Jul 4

Utattemita Anison/J-Pop Speed
Release Date: 7/4/12
Price: 1905 yen

As promised, I cooked up a little spreadsheet comparing BPMs, which you can find after the jump. BPMs were calculated using MixMeister BPM Analyzer, though I had to manually check some. The Anison album ranges from 160-180 BPM, while the J-Pop album starts at 150 and ends at 180 BPM.

DJ Hirocky did a great job mixing both albums, but in terms of energy Anison has a better selection of tracks. After all, half of the tracks on Anison were produced by DJ Command and many of the others were by Rayto/Tks. The J-Pop album suffers from starting off far too slow and, of course, having way too many repeats from the original album. If you’re new to Akiba Koubou, then these are certainly better options than the original Utattemita albums, but for long-time fans it’s yet another slap in the face.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 30

AneutaAneuta -80~90’s Girl Pop Non-Stop Cover-
Release Date: 6/30/10
Price: 2381 yen

N.O.-SYO outdoes himself with this spiritual successor to Oreuta. Initially I thought the whole album would be by N.O.-SYO but they wisely added other artists to the mix, including Delaction, Spacey, and NRG Factory. Vocals are performed by Hime Trance mainstays Tsukasa and Kei, and some songs actually have the original artists providing the vocals. It all adds up to one of the most enjoyable trance albums of the year.

It’s worth noting that full versions are now up for sale on various download services, including iTunes Japan. Neither of the Akira Asukara tracks nor the bonus track by Hatsune Miku are available, however. To make matters worse, you have the buy the tracks individually for 200 yen each (3000 yen for all of the tracks), plus they’re low quality and saddled with DRM. You’re much better off buying the CD, as the tracks are given generously long edits so I doubt you’d be missing much.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 1

Hime Trance 4Hime Trance 4
Release Date: 1/27/10
Price: 1886 yen

It’s been a long 2+ years since Hime Trance 3. The wait was more than worth it, however. In addition to new songs from Hime Trance mainstays like Tsukasa, Kei, and Misa (who makes her return after being left off Anime*Mix), we also get brand new Saifam remixes and licensed songs from popular J-Pop artists. It all makes for an extremely satisfying CD that rivals Anime*Mix and perhaps even the first Hime Trance in terms of pure enjoyment.

The last entry in the main series, Hime Trance 3, was full of repeats and songs that weren’t trance. EMI have seemingly learned their lesson, as Hime Trance 4 contains only one true repeat (“Stay,” which was featured on Trance Paradise Best) and one non-trance song (“Miku Miku…”). Another problem with Hime Trance 3 was that it only had one Delaction song, and it was a repeat at that. Hime Trance 4 has four new Delaction songs, which automatically makes it the best album ever.

The bad news is that it’s not selling all that well at the moment. The last HT release, Anime*Mix!, debuted at number 24 on Oricon’s weekly sales chart, but it’s looking like HT4 won’t even break the top 30. Heck, right now Wa Euro Best 2 is outselling Hime Trance 4 on Amazon Japan. EMI actually put some effort into this release, so if you have any interest in seeing the series continue then do consider picking up a copy. It’s available at CDJapan, HMV, Amazon Japan, Yes Asia, and JPopHelp. No word yet on whether a Download Selection will be available, but I’m certainly hoping for it.

Full review after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 6
Mega Trance 10 – Review
icon1 DanceMaster | icon2 Review, Trance | icon4 08 6th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

Mega Trance 10Mega Trance 10 Anniversary
Release Date: 5/27/09
Price: 2362 yen

Mega Electro 10? That’s what almost half of the first disc sounds like. Add in a few too many repeats and you end up just skipping half the album. It’s not a total loss, however, as we do get a fantastic Delaction remix as well as new stuff from DJ U*Hey? and DJ Tora. There’s even a promising new trance duo known as Glutton Boyz.

Despite the overabundance of repeats (and electro!), it’s still a recommended buy, if only for the Delaction track and the DJ U*Hey? Best disc. If you’re not interested in the second disc, I recommend just buying “7 Years and 50 Days,” “Viva la Vida,” “Jackknife,” “He’s a Pirate,” and “Closer” off iTunes Japan.

