Capsule – Cutie Cinema Replay – 3/5
Ok, so the last of my picopop obsession of late (the other two thus far being the atmospheric ‘Strawberry Machine’ and the insanity of ‘Plus-Tech Squeeze Box’), apparently one of the ‘larger names’ of the scene (apparently this stuff has a scene), with a return of the 8-bit noises, whilst they manage to vary things a little bit with the inclusion of the likes of flutes, accordions and various effects, the majority of the music is made through a combination of synths and a large array of guest vocalists at their disposal, each new addition twisting the end result to slam their own distinct branding on the music being created.
But that’s about all that seems to vary. Don’t get me wrong, the music is catchy and boisterous, and the musicians are capable, but it all feels too bland. The genre attracted me because it was unconventional and unusual, with a potential to use retro sounds that I haven’t heard of done since ‘Machinae Supremacy’ filtered their power metal through a SID chip (used on the old Commodore64 game systems) to lend a mechanical – but not lifeless – tone, so the fact that this release sounds like simplistic, catchy but ultimately somewhat generic sounding J-pop, albeit sung partly in French – what do you even call that? Frenanese? J-Rench? – is rather disappointing.
From the guitars and xylophones in ‘Ugadawa Friday,’ and the aptly titled ‘French Lesson,’ fitting for a boat cruise in Venice, where rather than sung the lyrics are spoken in French to lend a unique – if perhaps cheap – spin to the track, there is plenty of variety to the actual instrumentation, and my main issue is what’s being done with them that feels awfully similar. You can play the same piece of music on most instruments – guitars, violins, flutes, piano’s, synths, etc, etc, can all be made to play the exact same tune – and that is what feels is happening here; the instruments are changing but the overall manner of composition isn’t.
Perhaps the individual guest artists were given a little bit too much of a free reign, shaping the course of the tracks to provide their own slant on that familiar underrunning style, as it lends something of an incoherency throughout the album; perhaps a failure to recognise adequately and precisely what was wanted from them in the creation of the album. There are points where it seems forgotten that picopop should use samples and 8-bit sounds to create their music, entire tracks composed of synths and vocals with little else added. If you’re looking for generic ‘cuteness’ then this manages to fit the bill, with a variety of vocal styles going into its formation (not in the least the opening of the crazy girl in ‘Fashion Fashion,’ proving simplicity sometimes works) it’s fun background music but fails to be anything more.
Highlights: Candy Cutie, Fashion Fashion