Konami Digital Entertainment
September 25, 2009
Buy at CDJapan
Backdrops is an album by Naoyuki Sato with songs from his NekomataMaster+ alias from various Bemani and Konami games, also including new intro and outro tracks. Sato’s NekomataMaster+ alias generally makes use of a heavier electronica and experimental sound, with some references to and stylings from his softer, ethnically influenced NekomataMaster alias. This album follows shortly after Raindrops, Sato’s first album under his NekomataMaster alias.
The album opens and closes with new tracks, a bit different from the rest of the album but still appropriate. “Yasashii sekai” consists of a few ambient sounds over vocals by Sana with light and distant piano work. Sana’s delivery purposely accents every syllable in a rather unnatural fashion, and despite the title simply meaning ‘gentle world’, the track suggests a more intriguing reality which I think the cover art encapsulates. With this, the track easily draws us in to the mysterious landscape that Sato presents. On the other hand, the ending track “Hikarino mukou” feels like a development of the intro’s ideas into that grand, but still perplexing world. The accompaniment is fuller with glitchy percussion, spacious strings. Sana’s delivery starts to break away from the rigid accents of the intro track, but only just enough to suggest the change rather than fully betray it. There’s a strong sense of contrast in these tracks, and they very interestingly bookend the album.
Aside from these new tracks, Backdrops covers many songs fron Sato’s existing Bemani work, featuring a much harder electronica sound. Occasionally they aren’t too strong melodically, focusing instead on a strong bass line or percussion with a steady progression, such as in the hard house tracks “End of World” or “Satellite070270” (originally labelled in IIDX 10 as a NekomataMaster track, and slightly re-arranged from the V-RARE 12 long version). Some of the tracks bring in other influences such as the arabic experimental track “Crack”, or the upbeat house-infused “Spiral” and “existens”. Throughout these, Sato manages to retain some of his familiar synths and pads, so that the tracks till feel like his own. It’s far from Sato’s typically lyrical output, but it all has a strong groove and rhythm that draws the listener in.
Most of the tracks are more in line with Sato’s NekomataMaster work. “Good-bye Chalon” fuses the heavy percussion with strong jazz instruments and improv as well as a good portion of the NekomataMaster ethnic sound library into a great mix. “Driven Shooter” is an exciting track that mixes more of Sato’s arabic sound with a higher dose of energy, while “Queen’s Tragedy” manages an intriguing mix of rock-sampled big beat around Sato’s calmer synths. “Bahram Attack” is a remix of a Toshiyuki Kakuta track carried over with some small changes from Denjin K, and is an mysteriously atmospheric house track with dreamy vocals by JUNE. The various combinations of elements that Sato employs in these track are all very interesting, and even in their diversity add to the cohesiveness of the album.
Of the standouts of the album, the first is “being torn the sky”, a vocal track featuring JUNE that feels very much like a NekomataMaster vocal track pushed through a NekomataMaster+ filter in a unique manner. JUNE’s wispy voice and the beauty of some of the instruments contrasts with its harsher elements, and it all comes together in a compelling track. “Chain of Pain” is a collaboration with kors k, combining Sato’s chimes, synths, piano work with kors k’s hardcore trance in a perfect match. The long version of the track does add some unnecessary filler at the end, but the new revised breakdown to soft piano is beautifully chilling. The boss track from IIDX 16 EMPRESS “Kung-fu Empire” is also fantastic track with a busy and futuristic oriental atmosphere and a great central melody. The lengthening is done well, providing more of a great track while keeping it from getting tired over its lengthier runtime. Sato’s NekomataMaster influences show the most in these tracks, and those unique sounds are precisely what elevate these tracks above the rest.
Backdrops is a wonderful first album by Naoyuki Sato for his NekomataMaster+ alias. While fairly cohesive in its experimental and electronica sound, the album caries a wide variety of influences, as well as those from his own NekomataMaster alias. A number of tracks are less melodic and rather less memorable for it, but even these are still enjoyable and help with the album’s overall anergy and tone. The best tracks are the ones that utilize some out influences outside of the experimental hardcore sound, which also serve to confirm Sato’s particular musical identity. It’s a wonderful companion to the lighter Raindrops, and also opens room for exploration within the NekomataMaster+ sound.
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Posted on March 25, 2015 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on March 25, 2015.