Who said physical media is dead?
There’s no beating the convenience of music streaming services, that much is a fact, but for some the idea of tangibly owning something does hold more value than being subscribed to a service that the library of which you don’t have much control over. Of course, CDs do “go bad” over time, and as my old archival studies professor used to say, “permanence is obsolete”, in reference to how even physical media can only be preserved for so long. So then it becomes a matter of agency; would you rather leave your library at the hands of an online media platform, or do you take it upon yourself? Something to think about, as we go into another J-Music Exchange/Rate! (XD)
If this is your first time here on the blog and/or this is your first time seeing this series; the Exchange/Rate is the tandem album review series coducted by myself and my good friend and fellow Japanese music fan Al from Omunibasu.Blog. Each month Al and I trade each other albums from both our respective music libraries based on a specific theme that we decide on pior. We then go talk about and review said albums in our blogs which is what you are seeing right now. We’ve been doing this for a little over two years now, and it has been a great way for us to share some of our favorite albums not only to each other but to you guys as well 🙂 If you’re ever curious what albums we have already gone through, do go and check out all of our reviews that we’ve done so far over at Omunibasu.Blog where Al keeps a neat and tidy running list!
Al and I take turns on who gets to decide the theme for the reviews, and this month is was again my turn to do so. As you might have already guessed from my little intro there, this month theme has to do with *drum rolls* … physical media! (lol) Specifically I wanted us to talk about albums that we own. While my music library is admittedly mostly digital, I do buy CDs on occasion (shout outs to CDJapa-) both as as a show of support for some of my favorite bands and artists, as well as to celebrate some of my all time favorite releases if only in my own way.
One such album in my collection, which I’ve chosen for Al to review this time around, is none other than the recipient of my Favorite Album Of 2021 award from last year’s Roundup Awards, Hockrockb’s Kokkaque (check out his review here!). Al in turn has given me a quaint little album in Seeds of sound by the group DUSTY FRUITS CLUB.
Let’s give it a whirl.
DUSTY FRUITS CLUB is the pairing of music school Maruxenon Co. Ltd.s’ President and vocal coach Tada Mitsuhiro (who also acts as both producer and main composer) and seiyuu performer Yano Hinaki (known most notably for her role as Takasaki Yu from Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Doukoukai of the Love Live! franchise). Conceptually, the pair aims to blend together [an] “edgy” sound, relaxed singing, and an intense live performance.
CDJapan Affiliate Link(s):
Seeds of sound / DUSTY FRUITS CLUB
０５・勇気のかけら/yuuki no kakera
０６・眠りの森/nemuri no mori
０９・Don’t stop the music
１０・ラブソングは歌わない/love song wa utawanai
Ａ ｌ : When you hear the name ‘Yano Hinaki’, most likely you’ll recognize her as the up-and-coming voice actress featured in popular anime like Love Live, Uma Musume, Wonder Egg Priority, or maybe you’re one of the few patrician fans who remembers her leading role in Selection Project. But apart from her talented career so far as a seiyuu, Hinanon does dabble in music a bit (similar to her SMA VOICE colleague Kusunoki Tomori) and has been a part of a musical duo called DUSTY FRUITS CLUB. With Yano providing vocals and Tada Mitsuhiro on keyboard, the two have strived to combine edgy sounding-yet-excellent melodies with smooth singing performances in their music.
The duo’s second album release from 2021, Seeds of sound, continues that goal and, for sure, further shows off the talents and great combination of Hinanon and Tada Mitsuhiro. The group’s intended expression of ‘edginess’ is certainly present throughout this album, like in the tracks “Beautiful Pain” and the rough-sounding “Scream!”. But it seems like they went in a couple different directions with some of the other songs, almost doing a 180 in terms of genre/style. Some examples being the super catchy and acoustic guitar-filled “Don’t stop the music” and there’s literally a song that gives off reggae/tropical vibes with “Love Song wa Utawanai”… so I feel like Seeds of sound was an interesting mixture of songs and styles that these two pulled off pretty well. Plus, for the fans of Hinanon, this really is another opportunity to hear her show off her vocal abilities. Not only in a general sense but it’s cool to hear her sing as ‘Yano Hinaki’, rather than the fictional characters she’s known to portray.
And while the main reason why I have a copy of this album is because I like Hinanon, its release on streaming services was a bit late so I got impatient and just bought the physical version lol.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
Right off the bat the album opens up with Beautiful Pain here and, I’ll say to you now that we’re actually gonna be off to a good start with this review since this song in particular is unironically one of my favorite album openers… possibly of all time. As it just so happens, Seeds of sound is already an album that I have listened to and pored over a good number of times already in the past (in large part owing to my exposure to Yano Hinaki’s activities by way of the Love Live! franchise), and as a result of that I have become somewhat familiar with the majority of the tracks in it, with Beautiful Pain being one that I really just fell in love with ever since I first listened to it.
The thing that stood out for me initially about Beautiful Pain the most is this retro-esque, Vaporwave-y sort of sound that it has going on which was both surprising and just downright cool in my own personal opinion. I think a lot of that is because this is for the most part a very uncommon direction not just for seiyuu artists like Yano, but for artists in general (the last instance of me even mentioning the term “Vaporwave” is exactly five years ago, LOL). I’m a sucker for bands and artists who go out of their way to try and explore something different and this track did a good job at both showcasing that as well as setting the tone for the rest of the album.
