though. I think I like it more than the original. I suppose it credits her for just better at this trancy stuff, versus the screechier KOTOKO take.
  6. Disclaimer #2: I am a big Makkun fan. Her involvement in Tribal Link is already worth the price of admission for the two albums. Automaton is surprisingly not as good as I think it should sound, but it’s still a very nice switch from Makkun’s normal fare. It’s also a bit more rocking compared to the typical I’ve track, which is closer to her usual style. Despite that, though, it feels like she’s taken over this song.
  7. The big sister of I’ve Sound continues to walk on. The big news from 2010 was how Eiko Shimamiya announced that she got cancer. It looks like things are doing better after a brief respite and with her recovery. Close to me is yet another classic track with some cool tricks on something otherwise pretty simple. Aside that these cool tricks involve Engrish, I think she nails it. It’s like, when KOTOKO does it, there’s this harpsichord feel; where as Eiko-neesan actually flows with it. With better Engrish, too.
  8. The title of the song, jihad, reminds me of a certain Sakakibara’s album cover… Heh. Disclaimer #3: I like her deep voice more than her denpa voice. In a lot of ways Yuinyan’s musical inventory is the kind of divide between the two sides of I’ve. Except instead of trance it’s kind of this half-image rock thing. Her rendition of jihad is exactly that kind, which works out pretty well for me. For that matter, Faylan would have hit a home run with this song. Yui Sakakibara was able to channel the sweeter side of her voice for this, even when staying with that rock style. Very nicely done.
  9. I think Hiromi Sato’s voice is pretty close to MELL’s, so her version of Permit ~Yurushi no Tou~ is pretty okay. The biggest difference, though, is how MELL is pretty champ for a soprano; she’s got that frame. Hiromi-shacho, OTOH, not as much. This song, being a ballad, shows the difference.
  10. Disclaimer #4: Larval Stage Planning what? I mean I know who they are, but I’m pretty much totally new to them, and they’ve done nothing impressive so far besides being able to sing the songs from I’ve. Lilies line doesn’t address my concerns, although they’re pretty cute-sounding in it. What I really need is an idol dancing style PV or something. And something less psychedelic than this.
  11. Philosophy is another classic piece. Personally this song accompanied me in a lot of the long trips I’ve taken over the past 10+ years. So hearing a softer version of it from Hashimoto was kind of nice. I’m not really familiar with Hashimoto’s stuff, aside from hearing it here or there. Unfortunately this song by itself doesn’t quite get me any more interested in her. It was nice though.
  12. For I’ve fans, KOTOKO doing FLY TO THE TOP is already a huge treat. More objectively, though, it’s basically MELL’s version with more sugar and less oomf. I did notice some funky background tracking for the vocals plus a little bit of it at the ending, that weren’t in the original, which is kind of cute. I think fans may be divided but more probably would prefer the original. I mean, after all, that’s what sets I’ve Sound apart from the rest–oomph over sugar. MELL’s got some real vocal chops that even the best of the best denpa princesses will have a hard time overcoming, so it’s not to KOTOKO’s discredit. In fact I think she’s done a good job all considering.
  13. MAKO is basically a lower and less sweet version of Kawada, so when they teamed up for Double HarmoniZe Shock!! I’m not sure if I would be able to tell them apart. I guess I still can if I pay attention, but the layering during the chorus isn’t going to give a lot of contrast…maybe that’s just like the original! Well, KOTOKO is really easy to tell for me. The big difference is probably how the original version is sugared-up plus that rocking track, and this version is just all rock. Kind of a preference thing as to which one you’ll like more, although this version is definitely not harmonized as cleanly.

So. L.

