Ling Tosite Sigure – I’mperfect Album Review

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Ling Tosite Sigure’s I’mperfect album in many ways feels full of the kind of tracks that would be at home as Shonen anime opening and closing themes. From the way many of the tracks capture an action packed energy and fighting spirit, to their juxtaposition of that with melodic segments, much of the album’s opening tracks capture that anime theme song spirit perfectly. However, the album matures as it progresses into something of beauty, exploring some really beautiful emotional tones. For those who, like me, don’t have a solid grasp on Japanese, it still tells a wonderfully cohesive story just through their use of musical and vocal tone and emotion. This is an album full of songs that paint a vivid picture for me, despite my inability to keep up with the lyrics at times.

Beautiful Circus – The album’s opening track starts with a high powered guitar opening that is highly aggressive. It’s strong, defined and has a clear idea of direction. It drops its guitar line down when the vocals are introduced, relegating the instruments to a more background role. This back and forth continues, switching between a vocal focus and musical sections, which are aggressive, sweeping, fast and complex. The vocals feel like a scream for dear life; they contain this sense of desperation to fight on and survive in spite of unwinnable odds. It’s a track that brings to mind those scenes from shows like Dragon Ball Z where the hero’s being beaten mercilessly and hasn’t yet unlocked whatever hidden power it is that will eventually save them. It’s a song of desperation, anguish and a spirit hanging on for dear life.

Abnormalise – The second track starts off with less in-your-face energy than Beautiful Circus. Its quiet, gentle vocals would feel very at home with someone overlooking a vast expanse, preparing to embark on an epic adventure across uncharted lands. The song slowly builds in speed and power as it progresses, layering faster and more intricate guitar lines as it progresses, with a simple but strong drum rhythm maintaining the song’s structure. The vocals also grow more intense and eventually desperate as the song continues, devolving to emotional screams at certain points and most notably towards the song’s conclusion. This breakdown to desperate screams, along with the increasingly complex guitar fingering creates a track that goes from optimistic adventure to desperate unleashing of power over the course of just a few minutes, with graceful elegance in the way it handles that transition.

Metamorphose – The third track keeps the anime opening style of audio going. As the album’s first track to layer vocals over fast paced instruments rather than dropping the instruments to the background of the soundscape, it employs an interesting stop and start rhythm that initially caught me off guard, but really worked in the context of the track. It has a real sense of being a musical tug of war, vocals and instruments fighting for control, with the song flowing back and forth in powerful bursts of energy.

Filmsick Mystery – From here the album slows down with a slower track employing less of the complex and fast paced guitar work in favour of using slower but more powerful chords. These are layered over a strong and rhythmic drumbeat which in many ways carries the track musically. The vocals take on a more desperate, hollow and pleading tone. It’s the first track on the album where female vocalist Miyoko Nakamura is really noticeable, providing a second vocal line that makes great use of her lighter voice and higher pitch screams. It’s one of the better tracks in terms of making use of the band’s dual vocalist setup and it’s really enjoyable to listen to.

Sitai Miss Me – Sitai Miss Me is a slightly more melancholy track than those before it, taking on the type of tone that wouldn’t be out of place in an album by a darker band like The Birthday Massacre. Again this makes powerful use of the dual vocalist setup to create a sense that there’s two people fighting back and forth, a sense that only escalates as the song progresses. Steadily getting faster, more powerful and more desperate as it goes on, once again it has this air of someone on the brink of defeat, fighting to survive, which seems to be a running theme in terms of the album’s emotional tone. There’s a stunning guitar work section in the middle that’s one of the most intricately designed pieces of music I’ve heard employed in any track, period. The drums act as a powerful constant throughout, giving an important weight to the guitar which at times goes so quickly it needs grounding to keep it from going overboard.

Make Up Syndrome (Album Mix) – Unlike the other tracks on the album, Make Up Syndrome allows the drum track to take centre stage while the other instruments take a bit of a back seat. The drumbeat is fast, complex and has just a simple and unobtrusive guitar line gently laid above it. The vocals get steadily more intense as the song progresses, eventually gaining this sense of someone giving an impassioned speech in order to rally their troops, never for a moment having that element of desperation that permeated much of the vocal lines in the earlier tracks. There’s still emotion in the vocals, but more like the emotion you’d hear from a leader who cares a great deal about the outcome of a battle, even if they’re strong enough to keep that emotional connection hidden for the most part.

