August 1, 1996
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Sampling Masters is the first of five electronic original albums led by Shinji Hosoe (aka SamplingMasters MEGA) and Ayako Saso (aka SamplingMasters AYA). It features a variety of hard electronic fusions inspired by contemporary Asia back in the mid-1990s. Themes range from multicultural society to emerging technology to video gaming to the simple existence of electronic music itself. Should electronica fans check this one out?
Shinji Hosoe opens the album with an interesting fusion of “Return of Rottel-gem”. The composition is driven throughout with Hosoe’s famous hardcore beats, though there is also a strong influence from India with street chanting and distinctive percussion rhythms. Though some will find it oppressive, it is still very well done and offers an interesting perspective on contemporary Indian culture. “Rainbows 95” fits its name well with its particularly warm electronic samples and nicely integrated, albeit slightly murmuring, female vocal samples. This one seems to declare that there is some colour and beauty to be found in every environment, even the apparently hostile ones. His final entry “Dancing Mop” definitely has a dance-like quality to it both with respect to club style electronic beats and the dashing pizzicato string figures. It’s definitely one of the most melodically enjoyable tracks on the album too.
Ayako Saso’s music tends to have a more industrial edge than Hosoe’s, but is probably more accessible too. “Internet Monkey” is also a highlight thanks to its ingenious blends of hard beats and office sound effects, as is “Electric Trash” with its gritty rhythm guitar support and video game sound effects; however, the male vocal samples don’t quite fit as well in both of these pieces and seem more of a superficial novelty. “X-RAY” is another industrial-focused piece too that maintains interest throughout with its instantly compelling bassline and imaginative interludes. Towards the end of the album, “Ultra Super Excellent 64” gives a chance for Saso’s more lyrical side. Lots of rhythmical impetus is created by the electronic beats, but the highlights are definitely the bubbly synth melodies and funky piano backing. Saso did a super job indeed.
There are also a few tracks that should be quite accessible to video game music fans. Saso’s first contribution, “Harakiri Nippon”, features her characteristic blends of industrial and oriental sounds. This is one of the more accessible entries on the album since the traditional Japanese instruments are used in such a lyrical way, almost reminiscent of Yuzo Koshiro’s Revenge of Shinobi. While the transiently used female vocal samples sound Westernised, they fit surprisingly well and add to the multicultural feel. Although any direct correlations are vague, Hosoe’s “TEKKIN” seems to channel the aggressive style of Tekken music while offering serene trance-like interludes. On the other hand, a few particularly catchy riffs on “Fire Dole” seem to be influenced by video game music, although the underlying web of polyrhythms maintains the hard-edged quality of the album.
Overall, Sampling Masters is an imaginative and contemporary electronic album. The entire album is driven by strong beats that some will find energetic, others oppressive. The vocal samples are hit and miss, but still either add some emotion or quirk to the mix. Fortunately, the additional elements — whether Japanese flutes, heavy guitars, or even ringing telephones — are generally well-implemented and offer plenty of diversity to the album. Saso and Hosoe did a fine job overall. Although not everyone will like it, people with affinity for the composers’ Ridge Racer or NanoSweep works will probably find it a worthwhile, albeit difficult to find, purchase.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.