August 13, 2011
Buy at Sweep Record
Released at the end of December 2010, Lilting Voice features music from earlier in Hiroto Saitoh’s career. Featured on this album are his albums Borboleta and Verse of Voice R, as well as a preview for Man-made Beauty, and an original track created specifically for this album. How does Saitoh’s earlier works, some of which featured collaborating artists, compare to some of his more recent original albums?
The Borboleta section of the album is featured first and is mainly comprised of guest contributors, with Hiroto Saitoh only contributing a single track. His track, “Abraco,” is an acoustic jazz tune featuring sultry vocals by Hiromi Satoh. It’s a simple piece, but gives off a very island feel through its use of soft percussion, acoustic guitar, and piano. It would be perfect in a lounge setting and really showcases Saitoh’s strength when it comes to various types of jazz. The unrelated Masami Saitoh contributes two tracks to the album. The first, “Planet M.A.S.” opens the album with its nu jazz flavorings. It would definitely work wonders in a chic, trendy cocktail bar with its infectious rhythm, flute, and synthesizer sections. While it isn’t as melodically focused as some of the other tracks on the album, it manages to give off a ton of atmosphere. His other contribution, “Swink,” closes the Borboleta section of the album. Unlike his other contribution, this track is much more organic in nature, featuring big band brass and jazzy piano. It still features an electronic component, but it’s a much more engaging affair, focusing more on melody rather than atmosphere.
“Simple Dance,” by UNIT1000, is an electronic offering that is very reminiscent of lobby tracks one might here in an online RPG like Phantasy Star Online. There’s a very futuristic tone to the track, but unfortunately, the track doesn’t really offer much. There are some vocal samples added into the mix, but they are used so often that the track comes off as very repetitive. This is definitely the weakest offering on the Borboleta section of the album. Sweetz contributes “July,” which is quite similar in terms of approach to “Simple Dance.” It still has that futuristic sound for a lobby, but it definitely manages to be a bit more engaging with its ever changing progression and addition of nature sound effects. It’s still not the strongest track on the album, but it manages to capture a good atmosphere. Lastly, “AOMI,” by Kayoko Maeda, is another successful track on the album, offering that lovely futuristic lounge sound. It is a track, however, that is more melodically focused and I think that is what makes it sound out. There is definitely an airiness to the melody, particularly during the synth focused sections, but the piano really helps creating a strong contrast to the mainly electronic soundscape.
Kayoko Maeda is also featured on the Verse of Voice R section of the album, which focuses, as one might imagine, on a variety of vocal work. The first contribution by Kayoko Maeda, of which she is also the singer, is “rain desert rain.” This track is a upbeat, lounge jazz track with some electronic undertones. The percussion and big band brass and strings really help create an engaging atmosphere, while her sultry vocal work, during sections of calm in the piece, really manages to soothe the listener. This is a really solid offering. Her other contribution, of which she is also singer, is “For the blue sky.” While I love the music for this one, featuring a club/lounge feel with a bit of a tropical vibe, I do not find her vocal performance to be as strong in this track. At times, her voice doesn’t seem to fit too well with the music, but at others, it does fit very well. The music features some steel drum sounds, a catchy rhythm, and some futuristic/ethnic big band variation. It’s an intriguing mix and for the most part, the vocals can be overlooked.
The main contributor to Verse of Voice R is Hiromi Murakami. The first contribution is “Nano,” featuring Rii Hattori on vocals. This is a very soothing track, which also happens to open this section of the album. It’s an electronic piece that provides a lot of atmosphere and a bit of a club vibe to it. Hattori’s vocals serve mainly as sort of non-vocal work, providing an uplifting, almost angelic, quality to the track and the xylophone, which is featured on occasion as a counter harmony, really manages to integrate well into the theme. “Lost,” featuring Hiromi Satoh on vocals, is a much more organic affair and is quite ballad-like in approach. There are some pop rhythms and some ethereal synthesizer accompaniment that really manages to work well with the sultry vocal work and the occasional strings and woodwind work, especially in the chorus of the tune. The piano solo is also evocative and really manages to bridge the verses of the track quite nicely. Lastly, “WILD NATURE,” featuring Kayoko Maeda on vocals, is another futuristic vocal track, where Maeda fails to really engage as a singer. The vocal work seems to serve as a deterrent to the flow of the music, which is quite nice with its electronic tones and intricate accompaniment, but is hard to appreciate due to the overbearing performance.
Hiroto Saitoh contributes two tracks to Verse of Voice R. The first, “For the farewell winter,” is similar in style to “Abraco” from Borboleta. It’s a beautiful lounge jazz track featuring Hiromi Satoh on vocals and once again proves how capable a vocalist she is. There is definitely more of an electronic tone to the track, due to the keyboard work, but there are a few additions, such as swelling strings, accordion, and saxophone that help elevate it to a new level. The acoustic guitar work, as always, is extremely pleasing and really makes the theme shine. The last track on the Verse of Voice R section of the album is “Obrigado por tudo,” the sole instrumental theme on this portion of the album. While a short theme, it manages to pack a punch with its groovy bass work, sexy acoustic guitar passages, jazz percussion, and electronic undertones.
The remainder of the album features some previews for the Man-Made Beauty album released in August 2011. While titles were not given at the time, they are prototype versions of “Flower of Brass” (Extra-1), “Ephemeral Bell” (Extra-2), and “Summer Scene” (Extra-3). The last track on the album is an original piece called “hyperbola.” This is definitely one of the best tracks on the album, featuring a very futuristic, spacey atmosphere that would be well suited for an arcade shooter. It’s got an energetic rhythm, some great synthesizer work, and an extremely catchy melody. While most of the track does not deviate from this formula, there are times when electric guitar and some jazzy piano passages are introduced that really work well with the overall flow of the track.
In the end, Lilting Voice is a decent listen. While not all tracks are successful in engaging the listener very well and a few suffer from some vocal mishaps, the majority of the music is quite enjoyable, especially for those into futuristic/lounge music. It gives a nice preview of Man-Made Beauty as well, although the final versions are much richer, and the extra bonus track is quite successful.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.