August 17, 2007
Buy at Sweep Records
Melodia was the original album Hiroto Saitoh produced after Dia Novo. In our interview, Hiroto Saitoh states that the overall feeling of the album was jazz oriented but he also wanted to try a hand at incorporating music heard in China and the Andes area. Was he successful in this approach?
“A Bird of Passage” opens the album with a clear South American influence. Featuring some beautiful acoustic guitar, rhythmic percussion, and exquisite strings work, it’s an upbeat piece of music with a slight jazz influence, especially during the bridge between the main melody that features some vibrant jazz flute and piano. In the end, it’s a fantastic way to open up the album and clearly intends for the listener to be drawn into the album immediately.
The album also features a few vocal pieces, all sung by Apaco, as well. The next theme, “A Pretty Child,” is a down tempo lounge jazz piece with a heavy focus on piano. The percussion helps keep a steady beat, but I find the overall theme a bit underwhelming. There are some beautiful sections though, including the saxophone solo and the introduction of some warbly synth towards the end, so there are some aspects of the theme I enjoy.
The next theme, “Winter Morning,” originally composed by Nagayo Motoori, on the other hand, is a theme that I quite enjoy. Adopting a similar style, the music is lounge jazz, but at the same time, there are some subtle electronic elements. This alone isn’t why I enjoy it more. The main reason I find this to be a more enjoyable experience is mainly due to the warm and inviting melody, especially in the chorus. The last vocal theme is “Luiza,” originally composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and also features a jazz oriented approach. Rather than continue with the lounge jazz style, this adopts more of a whimsical, fairy tale type jazz. It features a pretty decent melody, but I’m not entirely enamored with this piece.
“Arc in the City” is one of my favorites on the entire album. There is a fantastic fusion of electronic elements, jazz accompaniment, and a varied atmosphere. It’s intense, chaotic, and dark thanks to the exotic vocals, DJ scratching, and intense strings, yet, at times, it’s also quite warm and inviting, especially during the big band brass sections of the piece. It’s a finely crafted tune and one that definitely needs to be listened to. However, “He Came. And, It Goes.” is easily my favorite tune on the soundtrack. It’s an exquisitely crafted Spanish inspired tune with exotic percussion, stunning flamenco guitar work, and as the piece progresses, some great woodwind and electronic accents. It’s a theme full of energy and one that manages to really engage the listener.
There are also two tracks that serve as an “intermission” of sorts and an epilogue. The first, “#-Pause-,” features an electronic rhythm with some chanted spoken word. It’s an interesting bridge between the main pieces on the album, but it is a bit of a hard sell for me. On the other hand, “#-Coda-,” is much more enjoyable and serves as a brilliant close to the album. I really like the calming electronic atmosphere and melody coupled with the beautiful acoustic guitar accompaniment and Chinese instrumentation in the melody. It truly is an exquisitely crafted piece that does conjure the image of China.
Overall, I find this effort to be a bit weaker than some of Saitoh’s earlier albums. There are still some great themes, such as the ones influenced by South America and China, but at the same time, I find the vocal themes to be a step down from earlier vocal themes in other albums. It’s still worth checking out though as the good themes do outweigh the mediocre ones.
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.