Especia, Idol no More

Like life itself, idol is transient. As of June this year, Especia ceased to exist as the idol unit with a hint of vapourwave and the anachronistic, but was instead been reborn as a (more) serious city-pop group. Expect less pandering, but the same stylised and excellently produced music. Is it not that which really matters?

Surviving members of the original group Haruka and Erika are joined by newcomer Mia to complete the trio. Thankfully, Haruka and Erika were always amongst the strongest vocalists in Especia. The notable exception being perhaps the best singer, Monari, who is pursuing a solo career.

Accompanying the refined lineup, and shift in musical direction, is an updated visual style. The brightly coloured relics of yesteryear have been relegated in favour of black dresses and veils. This, combined with the arid cover art, MV, and promo shots with bottled water lend the new EP, Mirage, a strong unified style.

Curiously, it has been decided that the lyrics should now be in something approximating English. For English speakers, this does not help comprehension. Regardless, if you appreciate good music, you should see this departure from idol as a positive.

The Triad of Band Ja Naimon! Mini Projects Is Complete

We now have a complete set of Banmon! subgroup songs, with a third track and mini-group: Heroes by Cotton Rabbits.

My wish of a track focusing more on the musical talents of the members has been realised, with Yuzu playing guitar and, unsurprisingly, Misako providing the percussion. A minimal effort translation of the description suggests that the song was composed and the lyrics written by Yuzu and Misako respectively. Isn’t it wonderful to think idols may be admired for skills beyond mediocre singing, dancing and masterful application of make-up? How about, for instance, a mathematics idol? Perhaps we are not ready…

The song is in no way unconventional, it is however quite infectious. Both the instrumentation and vocals are very bright and clean sounding. The drums and guitar certainly take centre stage with hints of xylophone and synth accenting the vocals. Rather formulaic, but well executed. We are left with an uplifting and pleasant song, which captures the summery and optimistic mood that one feels was it’s intention.

Also satisfyingly complementary, are the accompanying visuals. The performers wear summer dresses, are seen to ride a Vespa style scooter and appear on the sides of tote bags. Curiously, I am once again reminded of Tomoko Kawase, this time because of the romanticisation of British streets. Misako and Yuzu travel through a catalogue of picturesque locations on their magical scooter, including the Eiffel Tower, a (presumably) Dutch windmill, the pyramids at Giza and, unquestionably most impressive, a British high street complete with pawn shop and Boots chemist! If anyone wishes to visit the United Kingdom, please note that there are many more beautiful places.

The MV also includes lyrics for those inclined to sing along. Or for those like me, to look out for the for the few kana you can recognise (の is easy).

Heroes is a satisfying conclusion to the first round of Banmon! micro-group songs. I say first, as I hope there is more to come. One track of three notwithstanding, the triad of songs have been refreshing. We are reminded that somewhere behind the rabid marketeering, where we are encouraged to buy the same CD twice for the opportunity of two minutes stale conversation, there are talented individuals using idol as a conduit for their creativity.

Two New Tracks from Band Ja Naimon! Subgroups

Two thirds of Band Ja Naimon! have recently treated us to two new tracks accompanied by MVs.

Momoko and Gumi, with the natural affinity that can only arise when being paired with similar colours, have formed the imaginatively named Blue Twins.

Cinderella Blues, the duo’s first offering, is a delightfully anachronistic sounding track, reminiscent of the synth heavy (old) Tommy February 6. The audio is complemented by the visuals, with as much soft focus and chromatic aberration as premier pro filters can muster, along with the occasional scan line for good measure. Our two idols sport some vintage(?) clothes, and in keeping with the theme, abandon their jarringly modern phones in favor of sparklers and fake tails.

Altogether, Cinderella Blues is a very pleasant track, with a strong character, helping to set it apart from the generic idol offerings. Even the somewhat clumsy rap(?) section preceding the bridge does little to hold it back.

Our next group, Chou Chou Cream, is composed of Banmon! members Miyu and Ringo. One would presume that the intention is for us to translate this as Sweetheart (Chouchou) Cream, rather than Cabbage Cabbage (Chou Chou) Cream.

At the risk of spoiling any suspense, Icecream Ni Narutaino♡ is the inferior of the two tracks. It is, in all honestly, a fairly bland and saccharine song. We will hear at length about ice cream and other sweet treats, with the MV adding little more than pleated skirts.

Unfortunately, this track has many similarities to that baser form of idol media, vapid with an undertone of cynicism. It is disappointing to see this from an offshoot of one of the genuinely more interesting offerings from the world of idol culture.

Do these releases suggest that we can expect an upcoming track from the remaining members of Banmon!? One would hope so, especially given Misako and Yuzu are the most musically proficient. A revival of twin drumming idols? One can dream…