MONSTER – Possibly my favourite track on the whole album, or at the very least it’s the one I’ve found myself coming back to listen to most times by quite a considerable margin. In terms of melodic complexity, this is one of the rare songs on the album where the vocals get to do the experimentation and take the lead in terms of complexity. Both vocalists masterfully pass the lyrics back and forth with great speed and energy, maintaining an emotional consistency over a simple and repeated guitar line. The song does a wonderful job of slowly building to its conclusion. A chorus of repeated screams of the word monster that reach such an impassioned state that it’s hard not to feel swept along by the vocalists mastery of emotional tone.

KIMITOOKU – The penultimate track once again returns to this feeling that it would fit well in your typical Shonen anime, but this time as an ending theme due to it’s sense of finality and conclusion. It’s more laid back at first, employing lots of guitar lines that feel inextricably linked to night time in the way they twinkle and shine gently amongst the dark and desperate lyrical counter. The vocal tone again builds throughout the song to an eventual breakdown of exhale screams that give off this sense of completion, finality and that things are coming to a close.

Missing Ling – The final track is nearly seven minutes long and in many ways reminds me of the My Chemical Romance track Early Sunsets Over Monroeville. The biggest similarity between the two is that they both do an equally superb job of capturing the feeling of the mental breakdown of a human life, someone becoming desperately helpless and falling apart over the course of almost double a standard song length. The general tone is that the male vocalist, Tōru Kitajima, is slowly breaking down, first with tiny vocal squeaks of desperation which eventually grow into more desperate representations of his meltdown, while the Miyoko is pleading with him, desperately trying to reach him and pull him back to sanity.

Midway through the song drops to near silence, representing a moment of calm and clarity for Tōru, before launching back into a dirty guitar line, accompanied by his increasingly maddening screams. There’s a tug of war within the song for several minutes between these two emotional tones; he has his moments of clarity in between moments of vocal breaking and sheer desperate, maddening screams of despair. The guitar line becomes more frantic toward the end of the track, losing its carefully controlled precision and devolving into fast but completely unravelling notes. Finally the song suddenly drops to near silence, leaving just a final line of vocals from Tōru. There’s a moment of silence, then just when you think the song might be over, there’s a near whisper, pleading to the listener not to leave yet as the album ends. It was a completely unexpected and truly haunting way for the album to end.

 

Summary – I’mperfect is a consistently aggressive J-rock album with not a single track that I would describe as less than fantastic. It took me on an emotional journey across several unexpected musical landscapes and left me feeling like I’d experienced something truly wonderful. It’s a spectacular album and well worth your time to listen to.

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2 Comments

  1. Jason Oldfield says:

    Nice review. You mention female vocalist Miyoko Nakamura once, but can you tell me which songs she has the most vocals (and least male vocals)? Also could you recommend any other similar sounding Japanese bands, but with only female vocals (nothing too aggressive vocally though, and preferably easily available in the UK)? Thanks.

    • Zane Araki says:

      Hello Jason, unfortunately I’m not the reviewer to answer your question, but I’d like to let you know that Chouchou Merged Syrups is quite similar, with a female vocalist. I recommended their two EPs, Clepsydra and Since, there you’ll find a lot of similarities with Ling, from the guitar riffs and the ambient overall. You might like their full album if you’re ready for some more pop sounding math rock/post rock. But if you want an emotional ride and youthful rawness energy (whatever it is lol), listen to their EPs.

      Haku is another band with noticeable similarities with Ling, and this time not only the music, but also the vocal! But you can’t expect complex drumming from their Symbiosis album, as most of the time the pattern are not that unexpected, unlike Sigure. The main vocalist is a guy though, and sometimes like Miyoko (345), the bassist girl also donate her vocal in the tracks. Too bad they already disbanded. Their songs are overall catchy without being too poppy.

      But trust me, the guitar riffs these two bands make will give you a Sigure vibe.

      As for the tracks with most Miyoko vocals, try Illusion is Mine, AM 345, Akai Yuuwaku. (From different albums)

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