Full track-by-track review of the first disc after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 26

Anime*MixHime Trance Anime*Mix!
Release Date: 1/21/09
Price: 2171 yen

Album of the year! Okay, it may be a tad early to make such a bold claim, but Hime Trance Anime*Mix! is at least the best trance release to come out of Japan in quite a while. Unlike the last 3 or so Hime Trance releases, Anime*Mix! has a very good ratio of new songs to old. And while there are a few repeats, almost all of them are exceptional and are worthy of being repeated. If you’ve soured on trance because of the constant repeats, then Anime*Mix may well reinvigorate your love of trance.

Anime*Mix! brings together some of the best trance producers Japan has to offer. Delaction and Dank-One once again bring their A-games, while newer artists such as Redalice and CMS help to add a dose of freshness. Unfortunately, the booklet is light on credits, so it’s hard to tell who produced some of the tracks.

Not only does Anime*Mix! have a wide array of producers, but it also has an equally diverse set of vocal talent. Hinax and Mepomi are among the artists making their Hime Trance debuts. Meanwhile, Tsukasa and Kei, both reigning trance queens, return with awesome new material. The only “hime” missing is Misa. 🙁

Interestingly, while the first half of the album is a standard 145 BPM, the second half speeds up significantly. At first it goes to 150, but soon reaches around 165 before ending at 180 BPM. Methinks that if there’s a Hime Trance Speed 2, a good chunk of the second half will be repeated.

Sales have been decent so far, though from what I can tell it’s tracking slightly below Hime Trance Speed. I certainly hope sales improve so that we can guarantee a sequel. EMI are pretty much out of anime songs to repeat, so a potential sequel would be 100% new material.

Order at CDJapan. First-press copies come with stickers, but all copies will come with a lyrics booklet.

Full track-by-track review after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 24

Tsukasa MixHime Trance Tsukasa Mix
Release Date: 11/12/08
Price: 1886 yen

I was fully expecting to hate this based on principle alone. After all, less than half of the album is actually new, and how many times have we heard In My Heart now? It’s as if there are two constants in J-Trance: In My Heart and Sousei no Aquarion.

After giving the album a few listens, however, I have to admit that it’s convenient having all of the Tsukasa tracks collected in a nice little package (emphasis on little). In My Heart, Mermaid, and Prologue have long since been played out, but Kira Kira, Precious My Love and Kimi e no Omoi still have an air of freshness about them so I don’t mind listening to them again.

As for the new tracks, they’re all surprisingly exceptional. Eternal Blaze leads the way with Delaction’s melodic synths combining with Tsukasa’s cute vocals for pure aural perfection. Meanwhile, “Dear…” and “Love & Joy” have been given new remixes that breath new life into these old songs. Merry Christmas finishes the non-stop mix with a sweet, Engrish-filled Christmas song.

The first 6 tracks run at a constant 145 BPM, then it ramps up to 160 BPM for Prologue followed by ~175 BPM for Love & Joy. Merry Christmas finishes things off at 140 BPM. None of the transitions are particularly noteworthy, but since most of the album is 145 BPM, Team Cha-Meshi easily managed to make the non-stop mix seamless.

First-press copies came with (useless) stickers, but all copies come with a lyrics booklet. It’s rather surprising how much English is actually in these songs, though you’d never know it based on Tsukasa’s pronunciations. She’s actually admitted that English is difficult for her, and that she sings it all phonetically.

Sadly, Tsukasa Mix has not been selling well at all. Whereas Hime Trance Speed sold 9,000 units in its first week out, Tsukasa Mix has sold well under 2,000 copies after one week. If you ever want to see a Kei Mix or Misa Mix, then please support the Hime Trance series.

Full track-by-track review after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 4

Hime Trance SpeedHime Trance Speed
Release Date: 7/30/08
Price: 1886 yen

The Dancemania Speed series has been dormant for a while now (and no, I don’t count Happy Speed), so it came as a surprise to see the series revived in the form of Hime Trance Speed. HTS is clash of the old with the new, with classic Dancemania Speed tracks appearing along with brand-new remixes of popular Hime Trance and anime songs.

