Thursday, October 31, 2013

Akiko Shikata - Turaida (Album Review + Bonus Disc)

Hey yo! Finally doing a real album review this time, you know, out of boredom, and since the CD just came today (no I don't cheat with new Shikata releases; I wait for the order before listening, not even the previews).

About the Album

First off, Turaida is Akiko Shikata's 4th album, in which also ends in 'a' - Shikata even noticed this, as all her albums are the same: Navigatoria (1st), Raka (2nd) and Haromnia (3rd) (but unfortunately I only have Harmonia and Turaida, and Laylania is actually an EP). Much like her other releases, it contains full versions of songs she's done for various games, anime, and miscellaneous indie stuff.

Notable Differences with Old Works

At first it would seem that the sound is a combination of Harmonia and Laylania, but it's actually an entirely different album itself. Let's just say it focuses more on Shikata's vocal ability rather than just her composition skills. I'll discuss this later on. 

Another difference is that she's actually published the lyrics (?) for her songs which have her own (?) constructive language (e.g. Arcadia and Leyre, both songs for the NHK Darkside TV Program) in somewhat handwritten glyphs. I hope someone could decipher them, because in all my years fangirling Shikata I've always been curious about her languages.

And lastly, some songs which appeared in older albums are resung or its instruments are tweaked a little bit, especially Hanenaki Hana and Hikari Furu Basho De ~Promesse~ (the short version is in ToS language or her constructive language but this full version is in Italian, but in a more dramatic and beautiful arrangement).

Music / Arrangement

Like I said, it has a taste of everything - Harmonia, Laylania and some other bits of Shikata material on the music. You have these unusual time signatures and key shifting, which is totally normal for a Shikata song (really). My favorite for the arrangement / music part would probably be Arcadia or Hikari Furu Basho De ~Promesse~ or Buonanotte (this made me cry like really). 


I have a lot of things to point out about the vocals. First thing's first is the vibrato. Yes, you heard me, v-i-b-r-a-t-o and I mean it - Shikata hasn't really done songs in the past that has proper ending vibrato and she's finally done it in Turaida (kinda surprising for me actually). And because of this I'm totally inspired again to practice singing. :D

As mentioned above, Turaida is a vocal-focused album, meaning choruses are only somewhat subtle (except in some heavy songs like Arcadia, Leyre, etc.). The only thing, of course (even other Shikata fans have pointed this out) is Shikata's lack of her super-duper golden contralto (male-sounding) voice, which is the very fact that got me addicted to her music. I mean, it's not completely gone (it's still in some choruses) but it doesn't stand out anymore unlike her songs in the Ar Tonelico games, Harmonia and Umineko no Naku Koro ni. In Turaida, I think it's more heard in Arabesque and Arcadia (and Ibitsu from the bonus CD).

I already noticed that with Laylania but I understand she's kind of, uh, trying to get the 'right voice' for the 'right' album. Maybe we'd better just hope for a new Shikata project in which she's probably going to do the contralto stuff like in Ar Tonelico or something like that.

But hey, there's still hope with the Laylania Concert DVD in which we'll get to see her sing EXEC_over.METHOD_SUBLMATION/. ~ee wassa sos yehar (a.k.a. Kowarero). XD

Packaging Design

The lyric book is superb. I mean, it's not just throwing out the letters and words to create a standard sheet of lyrics, but they're arranged in different ways, depending on what's the theme of the song. Harmonia did a similar thing but Turaida's is more like Laylania with some of the lyrics in vertical, some with different fonts, and each of them have colorful pages. Great way to spend your money. 

The cover image is just perfect. It's a little high-contrast but I think that's the theme of it - a cute little goddess living in a bright garden world. Seriously, Shikata needs to have more photoshoots. Really. I mean, really.

Bonus CD

The bonus CD (sadly) contains only short versions of some of her old and new songs (including a ToS BGM and a Laylania Club instrumental song). It's nice to hear some of the songs in short version but dear Ibitsu, why are you not in full version? D:

Yeah, I mean, for me it's actually the only song that I've always wanted to be put on Turaida but it's not even full version whyy :(

Personal Favorites so Far

As far as I've listened to the whole album, my top favorites are:
  • Hikari Furu Basho De ~Promesse~ (but actually I prefer the Bonus CD version more or I just got used to it more)
  • Arcadia
  • Arabesque (dat Arabic thing reminds me of the Free! ending Harukanaru Tabiji from Harmonia pun intended)
  • Buonanotte (made me cry)
  • Leyre
Others that sound cool to me are:
  • Hanenaki Hana (already heard this before from the Laylania Bonus CD but it's totally resung lol)
  • Utena (I bet this is for the Messiah movie)
  • Kaseki no Rakuen (sounds soft yet somewhat tragic to me)
Bonus CD favorites:
  • IBITSU (SHORT VERSION) (emphasizing my anger lol)
  • Hikaru Furu Basho De ~Promesse~ (Short Version)
  • Tsukimachi Sawa (Laylania Club BGM, dunno the correct romanization, just Google Translated it lol)
  • Umineko no Naku Koro Ni (Short Version) (probably because it's in the same key as the Italian version from Harmonia instead of the full version on the Umineko EP)
Final Words

Shikata's really improved in a lot of ways, but in this album, it's more on her vocals. As for me, I'd better go practicing my contralto vibrato as well for, uhm, you know, emergency purposes. But as for the album, overall Turaida is not half-bad and it's a great creativity booster if you're out of musical fuel, much like her other works. :)


afezeria miku said...

Nonetheless,quite a good review..
Nice job.

Jownstone said...

Listening to Turaida while reading this review at the same time lol.

Kamaroncho said...

You know what? I almost cried with this Review. You pointed every detail in Turaida, just like I was thinking about it. I've been fangirling Shikata since a long time too XDD <3 <3 <3

Kristel "Kazaki" Cuadra said...

Thank you everyone! :)