August 19, 1999
Buy Used Copy
Ayako Saso celebrated spending ten years in the video game industry in 1999 with her first solo album Dance! As the name suggests, it features dance music in a range of modern styles, ranging from hip-hop to jazz to disco to samba. Saso injects her characteristic sense of rhythm into each of these compositions while endearing listeners with strong melodies and her upbeat spirit. She was only had time to create a mini-album, though, featuring six main tracks and one bonus performance. Are they enough to satisfy?
“Easy! Easy!” gets the party spirit going with a dynamic blend of jazzy brass sections and funky keyboard runs. The composition is pretty impressive for the way everything comes together so intricately to maintain a great pace and atmosphere. The major figures are pretty catchy and, although none of the improvisation is particularly impressive, it adds some variety to the mix. “Mirror Ball Regend” is a clear homage to disco music. It compels one to get up and dance with its heavily syncopated bass lines, syncopated bass lines, and sleazy lead keyboard work. It’s very derivative, but is nonetheless a competent imitation and is still filled with Saso’s charm. Overall, a positive addition to the album.
“Wind Grass Song” takes listeners to the Caribbean with refreshing tropical tones and light samba rhythms. Although the track features vocals, there’s no need to be worried; they’re very nicely integrated and performed, providing more of a serene chorus to celebrate the holiday flavour. Unfortunately, Ayako Saso’s music is a much more acquired taste when it comes to vocals from sample libraries. “Over Night Step”, for instance, creates a passionate feel with the rich voice of the lead female vocalist. However, the random interjections of “Pump this party!!” from a male rapper and background wooing just superficialises things and makes much of the track rather irritating. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the album tends to focus on samples of the latter type…
“First Smorking” is probably the most obnoxious track on the album due to its reliance on voice samples. A male vocalist repeats a few lines, such as: “Yeah, this is from the old school, new school. Well, you’ve gotta put your hands together because it’s got you jumping around”. In conjunction with a bad performance, they certainly don’t give off the cool smoky feel Saso intended and almost as lame as those on 1080° Snowboarding. The instrumentals are acceptable, but since the vocalist was intended to be the focus, they tend to be low-key and somewhat repetitive. All-too-familiar vocal samples damage the album further in “Burn the Woofer!”, but at least they tend to create the eccentric character intended. The rest of the composition is full of the booming bass and distorted guitars one might hear moshing at a rock concert.
Fortunately, the bonus track leads the album out with an inspiring live performance by the Yokohoma Kohoku Wind Ensemble. During the seven minute playtime, Saso incorporates a bold trumpet fanfare opening, a playful exposition of the melody, some nostalgic and decorative development sections, a percussion-only samba interlude, and various jazzy improvisations. The lead clarinet melody during the exposition sounds rather feeble due to both its inherently cheesy quality and thin harmonisation. However, the rest of the composition is splendidly executed and well worth multiple listens.
When an album has just seven tracks, every item counts. The first section of the album starts things promisingly with homages to jazz, disco, and samba. Unfortunately, the second portion of the album has an unpleasant and random quality to it due to the use of sampled vocals. Even with great tracks like “Easy! Easy!”, “Wind Grass Song”, and “Ayako Saso Live”, it’s difficult to fully recommend this album due to how much the vocals perturb things. However, it is still worthwhile for those looking for a few highlights or those who don’t mind tasteless vocals. Ayako Saso certainly gets listeners to go up on to the floor and dance, but eventually forces them to run straight out of the disco…
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.