T.M.Revolution - Coordinate
Western fans of Japanese music, primarily J-pop and J-Rock, have very few options when it comes to obtaining the object of their passions. They can either spend exorbitant amounts of money importing albums and singles, or they can take the pirate route, frequenting rotation sites or trading forums to get their music for free. For the longest time there have been no alternatives.
That seems to be changing. With the success of Genon's soundtracks and a growing number of artists coming over here to perform at venues such as Otakon, it seems as if fans will be able to start supporting their favorite artists without ending up in the poorhouse.
Tofu Records has been around for some time, offering American fans a middle road when it comes to music acquisition, and T. M. Revolution's Coordinate album was one of the first to lead the trickle of J-pop into local music stores. Takanori Makes Revolution is a one man show by Takanori Nishikawa, and has been a staple of the Japanese pop scene for quite a while. Coordinate, as his first western offering, provides a good introduction to the music for causal listeners, and for already devout fans, it's a sturdy addition to their music collection.
If there was anything negative to say about T.M. Revolution and his album, it would be that there is a limited amount of variety. You can find similar effects in most of his songs, and there isn't a great range of different melodies, but then again, not everyone is X Japan or Dir en Grey.
The steadiness of this album is a blessing more than it is a curse. There are no 'experimental' songs that I had to skip over, and the entire CD was pleasant to listen to. Even though I didn't get any sense of changing musical moods to the extent that I do in other albums, but there was enough variety within the framework of T.M.R.'s style that the CD wasn't dull.
As a Visual Kei fan and self professed rivet head, two things that do not mix with T.M.R.'s techno pop feel, it's almost embarrassing to profess my enjoyment of this album. Rants about death and odd white noise over-effects are good every now and then, but simple and clean has its place as well. When I feel like doing a little jig in my chair, this is the CD that I pop in.
Since T.M.R. is only one man, Nishikawa's voice is the centerpiece of every song. As a singer, he's very clean, very smooth and well ranged. He is not, however, especially varied. Of all the elements of Coordinate, Nishikawa's singing is the most unwavering.
Supporting the excellent, if not predictable, vocals, is a mix of standard band and techno. Those familiar with Gundam SEED will find a lot of the same happy, soft techno in tracks such as Invoke and Meteor, which are both songs featured in the anime. Chime and bell sounds and frantic pseudo-snares are staples.
People looking for guitar can find it in Abort//Clear, and the acoustic version of Juggling. The band is there only for support, but in songs like Juggling, it does manage to shine through.
As a 'bonus', there is Heart of Sword - Yoake Mae Remix. Heart of Sword was the theme for Rurouni Kenshin and was my introduction to T.M.R.. This song is also considered to be largely responsible for catapulting Nishikawa-san into stardom, so it was nice to finally have a legitimate copy of it in my collection.
For the American release of this album, Tofu Records has graciously provided us with a cover booklet that includes every song, with lyrics in romaji. There are, however, no English translations, which tarnishes an otherwise excellent package. Interspersed within the lyrics is a group of page-sized photos. Even though the poses look a little fake, the photography is excellent, and Nishikawa is beautiful. When I bought the CD, the case was broken and I had to transfer everything to a new one, but the CD was fine, and the problem was simple enough to fix.
T.M. Revolution has another album, Seventh Heaven, already out in the states and a third is on its way. At only USD$14.00 on the Tofu Records website, there's no reason why J-pop fans can't have their music and pay for it too.