Thursday, June 21, 2007

Utada Hikaru - Exodus, 10. Kremlin Dusk

I disagree with my previous self. Kremlin Dusk and Animato are at each other's throats for best track, with Hotel Lobby a close second (or third?). Right now, Kremlin Dusk edges out Animato only because Animato hasn't been given a crazy live performance like in Utada United.

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Claimed by many to be the best song of Exodus [Ed: see summary at top]. I think it's a toss up between this and Exodus '04. KD is ambitious in its scope and breadth [Ed: aren't these the same thing?], claimed by Hikaru to be something like Bohemian Rhapsody. I wouldn't go so far as to say it sounds like BR, but it does share some similarities with OK Computer or something that X Japan might do.

It's a fight to reach that status, though. She walks on thin ice in the first half. In the Calling you bridges, it sounds like she's fighting for air even as she hits what sound like high tones at the limits of her range. Call it wailing, call it caterwauling, it's something that I thought only bad pop artists or beginning vocal music students could only get away with it.

The second half breaks into fast rock, and there's a sense of epicness about it, and it kicks everyone's ass, and all is right with the world. There's not much else to say about the rock session, except it's rocking, and that it's epic, and that it kicks my ass. There's are phrase interjections that add to the ass kicking factor, as she slowly sings amid the swirl, thunder, fire, and brimstone.

The speed transition is typical, is pretty standard, but never ceases to impress me. Maybe I'm just a sucker for plucked strings in consonant intervals with lengthy gaps between, in a alternating descending pattern (sort of like dah…duh, and then another dah…duh at a lower tone). They also make an appearance in the beginning. There's also a male voice that says something like, Bjork repeatedly during the transition. Makes you wonder.

It's up in the air as to what the lyrics are about. The opening suggests that she's lost a partner, given the reference to Lenore, which, after some Googling, is an Edgar Allan Poe poem [The Raven] about the death of a loved one [the simulated raven croaking was a nice touch]. The rock half is probably related, but the entertainer references that are interleaved in the lyrics suggest some sort of private conversation with the listener. Consider the line where instead of saying, I'm a natural entertainer, she says, I promise secret propaganda [I think it's now generally agreed that she says run a secret propaganda]. It's a bit distorted, and might be missed amid the busyness of the band. Then there are lines asking if you've liked this and would you come back? The last two lines:

If you like this. Will you remember my name?
Will you play it again, if you like this?

The persistent guitar that kicks in, I initially thought as cheap MIDI fit for Street Fighter 0.2, or Tetris (she says she plays Tetris. Hm…) [She owns at Tetris. True story. YouTube it]. I still think that it is, but it's not as bad as it was, say, 12 hours ago (yes, I was up till about 3 am). Consider the following, pulled from from translated from Hikaru's liner notes:

She felt that only live drums would do this song justice, so she
asked Jon Theodore from the Mars Volta, since she was very 'into'
their music at the time.

If the song's good enough for live drums, then at least that guitar could have been switched for an electric guitar for the rock session [I disagree with such a move now]. Better yet, put in a harpsichord for the opening half, switch to electric guitar for the rock session, and close with the harpsichord. There'd be a more clockwork, mechanical, tension.

Anyway, theory about why she sounds like she's absolutely suffering during those wailing bridges in the opening half. She performs the same passage with better results during the lead up to the rock section. I think it's because it's the dynamic is a little louder, and the tempo a bit faster. I figure if she can hit that high tone in Kettobase (live!), or even in the coda of Deep River (live!), she can hit the notes here [studio recording!]. I don't think she's necessarily writing out of her range, although I think I'll have to go check now.

The problem happens when she has to sing high and quietly. It's going to require quite a bit of air, and I think she's letting her tone quality smear in order to not suffocate. But I just heard the passage again, and on the way down, she's flat on a tone. Flat! Why couldn't they have raised the pitch in post production? …

Anyway, very good music, good vocals in the second half. Intriguing lyrics. Someone has to analyse them.