Aikawa Nanase – ReBorn – 2.5/5
If anyone cares to recall, Nanase was the artist to first find me interested in J-pop (being accidentally linked to her “FOXTROT” release by someone thinking it was the Genesis album of the same name) and it wasn't long before I noticed her collaboration with Friedman on “R.U.O.K?”, a short release that would be the last we would hear from her until now, returning with the aptly (if cheesy) full-length release ReBorn. Spawning only one single – and even that failed to get more than a digital release – is something that is quite uncommon for artists in this field (3+ singles per album isn't unheard of) and means one of two things; there are no stand out tracks that would hold universal appeal, demonstrating a maturing artist blooming, or that there's nothing on here that's worth shelling out for.
It doesn't take long for you to realise that this isn't going to be like her past efforts; her studio musicians seem to have been replaced by machines, drums and trance tones flood her opening track in a flurry that adds a new tone to her pop/rock style, providing plenty of variety despite the artificial instrumentation. As the tracks go on, however, this well of creativity rapidly dries up and by the time the fourth track emerges you realise it's barely distinguishable from the rest. The ballads fall flat on their face as emotional has never been her forté and the backing can't compensate, and the lack of an actual instrument makes the synthesized guitar samples just seem amateurish.
It's concept; the notion of catchy pop vocals without the vocoder with chaotic electro and hard hitting rock all combining into one sublime track is certainly one that tickles my interest but this feels confused. She was never known as one of the bigger artists in the industry but this feels like she's trying to leech on the back of the likes of Mami Kawada and KOTOKO (technopop), artists that have spent a long time honing their craft, whilst still retaining that semblance of rock that made her interesting to begin with and it just feels muddled. It'll hop between pseudo-rock, cliché sounding ballads with no emotional weight behind it and some sort of techno/trance. There are a few stand-out tracks providing a glimmer of hope for the future, but this looks like one to skip.
Highlights: Yumemiru, Keep Singing, Dark&Bright