Mami Kawada – SAVIA

Mami Kawada – SAVIA – 4/5

The second of the ‘I’ve Sound’ production company to be reviewed (the first being Mell’s inventively titled ‘Mellscope’), specialising in techno/trance pop artists it’s not entirely surprising that this artist has been overlooked. Given that only the largest and well known of Japanese artists tend to find their way across to the Western otaku fans, and that the largest of the Japanese artists are little different from the most popular pop artists in the US; pretty young women without a clue of how to write decent music, her – shall we call it ‘unconventional’ – appearance would likely do little to raise her from anonymity. In fact, like most from this production company, she first found work most closely with animé themes and music for Video Games and it wasn’t until five years later that her debut release, SEED, finally emerged.

As with all such releases, the music can be broken down into two critical components; the vocalist and the backing. Tackling the former, I can’t be said to be terribly impressed; lacking in vocal range or distinctive style, most of her lines are delivered capably but ultimately without a great amount of conviction. Even when not placed behind layers of filters – which is more often than not – it doesn’t feel terribly powerful on either an emotional level or a visceral one. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t misstep or sing out of tune and her natural voice is often left with comparatively minimal production work upon it, but it altogether feels unadventurous, as though she is capable of more but sadly has instead decided to play it safe.

The backing work has many avenues and directions available at her disposal, still behind the vocalist but never overlooked in her stead, combining electronic effects found in anything from trip-hop to techno and with more than a helping hand from drums, guitars, and keyboards to add additional hard rock groove to the proceedings. In fact, many of the hard hitting rock riffs, ambient synths and almost classically inspired piano lines find their way to the front of the production, setting the mood for what’s to come and filling in the gaps in her vocals with highly impressive results.

Yet, beyond the good vocal lines and detailed backing work is something I value even greater in such a release: consistency. Throughout the highs and the lows, it never feels as though a track is being used merely as filler material to flesh out the release, the backing doesn’t ever take a step down and feel carelessly thrown together at the last minute and the vocals are laid out properly every step of the way to create chorus lines that never fail to impress. Whether rock-inspired, slow and delicate or screaming out dance-like rhythms, she may have difficulty holding up against the best of others but proves capable of rising to the challenge of them all.

Highlights: Joint, Akai Namida, Dream, Nisori ~HISUI~ Get My Way!