Mell – Mellscope

Mell – Mellscope – 3.5/5

I remember first listening to this and thinking that I couldn’t review something like this for the blog; not J-pop with an odd electro-rock vibe to it, no matter how impressive a vocalist she may be, or how unusual the release is from what else I’ve discovered. Yet gradually my tastes have come further towards this direction and by comparison to many of the other artists already reviewed, this one feels far more suited to this location. A veteran member of “I’ve Sound,” which is from what I gather a music production group that utilises multiple vocalists to a composer in order to create music (usually for animé); it is the soundtrack for ‘Black Lagoon’ that brought her long overdue debut release to my attention.

In many ways it seems like a black sheep amongst the scene; trading in the ‘cute’ lines for altogether more hard edged – almost reminiscent of Klepacki’s work at times – tone, ultimately rooted in techno but with grinding guitars and fast-paced drum work to provide a boisterous backing when required. This contrast is matched by her vocal prowess, honed over the past decade to the point that it too feels uncharacteristic of Japanese artists; as capable of screaming her lines aggressively as she is whispering them and all the time with the same pitch precision that defies the need for autotuning almost entirely. In fact, in many regards she’s probably the strongest J-pop vocalist I’ve yet to hear, capable of performing with electronic filtering but able to stand on her own abilities too.

Sadly this is far from a release without issues. Despite the variety in backing, it quickly dawns on you that it’s largely superficial; the tone set by the pace of the mechanical drums and unoriginal electronic notes – with exceptions – soon drops out of focus, with most of the clever lines emerging early on. For previous fans of “I’ve Sound,” the majority of the tracks are actually previously made tracks she’s sung for other releases leaving minimal original content (though admittedly it’s all new to me). A large amount of the release just feels like throwaway filler; as though she had already done most of the album in her career already so threw together a few new things that took her five minutes and presto, disjointed solo debut. Sadly, I can't help but be left with a bitter taste by the closing moments, that this release was a mere shadow of what it could have been.

Highlights: Scope, Red Fraction, Virgins High, Permit, Under Superstition