Kinema in the Hole
Kinema in the Hole
April 25, 2007
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Kinema in the Hole is a concept album composed by Yoshitaka Hirota and sung by Rekka Katakiri. Hirota, an extensively trained vocal composer, intended to reflect a range of stylistic and visual influences on this album while telling a story. He certainly succeeds in offering a diverse and emotional experience, but unfortunately seems to lose sight of the overall concept and doesn’t always produce accessible material for the vocalist. The result is certainly a fascinating album, but one with numerous flaws.
The prologue introduces the concept of Kinema in the Hole. A female narrator tells the dark fairytale story that inspired the album while the chimes ring and the chorus chants obsessively. Fans of the Shadow Hearts soundtracks will already notice some of the Hirota’s fingerprints within, especially in the blend of organic and inorganic timbres, though it’s already clear that the album has the potential to stand up in its own right. The subsequent title track emphasises the alternative rock aspect of the album. A fascinating hybrid, it blends the anthemic feel of much of mainstream J-Rock with the melancholy of Silent Hill’s vocals and the gritty bass emphasis of Hirota’s own musicality. Particularly enjoyable moments include the part-showy, part-grungy electric guitar solos from the 2:33 mark and the introspective vocal passage thereafter. It’s the first definitive highlight of the album and a largely successful experiment from Hirota.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the album is how Hirota blends so many elements in an impacting yet natural way. Take, for instance, the way “Trees in Southern Skies” develops from its exotic Shadow Hearts-esque chants into a introspective bass-punctuated lament, all the while maintaining a traditional Japanese aura. Further examples include the elegant transition from the violin solo of the monologue into a vocal and piano duet on the monologue, or even more spectacularly the entire arch of the climax “The Man Who Saw the Hole of Malice”. This sort of fluidity demonstrates the emotional sensitivity and musical maturity of Yoshitaka Hirota in equal measure. Furthermore, it absolutely necessary for a concept album to maintain direction if it is to tell a story and this is certainly achieved within each track, even if the album comes together less well as a whole. Those tracks that divert away from this approach, such as “Muzzle of Revenge” with its grave bass focus or “The Old Legend of Kinema” with its bizarre honkytonk introduction, can become labourous and grating. However, even these tracks manage bloom into something spectacular, especially the former at 1:35.
Probably the most controversial aspect of the album is the vocalist Rekka Katakiri. Many have criticised her voice for not being particularly likeable or appropriate for Hirota’s compositions, to the significant detriment of the album as a whole. However, others have found her moody tones a refreshing departure from the kawaii approach of many Japanese singers. Overall, I feel her performance is a mixed one. She brings a lot of emotion and atmosphere to rocking pieces such as “Kinema in the Hole” and “Muzzle of Revenge”, yet her attempts to convey darkness can become too dreary after a while. This is not a quality those would expect from Mary-Elizabeth McGlynn, the vocalist of the similarly styled pieces of the Silent Hill series. At other times, however, there seems to be little to differentiate those other J-Pop singers out there and her approach to the distracting light-hearted interludes “The Old Legend of Kinema” and “Descended Angels” is too childish for my taste. She seems most comfortable in more organic pieces, such as the sassy fusion “Gravekeeper’s Hill” or the gorgeous monologue at the centre of the album, whereas everything else is a select taste.
Unfortunately, the album falls apart as it reaches its conclusion. Following the wonderful climax, “This Way to Home” recollects material from the prologue in the style of a vinyl to bring around the album full circle. However, the arrangement is too drawn-out and simplistic to be a welcome one — even with a beautiful viola solo attached — leaving listeners without the definitive finish they expected. Unfortunately, Hirota chose to unnecessarily extend the album beyond this point, leading to another ethereal spoken voice track in “Epilogue” and celebratory pop ballad in “Closing Grand Guignol”, neither of which is particularly spectacular. The latter is actually a 15 minute track, mostly comprised of silence, that eventually leads into a trippy electronic bonus mix. It’s an interesting recollection of Hirota’s eccentricity, but also a repetitive and superficial one. Besides, most listeners wouldn’t have managed to get to this point either, after the tedium and silence that preceded it.
Overall, Kinema in the Hole is an inspired concept album that didn’t entirely fulfil its potential. There are two major problems that let down the album. The first is that the album doesn’t come together to form a cohesive or fulfilling collective whole, largely because of the silly interludes and the rambling conclusion. Furthermore, the vocalist seems to be a poor fit to a portion of the songs in the album, detracting from Hirota’s often excellent compositions. Few vocalists could have coped with the spectacularly diverse material featured on Kinema in the Hole and, perhaps were issue one resolved, this wouldn’t have been such a problem. Nevertheless, this album isn’t entirely a wasted purchase, as there are still some definitive rocking highlights, some spine-tingling story-telling sequences, and plenty of homages to Shadow Hearts. It’s a worthwhile listen, but not a great whole.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.