Winter Fever is the most recent release by LILT Records. Rather than release another solo album full of Hiroto Saitoh's works, this is a collaborative album also featuring compositions from Masashi Yano, Yousuke Yasui, Takayuki Aihara, Shohei Tsuchiya, and Norihiro Furukawa. How is the end result?
Project lead Hiroto Saitoh opens the album with "Snow in Rio". It's a bossa-nova piece filled with smooth rhythms and delightful brass and piano leads. In addition, I like how Saitoh incorporates some inorganic elements into the composition, such as some synthesizer leads and distorted vocaloid work. At times, there is even a rock presence. He also closes the album with "Two priests coming to town." Unlike the opening album, this one features a much darker tone, focusing more on rock, electronic, and choral elements, akin to something you might hear in a futuristic 2D run and gun game. Nevertheless, there are characteristics in the piece that contrast quite nicely with the gloomy atmosphere, whether it is the crystalline piano lines or the inclusion of "Ode to Joy." The synthesizer and violin melody is taken from an old Japanese song called "New Year."
The rest of the album fits along the lines of these two atmospheres, combining the fun jovial tunes with the more rock intensive themes. "My Hurt Sunshine," by Yousuke Yasui, is an extremely catchy retro theme with a vocaloid performance. As opposed to other implementations of Miku Hatsune vocals, I think it is handled extremely well and complements the music quite nicely. "Nimacho," by Shohei Tsuchiya, features an interesting soundscape, focusing on intriguing tribal chanting in the accompanimentand a heavy brass focus in the melody line. He also incorporates some funk guitar lines, giving it a bit of a smooth groove sound and does help break up the repetition of the main brass lead. But out of tracks of this style, I find his to be slightly weaker. Masashi Yano's "BREEZIN' BLAZE" is a fun track that will definitely get you moving, focusing on some Latin dance rhythms. It works incredibly well had really enforces the style set forth by "Snow in Rio" in Yano's own style.
The two rock themes on the album, aside from the Saitoh one mentioned above are by Norihiro Furukawa (aka Nakayama Raiden) and Takayuki Aihara. Nakayama Raiden's "Sand Man" definitely has more of a metal sound, focusing on energetic guitar riffs and drums to provide the intense and motivating accompaniment. I really like the melody line in this one, focusing on distorted violin samples to provide a bit of sleekness to the track. In addition to all that, there are also some wonderful solo sections, ranging from progressive rock keyboard to electric guitar leads. Aihara's "Photon Resonance" also features a bit of a metal base, but at the same time, has a bit of a funk rock tone. I really enjoy the electric guitar leads, as they provide some nice distorted effects and a great melody, and the inclusion of some electronic accompaniment provides some nice textures to the music as well.
In the end, I think the two styles featured on the album come with a range of success. While both of Saitoh's tracks help set the tone for the album, I find that some of the contributors aren't as strong as they have been in the past and, in the end, are a bit detrimental to the success of the album. Each style is represented well, but in the end, some tracks are more enjoyable than others. For fans of Saitoh's work, or any other composer on the album, you might want to check this one out.
Nakayama Raiden: 2
Yousuke Yasui: 3
Takayuki Aihara: 4
Shohei Tsuchiya: 5
Masashi Yano: 6
Snow in Rio
My Hurt Sunshine
Two priests coming to town