It is a little jarring to hear all of the different styles come together on the same album, sort of like Speed Buyuuden. However, unlike Quiqman, DJ Hibiki of Delaction did a great job with the mixing. The album starts off at 160 BPM and stays there for the first few tracks before going up to 170-180 BPM, where it stays for the remainder of the album. No unnaturally fast BPMs here.

The transitions are mostly of the beat-mixing variety, and for the most part work well. The only awkward transition is the one into “Max,” if only because he kept the “Smile” part in.

Sales have been brisk so far, so I do think a sequel is a given. With any luck, we may also finally see Speed G6. KCP and Runaway may no longer be around, but Delaction, Shohei Matsumoto, and the J-Core artists have proven that they’re more than capable of producing fantastic Speed songs. If we do get a Hime Trance Speed 2, I just hope there are fewer repeats and more contributions from Saifam and LED. Use those new Rose songs, EMI!

Full review after the jump, but for now, enjoy the TV commercial:

Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 26

Tribute Album ScorpionOriental Space Tribute Album ~Scorpion~
Release Date: 6/18/08
Price: 2476 yen

I was extremely excited when FARM Records first announced an Oriental Space tribute album. However, I was also a little worried the thing would end up being a distasteful, blatant cash grab. Sure, we’d be getting new remixes by some of Japan’s top trance DJ’s, but the thought of FARM profiting off DJ Kousuke’s death was a little disconcerting.

Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded: A portion of the proceeds are going to Save the Children Japan. So, not only do we get incredible music, but we also get to help a great cause.

You can get the album in a few different ways. If you buy the CD version, you’ll get a nonstop mix of Oriental Space’s best tracks on disc 1, as well as edits of the new remixes on disc 2. Of course, you’ll also be helping out a great charity. Buying the CD is also the only way to get “I Think My Neet.” It is not available digitally.

If you’re interested in full versions, then most of the songs are available for purchase online at Music Master. Disc 1 songs can be found by searching for Oriental Space’s previous albums, though some songs, like “Friends,” aren’t available. The disc 2 remixes on Music Master are extended, in most cases about 2 minutes longer than the versions on the CD. The only problem is that I’m not entirely sure if those profits will be going to Save the Children.

The album is also on sale at the iTunes music store, but again, not all of the tracks are available. There are 19 tracks from disc 1 and 11 from disc 2 (“I Think My Neet” is again missing). The thing about iTunes is that it’s much more expensive that Music Master (200 yen per song instead of 158 yen), and the songs are not on iTunes Plus. That means you’d be paying for 128 kbps tracks with DRM. I’m not sure if the profits from iTunes sales will go to charity, either.

Finally, there are two different vinyls available that have the full-length, extended versions of eight of the new remixes:
Vinyl 1
Vinyl 2

Anyway, on to the review! I’ll only be reviewing the new remixes, but you should know that Disc 1 is an awesome nonstop mix by DJ U*Hey? The transitions are great, and the song selection, with the exception of “Alabasta,” is top notch.

01. Scorpion (DJ Ten Remix) / Oriental Space
DJ Ten and DJ Kousuke utilize similar synths, so it’s not surprising that DJ Ten’s remix of “Scorpion” sounds the same as the original. It’s not bad, but it’s not very original either. Do yourself a favor and grab the remix of “Scorpion” from P-Trance vol. 2 (available on Music Master). It’s a far more different, rockier take on the song.

02. Kimi o Nosete ~Laputa~ (DJ Uto Remix) / Oriental Space feat. Mayumi Morinaga
DJ Uto offers a soaring rendition of the anime theme. Mayumi’s vocals don’t add all that much to the song. Thankfully, they’re kept to a minimum, allowing DJ Uto’s synths to shine.

