Reviews

Vinyl Review: Nirvana

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Nearly 15 years removed from its original release, Nirvana still seems like a pointless record. With bands like Yes, Deep Purple or Aerosmith, greatest hits compilations can be vital. Their discographies are so vast (and of radically varying quality) the repackaged budget collection can be key into helping new fans, who might be otherwise overwhelmed and not know where to begin, discover the band.

But Nirvana only released three studio albums, one compilation of singles, and an an Unplugged live album during their short time together. All of these are not just great, but widely regarded as some of the most important music of its era. There’s no “bad” jumping on point for Nirvana, and kids today who are discovering the group for the first time are probably seeking out all the band’s actual albums and not this needless collection of “hits.” Continue reading

Game Music Revue: iam8bit Vinyl Review Roundup

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Late last year, iam8bit jumped into the video game vinyl ring with their release of the soundtrack to Hohokum, a quirky indie title available on PSN. They followed that up big with their release of the soundtrack to Hotline Miami 2, a massive affair that came with the soundtrack spread across three colored discs as well as download codes to both the soundtrack and the game itself. It was a huge success, leading to three printings that have all sold out.

Now iam8bit is following that up with a new slate of releases. Three, Banjo Kazooie, Battletoads and Perfect Dark, are culled from the Rare back catalog, while the fourth, Journey, is the score to a relatively new game that was first released for the PS3 and later updated for the PS4. It’s really good by the way, you should buy it.

It’s ambitious for a company new to the vinyl game to ramp up their production so quickly, and with such big name titles. But thankfully it seems that they’ve done each title justice from an audio standpoint, albeit with a few notable presentation caveats and concerns that hopefully will get addressed with future releases. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: Streets Of Rage (2015 Data Discs Edition)

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A few years ago Death Waltz Records opened up shop and promptly took the the record geek community by storm with its high quality vinyl re-issues of classic horror soundtracks, presented with heavy duty sleeves and pressed on creatively-colored vinyl.

Since then, we seemingly become lousy with labels looking to cash in on this sudden re-issue trend. Some, like One Way Static and Invada, have done good by releasing quality soundtracks that sound great and feature amazing art. Others, like the atrocious Waxworks and the flipper-friendly Mondo (who bought Death Waltz rather than compete with them) have often sacrificed audio quality and consumer friendliness in efforts to put out ultra-limited edition items that not only sound horrid, but become impossible to find thanks to their finitely small print runs.

So I was a little skeptical at first when I found out about Data Discs, a new label dedicated to releasing classic game music on vinyl. With the vinyl craze continuing to reach new heights, I feared they were just in it for the money, hoping to snag a quick buck off of hipsters who put presentation and nostalgia over actual audio quality. Still, when I saw that they were releasing the soundtrack to Streets of Rage on vinyl, I had to take the bait and grab a copy.

I was hoping for the best and fearing for the worst – but thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: The 30th Anniversary Super Mario Bros. Music

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  • Credited Composer: Nintendo (Koji Kondo, Hirokazu Tanaka, Kazumi Totaka, Shinobu Tanaka, Mahito Yokota, Ryo Nagamatsu, Asuka Hayazaki)
  • Released September 13, 2015
  • Label: Columbia/Sony
  • VGMdb Information Page

Continue reading

Super Mario Bros. 30th Anniversary Festival

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Here in Japan there have been various promotions all year celebrating this, the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. We’ve had special promotions at Tower Records, exclusive merchandise for sale at various Otaku stores, and of course the release of Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo Wii U. But things hit a crescendo this past Sunday, the actual anniversary date, with Nintendo’s official Super Mario Brothers Anniversary Celebration Festival, held at Duo Exchange in Shibuya, Tokyo. Continue reading

Vinyl Review: The Adventures Of Kohsuke Kindaichii

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It’s Saturday, which means I’m in HMV minding my own business looking for new wave records.

I got a routine going when I’m not working.

Anyways, so I’m in HMV, browsing the alt rock section when I start to hear some strange 70s mid-tempo disco/funk. It’s cool. I’m grooving to it. Then traditional Japanese instruments start to kick in over it. I’m hearing what sounds like a biwa and a koto mixed in with some radical wah-wah guitar and a groovy bassline. I’m digging it hard.

