V.A. - A Piece of Water

review - 01.25.2007 07:00

A review of the new label 'a-head records' first compilation album.

In their description of A Piece of Water, a-head records says, "The key to new music must be hidden in the tongue which spoke the language and the voice," and that this compilation of songs introduces the listener to new styles of music through six different languages. a-head records wishes to share Japanese music to the world, and they effectively manage something of a cultural exchange here. All the (relatively unknown) singers, while representing different languages, are of Japanese origin and showcase some of the diversity within Japan.

The title suggests something innately calming and peaceful, and this is reflected in the music as each song gently washes over the listener. This is noticeable from the outset, with a short and traditionally Japanese inspired instrumental that leads into Mai Charlotte's beautiful Notre Monde D'Aujoud Hui. Mai Charlotte has a stunningly angelic voice, her smooth soprano vocals blending perfectly with the guitar and piano. Her operatic voice can make the lyrics a little hard to discern but such matters are incidental. Near the end, the song blends with the oriental themes of the first instrumental which creates a link between Mai Charlotte's French and Japanese heritages.

Lisa Cristobal Miyake, contributing two Filipino pieces, makes a stark contrast to Mai Charlotte. The style becomes more folk-pop and Lisa Cristobal Miyake's voice is strong with a style remiscent of a power ballad. Masdan Mo Kaibigan Ko is heavily reliant upon the folk guitar and has a vaguely Spanish feel to it; perhaps a reflection of the popularity of the guitar upon Filipino folk music and the strong Spanish influence on the country. Meanwhile, Kaibigan Ikaw Ay Kailangan has a stronger piano influence, and as such in leads smoothly into Seira Kagami's first song Loose. Loose is more pop than Lisa Cristobal Miyake but Seira and Lisa's songs are very similar in terms of melody. They create a peaceful flowing feel to the album, but it also makes the songs a little hard to distinguish other than due to the language.

Don't Leave, Seira Kagami's second song is something of an oddity. Thus far, A Piece of Water has been a relaxing pop-rock-folk affair. Don't Leave, however, unexpectedly adopts a dance beat. Seira's vocals continue to be lovely but this track just doesn't seem to work with the overall mood of the album. It is a pleasant song but when placed in context with the rest of the album, doesn't seem to fit.

Entre la soledad y el recuerdo is Anna Kubotera's effort and the song on which miyavi contributes his guitar talent; the combination of these two is a gorgeous, understated song. Anna Kubotera does not try to force her vocals, and one this song more than any other the influences of the country (in this case Spain) come through. There is a definite flamenco beat and miyavi's guitars are noticeable if in keeping with the general understated tone.

Ito Rie marks another stylistic change in the first of two Japanese language songs, with breathy vocals that grab the attention even if at times they are a little strained. The music feels more trip-hop and ambient while relying on a syncopanted drumbeat. The moody laid back feel continues the understatement of Anna Kubotera's piece, and despite having dance influences, the ambient style means that the song fits as the slightly darker entry as opposed to the earlier Don't Leave.

Returning to a more conventional style, Kawabata Megumi contibutes a lovely, guitar-led ballad. Megumi's voice is clear and pure, and shines on this simple, sweet song. Although quite different to the track preceeding it, that difference is part of what helps the gentle Mukuchi na kotoba stand out.

Before Sandii's Hawaiian endnote comes the collaborative piece Christmas Is.... All the artists featured on this album are drawn together, in addition to 100 children in the chorus. It is a life-affirming piece, encouraging families and happy reunions at Christmas. It fits nicely within the concept of the album, and generally with the lite-rock style that prevails, but it does not stand out as an individual song. It serves as a delightful cultural closer on such an already culturally diverse album.

A Piece of Water is not meant to jolt the sense or present any radical vocal styles. Rather, it is more of a relaxing portrait of diverse cultural influences on modern popular music. It is not ground breaking musically but that was not the intent; overall it is a relaxing and beautiful album showcasing some fantastic talent.
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