December 18, 2008
Buy at Amazon.co.jp
Rewind! is Keiichi Ueno’s first original album, with extensions and remixes of track spanning his nearly 10-year career (at the time of release) composing for beatmania IIDX and other Bemani games. Though under many different aliases, for the most part Ueno’s works emulate the older eras of dance and pop music, setting him apart from most other Bemani artists, though he still fits in by providing a wide roster of energetic and fun songs. The album is split into four segments which highlight Ueno’s chief styles, as well as provide a coherent experience throughout the album.
The first section of the album is dedicated to bright drum’n’bass tracks of the the alias DJ SWAN. Opening is an extension of “Gentle stress” with mC3. I’m not entirely sure that it is “live” in the traditional sense, given the way the audience and even mC3 sounds. Still, the effect is palpable and makes the song much more enjoyable than the original, even if mC3’s calls to the audience are a bit cheesy at times. There isn’t much else added to this mix of the track, but it’s a strong opener. Next is “Secret of Love (The Cathedoral Vocal Mix)”, which is features an instrumentation that begins very similar to the original, but then changes things up with the addition of a violin, a soaring tenor vocal (by Seiji Makino), and bossa instruments. The elements don’t exactly go together, but the track doesn’t take itself too seriously so in the end the over-the-top feeling works for the track well. “Beautiful Swan” is also present, but this is essentially the game version and length of the track (which is already great). The other full track here is a remix by L.E.D. and DJ TAKA of “Love Magic”, still in the Drum’n’Bass style. The sound is rather faithful to the original but a bit more full, thanks to L.E.D.’s droning lower synths, DJ TAKA’s signature piano, and a reduction of the more repetitive elements of the original. Then there are two short interludes, the “DJ SWAN JINGLE”s which are very short and don’t really do much for the album. But aside from these, the opening DJ SWAN segment is very enjoyable, thanks to new additions to the tracks which keep them from sounding too similar.
The next segment of the album is titled “The Ladies with an attitude!”, mainly covering dance pop tracks. “Dr. Love (’09 New Vocal Mix)” gets just what it says it does, with a new set of vocals from Asuka M. (who did the original) that are much clearer and a bit more dynamic (though still not with perfect pronunciation). The arrangement is otherwise intact, so it’s a nice faithful update on the classic IIDX track. “IS THIS LOVE? (This is LOVE Remix)” on the other hand replaces most of Asuka M.’s original vocals with singing and rapping from Yoshitaka Nishimura with C&B, even adjusting the chorus melody while keeping the the arrangement mostly the same. I actually vastly prefer this version of the track, as it is still a lot of fun but feels more natural. An extended version of the more modern “Pretty Punisher” is next, which sounds as great and catchy as ever, even though it doesn’t hold many surprises in its extension.
After a slew of great tracks, the album does stumble just a bit starting with “Mr. T (Take Me Higher) (Classic Edit)”, which interrupts the progression by taking things back to a more retro dance pop style. It’s an extension of the original which is fine, but it feels a bit out of place here, and the sound quality seems a tad dated as well. The short “Fly Away To India (Chandrayaan Mix)” starts bit more mellow before bringing in the strong beat later. Structurally it’s no different from the original but the small changes in instrumentation make a decent difference, as it sounds much more refined and unique than the original. “Nasty! (Horny Stallion’s Hard Mix)” is an extension that mainly beefs up the drums, which is a welcome addition but doesn’t quite save the awkwardly sung track. Better is short “Melt in my arms (Improvised reprise)”, which has a reduced instrumentation with a more intimate sound and some new lyrics. Closing out the section is “SPARK! (Ultimate Stadium Mix)”, with a spacious trance sound. I don’t quite like it as much as the original since there’s less here that grabs me, and I even think the original would have fit better with the sound of the album. Despite the weaknesses in the latter half of this section, the tracks still have a decent groove that keep the album going, and are enjoyable despite their flaws.
The next section of the album labelled “E-Dance Pop!” brings in some Euro influence into the mix. Ryu☆ does a remix of “Kick Out Kamen”, and while it admittedly is much shorter on the Euro influences that were present in the original track, it does sound a lot cleaner, and still retains its energy. There’s a segment at the beginning where he completely overkills the “Kick out Kamen!” vocal sample, and while I’m sure it’s sort of a tongue-in-cheek self-parody, listeners will find it either hilarious or incredibly annoying. I always thought Hoshino Kanako’s voice was not a good fit for this track, as she doesn’t quite sell this higher cutesy vocal style, but overall the track is still good dose of fun with a bit of crazy. Next is the full version of “Punch Love Kamen”, which keeps all of the original Euro elements and also has catchier melodies. Kanako’s voice seems to fit better here, and generally it’s a better track. It’s a shame this section is only two songs (as the last of the “Kamen” trilogy came later), since they do a great job of showing how Ueno’s style has evolved with the years while being very entertaining.
The final two tracks are in the category “Substream!”. The first is “THE CUBE (Original Long Mix)”, an extension of another drum’n’bass track, though one that is a bit less glittery than those of the first segment of the album. There isn’t much substantially new added here other than the full rendition of the solo that comes mid-song, but I didn’t find the mix to be overlong or too repetitive, and it’s overall a strong track. The final track is a rather long mix of “Macho Gang” (over 8 minutes). As an oddball tribal house track, it stands out stylistically from the rest of the album. The track steadily builds up its sounds and instruments as it goes, and then breaks it down again only to repeat the process again. It’s not terribly interesting and any novelty it might have had wears off pretty quickly. It even gets a bit annoying as it goes, mainly due to that high-pitched whistle sample. The track just leaves me perplexed and I sort of wonder if it’s included as a joke track.
Rewind! is a great album with consistently high energy and a fun atmosphere. I’ll admit that Ueno’s songs are not ever my first choice when play beatmania IIDX, but on the album the songs are very enjoyable, and I find it more entertaining than some of the albums of the Bemani artists whose songs I prefer to play. For most of the album, the extensions to the songs work well and aren’t too repetitive, and many of the updated arrangements are really great with welcome changes as well. There are strong style progressions that carry the listener through the album. It’s true that the vocal tracks might be a hit-or-miss depending on one’s affinity to the older pop styles, but anyone up for this era of music will find a lot to like.
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Posted on July 28, 2015 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on July 28, 2015.