YO SHIBUSAWA: 花はここに咲いています

By Paris365 on December 27, 2012

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Victor Entertainment

The title of this mini-album's English translation is "Flowers Are Blooming Here," which is actually quite funny when you listen to it because the first four tracks especially sound nothing like flowers or other sunshiny things. On the contrary, they're full of anger and attitude and they can leave you feeling downright assaulted -- like a brick has struck the front of your head -- if you're not a fan of gritty, down and dark rock 'n' roll with smidges of punk and metal.

The mini-album opens with one of its most brutal tracks, "破壊BOSSジャム聖飢魔IIメイク" (Google translation:
"BOSS II Seikima make one jam destruction.") The only thing you really need to know about that translation is that it contains the word destruction, which is a word you could use to describe the song itself, as it seems hellbent on destroying anything in its path. It commences with raw, ensnaring guitars that are soon joined by pulverizing drums and Yo's raw-as-sandpaper vocals. From there, it adds bass guitar and lots of angry, spit-fire vocals, much of which are screamed at the top of her lungs. We get some relief from the sonic chaos when an organ eventually joins the mix but by that point the organ is going to make you think of one thing only: death. Or funerals. Or funeral masses. You get the idea. Someone she's destroyed here is off to their final resting place, only it seems obvious that Yo would prefer that this person stumble into the pit of fire that is hell to be forever tormented. When U.S. troops blast AC/DC to make enemies surrender, I expect they'd surrender even faster if this was piercing their ears. I love it though!

"Hello everyone, this is my song," Yo says at the beginning of "ARE YOU PANPI?" There isn't a hint of grit in her voice as she speaks those words, but boy is it deceiving. Just seconds later she's nearly screaming her full-tongued, raucous vocals. It's like Anna Tsuchiya after she's been secretly drugged with PCP and crystal meth. Completely unfiltered anger. If not anger, then certainly passion of some sort. Yo completely throws herself into this song headfirst. I suppose you might call it aggressive post-grunge rock, though it's literally heavier than most metal or visual kei I've heard this year. Hell, the new Dir En Grey single isn't half as roaring or chilling as this.

" ダーリン" (Google: "Darling") starts off gentler, sporting a melody you might even call warm, though Yo's vocals remain raspy and bleeding. "Darling, I love you," she sings at one point like a J-rock Janis Joplin. Or Courtney Love on a coke binge. (I'm only mentioning drugs because Yo's songs go to emotional places most of us can't reach unless we're out of our minds on something. But, FYI, I'm NOT accusing her of being on drugs. I suspect she unleashes her dark side easily and without provocation, considering how well she does it.)

" ダメゼッタイ" (Google: "Absolutely Not") is the fourth track and the most melodic yet. Her voice still has a hint of brutality, but for the most part it's quite melodious here. Still a little too punk to call it beautiful, but it shows a different side of her that I'd love to hear more of. Some of the lyrics in this song seem to be English, but she spits them out so fast that I can't quite understand them. "Fucking write a song," I believe she sings repeatedly. She also would seem to sing the line "tag along, run" over and over again. And at one point I could swear she sings "choose to die." So, while she might not be screaming them, her words here are no less sharp and biting than during the previous three songs.

"Something so dark, when you feel," she sings, nearly whispering, during the beginning of "祈り" (Google: "Prayer"), which finds her voice accompanied by somber piano and the sort of light drums you'd expect to hear in a jazz song. It's certainly a radical departure from the previous four songs but it's no less potent emotionally. Here, it would appear that Yo is accessing her dreamy side, perhaps even a romantic side. There's some melancholy in her vocals, to be sure, but there's also a tinge of hope, something that would seem to have been entirely absent from the mini-album until here. Ultimately, it's a rather beautiful song that shows there's much more to Yo than you might have suspected until now.

Finally, we have "悪魔再生" (Google: "Play Devil"), which begins with a somewhat hypnotic bass guitar riff, sparse piano and jazz drumming. Yo sings this one just barely louder than a whisper. Given the title, one wonders if the song is about some sort of inner struggle? Or maybe it's just a mascara-smudged torch song? Regardless, there's more than a hint of vulnerability in her voice and it's a surprisingly gorgeous track.

Ultimately, 花はここに咲いています is an astoundingly good release that makes most of her J-rock peers sound idea-starved. -Michael McCarthy

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