I decide to buy the record right when the slide whistle and flute kick in.

I’m pretty happy with this purchase. Continue reading

Vinyl/CD Review: Demons Original Soundtrack

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Demons isn’t exactly a good movie, but it’s definitely a memorable one. A low-budget 1985 Italian horror flick about a movie theater overrun by, well, demons, it features quite the ludicrous plot; amazingly bizarre characters; and some wonderfully over-the-top and disgusting gore effects. It’s a solid piece of 80s eurocheese and it has only gotten more gloriously bizarre as the years have gone by.

Probably one of the only aspects of Demons one can appreciate non-ironically (aside from the killer make-up effects) is the score by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti. It’s a creepy little piece of music, composed almost entirely on synthesizers. As such, it’s just as dated as the film it came from, but in the most wonderful way. And now it’s back in print via new limited edition CD and LPs, but are they worth the price? Continue reading

Vinyl Review: Babymetal

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I’ve been living in Japan for a little over a year and a half now, and let me be the bearer of bad news: Japan really isn’t that weird.

Sure, you see the occasional mascot roaming the streets and everyone on TV seems just way too excited about everything (especially food), but it’s really not that different than anyplace else. And, let’s be honest, a lot of the “weird Japan” concept comes from misunderstandings at best and flat out racism at worst. I also can’t see how a country like America, where walking into a Wal-Mart with a semi-automatic weapon in your hands is legal, has any right to call any other country weird.

All that being said, Babymetal, a heavy metal/pop hybrid featuring a trio of pre-teen girl singers, is the kind of weird shit that could only exist in Japan. Continue reading

An Outsider’s Take On Japanese Pro Wrestling

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Recently a friend from the states came to visit me in Japan, and as she is a huge wrestling fanatic, she begged me to take her to some Japanese wrestling events.

Luckily for her, we were able to make it to not one, but two. One by New Japan Pro Wrestling, the major wrestling promotion here in Japan (and the second-biggest wrestling organization in the world behind the WWE), and a local, indie event by Fukumen Mania, a luchadore (Mexican wrestling) style organization.

It was probably the most fun I could have with men in skintight spandex that I’d be willing to talk about on a blog that my mom reads. Continue reading

Tangerine Dream Platinum SHM-CD Reviews

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I own more albums by Tangerine Dream than I do any other artist, although that speaks more to their insane output than anything else. Excluding their numerous (and typically fantastic) soundtracks, the Tangerine Dream albums that I treasure the most are their first four for Virgin Records: Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet and Stratosfear. It was with these records that the band moved away from their ultra-experimental krautrock beginnings and into a much more electronic/ambient space that saw them through most of their career.

Now, these four albums have been re-released in Japan as “high resolution” formats; SHM-CD, Platinum SHM-CD and SHM-SACD.

And I realize that most of your eyes have probably just glossed over so I should probably go over those really quick.

  • SHM-CD stands for “Super High Material CD,” and use a different polycarbonate material that supposedly results in higher sound quality with reading errors.
  • Platinum SHM-CDs are the same, but instead of using a standard aluminium coating they use platinum. This also supposedly boosts audio quality.
  • SHM-SACD are Super Audio CDs, an entirely different audio format that is not compatible with standard CD players. These discs can hold more information and playback surround sound audio. They also supposedly sound better than traditional CDs.

Notice that I’m saying “supposedly” a lot. That’s because most of this is audiophile snake oil bullshit. SHM-CDs have never been known to sound notably better than traditional discs, and while I don’t know much about their platinum variants, I can’t imagine the change in coating makes that much of a difference. SACDs have their own benefits of course, the added storage space and surround sound capabilities are nice bonuses, but I’ve never been able to hear the difference between an SACD and a regular disc, a view that science backs me up on.

But I still bought the platinum SHM-CDs for these four titles. Why? Because while the science behind “SHM” is mostly balderdash, SHM-CDs can often sound better than their regular CD or digital counterparts. This is because they frequently use different masters that place more of an emphasis on dynamic range and preserving the feel of the original recording, and not on mucking with the source material or making them as loud as possible.

I also wanted an excuse to write about Tangerine Dream. Continue reading

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