03. Magical Express (Umi no Mierumachi) (Heavens Wire vs. Drumroller Remix) / Oriental Space
As I’ve mentioned before, “Magical Express” is the song that got me hooked on epic trance in the first place. Additionally, Shohei Matsumoto has always been one of my top 5 DJS, so having him remix one of my favorite tracks is a dream come true. This remix is similar to Heavens Wire’s version of “Laputa” in that it also features live (or possibly synthesized) instrumentation, this time in the form of flutes. It would’ve been nice to have a full orchestra like “Laputa” had, but the flutes still work remarkably well. Meanwhile, the synth work is also very reminiscent of Heavens Wire’s “Laputa.”

04. YaKuScha (DJ U*Hey? Remix) / Oriental Space
I’m not familiar with the original so I can’t make any comparisons. I do think the intro for this edit lasts a tad too long. It takes two minutes to get up to the main melody, though once it gets there it’s wildly enjoyable.

05. Alexandrite (DJ Tora + R-seq Remix) / Oriental Space
Shares some similarities with DJ Tora’s “Love Sunshine 2007.” I always enjoyed the original’s melody but didn’t quite like the synths. Thankfully, DJ Tora and R-seq have alleviated the only thing keeping me from loving this song.

06. All of Time (Delaction Remix) / Oriental Space
“This is a true love we’re making.” I swear I’ve heard these lyrics before in the song that plays during the London stage of Capcom vs. SNK 2. In fact, the vocalist even sounds the same. I’m not sure if DJ Kousuke sampled it or if the vocalist just happens to be based in Japan and was also hired by DJ Kousuke. Either way, it’s an awesome song. Delaction didn’t stray too far from the original melody, but the song admittedly sounds much better with Delaction’s trademark synths.

07. Coconuts (ZIP FM Remix) / Oriental Space
My absolute favorite song on the album, and I wasn’t even that fond of the original Coconuts! The best part? The second half of the song is a solo piano rendition. It’s amazing how great and surprisingly poignant the melody sounds on piano.

08. I Think My Neet (Y&Co. Neet Euro Remix) / Love Scandals
The credits do say that DJ Kousuke wrote this, so I’m assuming that it went unused until now. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from Y&Co., which is a good thing.

09. Greed Island (DJ Minagawa Remix) / Oriental Space
Another song that takes a while to get going. DJ Minagawa’s version is really quite good, but his collaboration with U*Hey? on Mega Trance 09 is even better. It uses slightly better synths and wastes less time with the build-up.

10. Last Ecstasy (DJ Ozawa Remix) / Oriental Space
I actually much prefer the original version. I kinda miss the guy talking over the song.

11. Platinum (Overhead Champion Remix) / Oriental Space
Piano trance! There was a period of time when all of OHC’s remixes sounded like “So So,” but he’s thankfully diversified a lot recently.

12. Just Do It (DJ Kaya Remix) / Oriental Space
Piano trance with a touch of jazz. Wonderfully euphoric yet touchingly peaceful. It’s a fantastic way to end the album and a fitting tribute to the late, great Kousuke Okamoto. R.I.P.

Jun 29

Natsu Monogatari 2008Dancemania presents Natsu Monogatari 2008 supported by 9LoveJ (CD+DVD)
Release Date: 6/25/08
Price: 3000 yen

I got my copy yesterday and have given it a few listens. It does some things better than Natsu Monogatari 2007, but there are also a few missteps that keep it from being a truly great release.

I think one of the main reasons for my disappointment is that most of the new tracks were made available long before the CD actually came out, so I had already been listening to them for months. Some of the re-edits helped to breathe some new life to the songs, but for the most part I felt like I had heard the entire album already.

If you can get past that, or if you’ve yet to hear the new tracks, then you’ll find that the album is mixed very well and has a solid selection of songs.

Full review after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

May 14

Hime Trance BestHime Trance Best
Release Date: 5/14/08
Price: 2171 yen

I was hoping against hope that Hime Trance Best would actually be better than it looked on paper. I’m sorry to say that it’s not. Read my track-by-track impressions below, or skip to my overall impressions.

