Alternative idol is currently one of the most popular terms among the followers of the Japanese music industry; distinguishing classic idol units made of upbeat and thoughtless pop, from groups that feature several (usually harsher) genres, the distance between the old and new idol concept gets farther.
While groups featuring mostly rebellious sounds are riding the top of the wave started several years ago by groups like BiS and BABYMETAL, the last few years have seen a sharp rise of alternative idol units.
One of the most noticeable acts is sora tob sakana, a four-piece unit featuring math rock as a main element of their sound, and it’s one of the most surprising outfits to come out from this niche. Finally getting proper exposure this year, despite being formed a few years ago, these girls left many of the genre’s aficionados speechless for the quality of their music, produced by Terui Yoshimasa, member of math rock outfit haisuinonasa.
Their first, self-titled record, is both a promising launch for the unit’s career and a strong showcase of their capabilities. Math rock along with shoe-gaze influences are the dominant elements here, and sora tob sakana does a great job in mixing technical prowess with the girls’ vocal melodies, making the whole work complex yet easily enjoyable. Especially in the first part of the record, shiny guitar melodies and frantic drum patterns framed by tempo changes are the main elements composing these straight-to-the-point numbers, with well crafted structures, consequently highlighting the vocals- this is particularly noticeable in numbers such as Natsu no Tobira and Kokoku no Machi, that also manage to create nice atmospheric moments through the girls’ voices. It’s a well blended mix that’s directed at both idol and math rock fans, successfully satisfying both ends.
The album also borrows the right amount of electronic elements in certain tracks, playing with pop influences that shine in numbers such as Maho no Kotoba, where a delicate electronic beat framed with bits of chill-step showcase the girls’ ability in adapting to different approaches without sounding out of place; even better, Summer plan (surely one of the best tracks of the record) mixes up math rock with non-invasive synth layers, enriching the result with smartly-placed acoustic fragments. This approach is mostly noticeable in the second half, where the record seems to get more adventurous, expanding its vision in different directions while remaining true to its core identity. Tracks leaning towards a joyful electronic side like Moon Swimming Weekender and the fun Kesalan Patharan are just a pleasure to listen to, despite their technically complex composition. These different approaches give variety to the record, making its flow engaging and constantly surprising throughout the fourteen tracks.
Sora tob sakana is an incredibly enjoyable and polished record, not only for idol and math rock fans, but pretty much for anyone who’s looking for fresh and entertaining music from Japan. This album succeeds in making extremely complex compositions accessible to anyone, thanks to a winning formula and the adoption of various influences masterfully placed in the right spots. Not everyday you get a producer who can make a complex genre so accessible and easy to enjoy, and it’s equally hard to find four girls that can adapt to it in such a natural way. A must for all the fans of the genre, and definitely one of the highlights for the year in Japanese music.
sora tob sakana
sora tob sakana
Release Date: 26/07/2016
Get at: CDJapan.co.jp