  1. IMMORAL is definitely the better way to kick off the album. KOTOKO does her usual job here, although I think her voice cuts through the melody a little too sharply. Kawada’s voice is notably less remarkable than KOTOKO’s, but I guess I’m just used to it on this song. I think it’s pretty much comparable, and what makes it tick for you will just be how much you like KOTOKO.
  2. I really dig this version of Abyss. (See previous disclaimers about Masami Okui.) However, in practice it is kind of a mysterious track because part of it is vocoded (or is it?). I can listen to the chorus and pre-chorus all day long though. It’s a pretty awesome song to begin with, now it’s just even more wonderful. Yay! I mean, to keep on splooging, the big thing that makes Makkun’s voice work in this song is that she has that fairly unique register at around the same pitch as KOTOKO’s, so it really shows when she draws it out. Not to mention her voice is just bigger, and it fits in this song. Also, Abyss would make a killer Faylan track, too.
  3. The LSP cover for L, blossomdays is slightly less catchy but probably for the better, because it’s more like denpa crossed with eurobeat and sings better. KOTOKO’s original rendition isn’t exactly the most inspired thing either, so I’m not sure how to feel about it. Maybe that’s just indifference talking.
  4. Minami Kuribayashi trades spot with Miyuki Hashimoto in L, with birthday eve. It’s a really, really staple I’ve Sound piece. In a way the arrangement kind of overruns Kurinoko’s vocals, which is too bad. Her vocals really fits the song when it isn’t busy overlapping with the synths. I don’t know what she or the sound engineer could do to make her voice stand out more. It’s kind of surprising because I really enjoyed it, despite it being not so great. I suppose that’s I’ve Sound in a nutshell lol. I hope someone gets her to do this song with a different arrangement in the future…
  5. I always thought Suna no Shiro  -The Castle of Sand- was hard to sing. I’m not sure if Kawada understands it, although it is pretty neat to hear her do it. That said, the original was kind of a mess, and so is this one. If there is one redeeming thing is that Kawada’s screeching is way easier to pick up than Eiko-neesan’s.
  6. While I do like her rock voice over her denpa voice, I think in this case I like Sakakibara’s denpa voice too! Anata dake no Angel☆ came across just as it should have been in the original, TBH! Maybe disclaimer #1 is in play more than #3!
  7. I wasn’t expecting much for Jōshiki! Butler Kōshinkyoku, nor am I big about nao, but this one is better than expected. I suppose that is not a surprise, but this song is a fun little tune and it’s hard to screw it up like this. Nao’s a good match.
  8. Who doesn’t like Face of Fact? I don’t know, but if we assume Utatsuki as the de-facto KOTOKO clone from I’ve vocal-wise, then as expected this version of Face of Fact is not really that different than the original. I like it almost just as much, I guess (see Disclaimer #1).
  9. MAKO’s For our days is probably as close of a fit as it gets if it has to be a song from I’ve that she didn’t do. The cool thing is how this song just stands out so much from the other tracks genre-wise. Even with that said, the chorus part was executed kind of normally, which is way less interesting than the rest of the song. It’s too bad, because her Verge tracks were some of my favorites.
  10. I’m less disappointed with Collective than with Velocity of sound. Faylan tears it up pretty well, and this is one of the rare cases that I think I like the cover more than the original. But, yes, I’m still kind of disappointed, in that to do Collective the way she’s doing it, Faylan needs more, well, oomph. But I think she’s half-redeemed herself at least.
  11. Princess Brave surprises nobody. Momoi is solid, and she delivers basically what anyone expects of her and this song. Which is good, and probably better than the original for some, just different. I’m neither ways about this piece, but the fast rhythm do work better for me with that denpa voice. I guess this is KOTOKO’s bread and butter these days.
  12. Shachou has a good voice for Leaf Ticket. Man, she needs duet with KOTOKO again. But that said, it’s kind of amazing to hear her sing a song that, well, doesn’t suck. At least for some reason I am under the impression that Hiromi Sato’s solo works tend to… not impress. Maybe I am wrong, maybe it’s just the one CD of hers that I own that sucked, but it’s good to hear her sing something more interesting.
  13. In a lot of ways I still think Shimamiya is the best vocalist in I’ve. All the popular utahime have a good voice, but there’s some special quality about hers that I find always intriguing.  SHIFT -Sedai no Mukō- is a slow, wrap-up piece that tend to be Lia’s forte, and Eiko-nee does just as good of a job I think. It’s probably the piece where the differences between cover and original is the smallest, across both L and R.

The fact that I wrote a review on this probably tells you that I really enjoyed them. I think it is more an excuse to listen to some really classic I’ve hits, and even with the new covers they sound largely similar to their original incarnations. As a stand alone product, I’m not too excited about it; maybe if they had some real duets for the Tribal Link concerts, I would wish for a DVD or something. I probably don’t need any excuse to drown myself in Sapporo-based anison trance, but if you need it, you’ve got it here.

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