01. Sousei no Aquarion / Dank-One feat. ari
I really wanted to love this, but after hearing Delaction’s version everything else pales in comparison. Ari’s voice isn’t quite strong enough to pull off the really high notes. The definitive part of this song is the “aishiteru” lyric, and ari fails to sing it with any confidence. The music itself is pleasant, with a good amount of pianos and other instruments strewn about.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

02. Soko ni Aru Kamoshirenai… / Yoshimune Soundtrack
Still holds up well for a song from 2003.

03. Distance ~In Your Love~ / Misao Aoyama
Exactly the same as the Hime Trance 3 edit.

04. D.O.U.B.T!!! ~Ai no Kakehiki wa DA*U*TO*~ (Hime Tra Best Edit) / 4 Skips vs. Floorbreaker
Added backing synths during the chorus. Actually, it’s possible they were there before, and they’re just more prominent now.

05. Glitter / Kei
I think the song title says it all. More energetic than “Happy Days, Happy Times,” but not quite as catchy as “Sayonara.”

06. Flower (Spacey vs. garamonn Remix) / Pile
Spacey vs garamonn remixes all have similar synths, so if you heard their remix of “Prologue” you’ll know what to expect. “Flower” is nice and upbeat. However, they play around with Pile’s vocals a bit too much. I would’ve liked to hear her voice unaltered.

07. Love & Sunshine (Delaction Remix – Hime Tra Best Special Version) / 4 Skips
They basically Russian Rouletted this song. In other words, they added a lot of random vocal samples (“C’mon!”, “Somebody scream!”, “Party people!”). Nowhere near as intrusive as the “hostalk,” but kind of pointless all the same.

08. Friends / Love Scandals
Sniff, DJ Kousuke 🙁 This was originally a DJ Kaya instrumental, and then DJ Kousuke added vocals and his own brand of synths for its Hime Trance 3 debut. The melody is absolutely infectious.

09. Kimi e no Omoi (Spacey vs. garamonn Remix) / Tsukasa
Where’s Heavens Wire when you need him? Decent remix, but I’m sure Heavens Wire could’ve done so much more with this.

10. Y.E.S!! (Nihonbo Official Han) / Heavens Wire vs. Zodiac Force
YES! Piano trance! Sounds like a mix of previous 4 Skips vs. Floorbreaker tracks and Shohei’s remix of “Natsu Monogatari.” I approve.

11. Happy Days, Happy Times / Kei
Not the most memorable Kei song. I’d much prefer “Sayonara” or “Get Wild.”

12. Weather News ~Haretara Ii na~ (Hime Tra Best Special Version) / Gavin feat. Aya
My name is Gavin desu! Gavin has new (and longer) narration that mentions Hime Trance Best. Otherwise, exactly the same as before.

13. 1 Nichi (Big Kiss vs. Raversonic Remix) / Misa
Nothing new to report here.

14. Memory / Miu*Miu
This…still puts me to sleep.

15. Forever Love / Delaction feat. Chika
Hooray for barking samples! Still unbearably cute — just the way I like it!

16. Banzai (Red Monster Mocchi’s Edit) / Misa
I blame FARM for this. They used this remix on Mega Trance 01, so apparently EMI think they can get away with it, too. Why not use the excellent Overhead Champion mix of “So So” instead?

17. Zankoku na Tenshi no These / mint
This? Is amazing. Mint’s vocals sound more natural here, not to mention shockingly like the original. The production is also top notch, with vaguely eurobeat-y synths!

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

18. Tokyo / Heart Land
Hahahahaha! This is indeed a Japanese cover of Keen’s “Tokyo.” I have a whole post on “Tokyo” coming up soon, so I’ll have more on this then.

19. Everybody Happy (Vocal Version) / mint
Much like “Memory,” this isn’t a horrible song, just a bit lacking in energy.

20. Realize (Club Mix) / Mari Ohta with Shujinko
Another rather old song. Still holds up well, I think.

21. KI*SE*KI* / 4 Skips vs. Floorbreaker
Nothing new here either.

22. In My Heart (Heavens Wire Rmx) / Tsukasa
Ends really abruptly.

Bonus Track
23. Love & Joy / Yuki Kimura
It’s “Love & Joy.” Again.

Read the rest of this entry »