Kamin Shirahata (白波多カミン) came back with a new album on March 23 and I didn’t even know it’s been in work until the very last moment. As it turns out, the indie singer I fell in love with when I first heard her mini-album Kudamono (くだもの), decided to rebrand herself. Shirahata’s newest music endeavor is entitled 空席のサーカス (Kuuseki no Circus) and it’s recorded together with a full rock band, Placebo Foxes. The artist has left that singer-songwriter/folksy lore and her latest effort truly packs a punch.
This one got me into listening to her.
空席のサーカス accomplishes an important feat that her solo recordings fell short at – staying even throughout the whole listen. That’s not to say that the previous releases were bad – I genuinely like them, but at times they did not manage to wholly capture my heart. After several similar ballads you want something to sweep you off your feet, but it’s never delivered.
There are no weak tracks on Kuuseki no Circus. Jokingly I would describe that stylistic change like Dylan going electric, but it’s not that level (yet?). Nonetheless, I’m captivated by the much heavier-sounding version of Kamin Shirahata – she easily pulls it off vocally – she has a strong voice and it sounds just as good live. After a few listens I started wondering about this new artistic direction – as in, how much Shirahata is in it. According to the booklet all songs were written by the singer, so she’s still running the show and I’m happy with that. The album was produced by Momo Kazuhiro (百々和宏) of MO’SOME TONEBENDER, a pretty famous alternative rock group.
2 of the tracks on the album were released previously on 2015 self-titled EP, but received a massive overhaul. I actually adore those rearrangements – いますぐ消えたい (Ima sugu kietai) was a tremendous tune before, but now I just can’t shake off this new version from my head – that sped up, punkish vibe reminds me of Shiina Ringo’s Koufukuron (幸福論), and the differences between single and Muzai Moratorium compositions.
So damn catchy.
Another reworked song is 姉弟 (Kyodai). Honestly, it did not win me over as a piano ballad, however the 空席のサーカス treatment brought life into this song. 姉弟is first on the record and it really sets the tone for the rest of the album. Also, the live version from Shirahata’s Youtube channel freaking rocks.
バタフライ (Butterfly) is one of the stand-out tracks. Initially lyrics parts have a soft music accompaniment, followed by an assault of distorted guitar and overall shoegaze-y feel. The song grows and grows, until its all-out end. サンセットガール (Sunset Girl) is the track that sounds the most like something from Shirahata’s earlier albums. The singer-songwriter kind of deal I mentioned before. 生命線 (Seimei-sen) is one of my favs. The reason is simple – the song has an exciting and enthralling guitar hook which is repeated over and over and it’s a kind flick I’d love to go on forever.
The rock n’ roll crazy gaze.
嫉妬 (Shitto) – now this one took me by surprise and I seriously thought a different artist started playing. It’s heavy on synthesizers and is driven by an electric beat (something like Zombie-Chang). The track felt so out of place, though I kind of see how it connects with the rest now. What’s more, in the middle of the song there’s this sudden wacky guitar shredding bit – real Inception sort of moment – this solo completely doesn’t fit 嫉妬, just as much as the song is the odd one on the Kuuseki no Circus. In the end I enjoy this one immensely.
なくしもの (Nakushi Mono) is a ballad that closes the album with a marching rhythm of drums and a melancholic trumpet. It brings a sense of closure, though not for long as I listened to the record several times in a row the day I got it.
With 10 tracks, 空席のサーカス runs only a little over 32 minutes, which satisfied me, but there’s still some room for more. Awesome release. Kamin Shirahata with Placebo Foxes certainly works very well and I’m anxious to hear about the future albums.
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