August 13, 2011
Buy at Sweep Record
Released in August 2011, Man-Made Beauty is the latest release from Hiroto Saitoh and his Lilt Records label. Similar to Vocalize, it features a combination of instrumental tracks as well as songs performed by the virtual idol Miku Hatsune. How does the latest effort from Hiroto Saitoh fare?
The album opens with “Ephemeral Bell,” one of my absolute favorites from the album. What I really enjoy about this one is the lush Japanese atmosphere, thanks to the prominent use of the shamisen, one of my favorite Japanese instruments. In addition, I really enjoy the groovy beat, given it a bit of a modern flair — reminiscent of one of my favorite shamisen artists, Agatsuma. I also really like how Miku Hatsune is incorporated into this track. Her voice fits quite well with the setup and never grows overbearing. If only all artists implemented the vocaloid program in this fashion.
“Flower of Brass” is a decidedly different tune, more reminiscent in style to Hiroto Saitoh’s previous albums, featuring a very heavy jazz focus. There’s some light electronic keyboard work, heavy use of percussion, some spacey synthesizer work, and lots of big band brass tones. It’s very melodically pleasing and has a bit of a sultry, yet also exciting and invigorating, atmosphere. For those who don’t like Miku Hatsune, this one is definitely one to listen to, since she is absent from this tune.
“Movable Airport” is a jovial, upbeat track featuring a groovy beat and a slight chiptune focus on the melody. In addition, Saitoh also samples audio that sounds like something you would hear over an announcement system at an airport. As the track progresses, it becomes more fleshed out, featuring a variety of synthesizer passages and some jazz influence, particularly in the strings and piano. Miku Hatsune is also featured on this track, however, only in a small capacity.
The next track on the album is a rendition of the classic “Greensleeves”. For this arrangement, Saitoh stays fairly true to the sound of the original, giving it a renaissance feel, through the use of piano and woodwinds. However, as the track progresses, Saitoh’s jazz influence becomes apparent, featuring some jazzy piano chords and percussion. In addition, the orchestral accompaniment really serves as a striking harmony to the main melody. It’s not the most experimental arrangements in the world, but it is probably one of my favorite renditions of “Greensleeves”.
The next Miku Hatsune track is “Wiring for History”. This one is another one of my favorites on the album. The opening is quite ethereal, featuring cascading piano work and Miku Hatsune vocals, although subtle. As the track progresses, it gets an electronic accompaniment and becomes a very lush, orchestral affair. There are romantic strings, stunning woodwind work, edgy electric guitar, as well as the return of the ethereal piano and vocal sections. As with “Ephemeral Bell,” Miku Hatsune is perfectly integrated into the track and never becomes overbearing.
“Fusão Fusão” is another fun Miku Hatsune track where, once again, her voice helps elevate the song, rather than detract from it. There’s definitely a disco feel, mainly due to the way the strings are implemented. This combines nicely with the big band brass tones present throughout the track. There are also some electric tones that are used as accompaniment that serve as a way to make the track sound a bit more game-like in nature. Overall, it’s quite an enjoyable listen.
The album ends with “Summer Scene,” the last of the Miku Hatsune tracks. What is striking about this track is how it immediately draws you in with its infectious rhythm and exquisitive piano work. While upbeat, it still has a very ballad like sentiment, showcasing feelings of romance through its use of synthesizer and strings harmonies. I particularly enjoy the jazzy accordion solo as it ends a folk touch to the tune. It’s a fantastic way to end the album
When I reviewed Vocalize, Miku Hatsune’s implementation was rather hit or miss, making many great tunes less enjoyable. However, in this album, Miku Hatsune’s implementation does not really detract from any of the music — reflecting a marked improvement on Saitoh’s implementation of this vocaloid program. There is also a lot of variety featured on this small album, ranging from contemporary Asian soundscapes to Saitoh’s strength with jazz tunes. For fans of Miku Hatsune and Hiroto Saitoh, this is definitely worth a listen. For those not so keen on Miku Hatsune, it’s worth a shot, as I feel that her implementation here isn’t as heavy handed as other artists who use the program. I definitely look forward seeing what direction Hiroto Saitoh takes for his next album, which is planned for release this December at the next Comic Market event.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.