０５・勇気のかけら/yuuki no kakera
There’s not an awful lot of discussion going around for Seeds of sound even within Japanese media outlets so this one’s mostly conjecture on my part, but I do believe that on the whole the album’s overarching auditory narrative (and this carries over from the retro vibe of Beautiful Pain as well) might just be one that aims to evoke a sense of nostalgia with its more old school sounding tracks. Whether its a thematic choice for only this album specifically or a stylistic one for Yano (and by extension DUSTY FRUITS CLUB and the team behind them) is beyond me, but at the very least that’s the feeling I end up getting with songs like Yuuki no Kakera here.
For one the song sounds like it got pulled straight out of an anime from the early 2000s with its ending theme-like song structure (I especially liked the break down that starts at the 2:30 mark that kinda sounds like it could’ve been in some sports-themed CGDCT show, lol), but more than that, even just that instumention of it makes it sound like it was a song composed from that era of Japanese music. Specifically, the presence of a glockenspiel in the chorus I think really gives Yuuki no Kakera that throwback feeling. It’s such a negligible element to the overall composition, but at the same time it’s also one that gives it the most character which I found quite interesting.
I’ll go back to this later when I go over my thoughts on the album as a whole, but something that I thought was of note was that the deeper you got into Seeds of sound, the instrumentation starts to open up more and more. Seemingly, starting from the heavily techno-laden Beautiful Pain, each track thereafter begins to lay off on the keyboard synth and the electronica little by little while also introducing the predominant sounds of the second half of the album; which would be that of the acoustic guitar primarily, alongside more organic percussion (as opposed to something synth-generated) and perhaps most notably for some, a tambourine.
There’s a clear break in the energy towards the middle of the album too (in particular, starting from SAYONARA△ to Nemuri no Mori) which, followed by Harenohi here is where it actually starts to pick up again. But unlike the energy in the first half of Seeds of sound where, at its peak was the rambunctious next Sunday, the second half of the album seems to lean more towards having this sort of uplifting kind of vibe which I ended up actually preffering more. Another thing that made Harenohi memorable for me was that the chorus mirrored this one song that I used to hear all the time as a kid, even down to the syllable count which I thought was hilarious (XD).
０９・Don’t stop the music
The last track that I wanted to feature for this review is Don’t stop the music here, which is actually my personal favorite from Seeds of sounds, and has been even back when I first listened to the album a year ago. A lot of that is coming from how I personally think that the instrumentation for this song comes together arguably the best in my opinion out of all the tracks in the album, especially with the inclusion of brass to the mix now too, as we talked about earlier about how the instrument sounds seem propagate with each song. More than that though, I like this song because it directly addresses a critique almost for DUSTY FRUITS CLUB and Yano Hinaki specifically.
I would describe Yano’s singing voice as being light and airy, which at times ends up coming across as rather thin. Because of that, the way her vocals gets mixed in the track is either it gets raised too high above the instrumentation (making the moments when she sings at the top end of her voice sound like she’s trying to overpower the instruments) or it gets drowned out by the instruments altogether. One of the ways to sort of remedy this is to bring her vocals right at the midrange where it needs to be, and bolster it with back vocals and harmonies to make her singing sound “fuller” so to speak… which is *exactly* what they do for Don’t stop the music. Very cool.
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ Ｓｅｅｄｓ ｏｆ ｓｏｕｎｄ＞
It may come as a surprise for you guys, and even for Al who tossed this album over to me, how much I actually like this album (not that that says all that much considering how albums by artists that are part of the Love Live! franchise have so far been doing relatively well around here anywa-). Though unlike the narrative surrounding the aforementioned reviews of Kobayashi Aika’s Gradation Collection and Aida Rikako’s Curtain raise of ultimately bringing the focus to them, DUSTY FRUITS CLUB’s Seeds of sound I feel not once made it just about Yano Hinaki, and instead comes across as a collective band effort that only *happens* to involve a seiyuu performer.
Not to say that ‘Aikyan’ and ‘Rikyako’s’ albums didn’t both involve a concerted amount of effort of course, but the difference I’m hoping to point to is that ‘DFC’ and ‘Hinanon’s’ album here doesn’t sound as “produced” as the former two’s. Instead it kinda gives off that “low to the ground” Indie type of release feeling (which it technically is considering DFC *is* operating as an indie project) that never really tries to leverage Hinanon’s idol adjacent status by even coming out and doing more traditional Idol Pop. Like, if I didn’t know who Hinanon was and/or what sort of projects she’s affiliated with, I would have thought that DFC was another band on the come up.
Perhaps as a direct consequence of that there’s not too much in the way of discussion about Seeds of sound‘s conceptualization as an album and while I’m happy to contribute to that now, this is just my interpretation of it so do take it with a grain of salt. For me, the album is all about a “blossoming” of music (of note, the album’s imagery contains flowers too). It sows *seeds of sound* beginning from the first track which is very bare and inorganic in the sense that you’re mostly hearing techno and synth, where the instrumentation is then carefully cultivated with each succeeding track, and by that end of it all you’re left with an ensemble that’s vibrant and full of life.
４.５ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５
９ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
It’s gonna be interesting to see what the future holds for DUSTY FRUITS CLUB since Yano Hinaki (at the time of writing) is mere days away from making her media debut as a solo artist, and is set to drop her first EP this very month. It doesn’t appear as though she will be working with Tada Mitsuhiro (main composer and producer for DFC) in any of the tracks in this upcoming release so assuming she makes the jump from collaborating with Maruxenon to Sony Music Entertainment Japan subsidiary SACRA MUSIC, there’s a good chance this is the last time we hear something again like this from her. If it is, I do think that makes this album worth the picking up even more.
What are your guys’ thoughts on DUSTY FRUITS CLUB’s Seeds of sound? Let us know down in the comments section below!
While you’re at it, let us know of some of your favorite albums that you own!