review - 10.03.2018 11:01

MIYAVI tries his hand at playing producer on this star-studded sequel to his 2012 album.

Throughout his career, MIYAVI has shown time and again how he’s not afraid to try new things. Be it extreme hairstyles, acting, modelling, or even putting on acoustic shows in UN refugee camps, he’s always game. One field the “Samurai Guitarist” has yet to dabble in is production work. Granted, he’s co-produced most of his own discography, and has done plenty of composing for other acts, including for SMAP’s final single, but MIYAVI has never taken time out of his own schedule to finesse another artist’s work in the studio. However, based upon on the evidence in his latest album SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2, that could be about to change.

When SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.1 dropped in 2012, what fans got was an odds-and-ends compilation of previously-released singles and the results of jam sessions featuring a random cast of collaborators. Its full-length sequel makes for a very different listening experience, especially because for an album bearing his name, you hear very little of MIYAVI’s voice.

He only sings one track, Slap It, which also features one of the only instances of his trademark slap-guitar playing style on the record. The fact the song’s attributed to MIYAVI vs 雅-MIYAVI- signals he may be trying to distance himself from his old musical identity. The degree to which his presence is felt on the album’s other songs, all of them being collaborations with other artists, varies wildly.

For example, the tracks featuring m-flo’s VERBAL and sweary teen rapper CHANMINA could very well have been pulled from their own releases. The absence of MIYAVI’s distinctive mark on songs could be explained by the fact that all his collaborators are credited as co-writers, as is Lenny Skolnik and many other people from the small army of songwriters who contributed to his 2016 album, Fire Bird.

The album is arguably at its most interesting, if not necessarily at its best, when the featured artists are taken out of their own musical comfort zones. Take All My Life, the much-anticipated song starring L’Arc~en~Ciel’s HYDE, which is best described as the first time the VAMPS vocalist has lent his rich, sumptuous voice to an electropop sound. Similarly, Masato of post-hardcore rock group coldrain, is thrust into the role of MC amidst the screeching, manipulated guitars of Bumps In The Night.

So, what is MIYAVI shooting for with SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2? A logical assumption would be to give his collaborators some international exposure, but he did reveal in a recent interview that he has a similar album in the works, this time featuring American artists, so we can only guess. It could be he wanted to get some practice producing other artists and then gauge fans’ responses, or perhaps this album is just the result of a life-long experimenter scratching another creative itch.

SAMURAI SESSIONS vol.2 is available digitally worldwide via iTunes.
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