I don't know about you, but this Covid-19 pandemic is really wearing me down. Now that I don't have a brick & mortar store (3 months of having to be closed without any $$ for rent or utilities will do that) it's hard to get motivated to do anything, let alone reviews. Besides, not much physical product seems to come my way these days, and I've never been a fan of "digital only" releases. Seems too cheap and easy as any yahoo can put up music online. There are exceptions though, and this is one of them. Hungarian electronic musician/composer Joseph "Lightphaser" Gogh is back again with a new EP (release date July 31st) with something really different this time. The anime cover art is a dead giveaway, and if you're virtual J-Pop savvy, you may even recognize (a version of) Hatsune Miku who does the vocals on this EP.
If you don't know who Hatsune Miku is, suffice to say that she's the biggest "virtual" pop star coming out of Japan today. The key word here is virtual, because as a living person Hatsune Miku doesn't exist. ( Her source voice is provided by the Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita.) What Hatsune Miku really is, is Vocaloid software voice-bank developed by Crypton Future Media and its official moe anthropomorph, a teenage girl with long, turquoise twin-tails. This creation is SO very popular that it has sold out many virtual (holographic) live concerts in the J-Pop and EDM genres. You can find literally TONS of Hatsune Miku content on YouTube, usually with plenty of anime. It comes across as happy spectacle more than anything else, especially when accompanied by huge crowds of glowstick waving fan-atics. The music though seems like it has more "teen appeal" than anything else, and often the vocals are in Japanese.
Not so here; Miku with Lightphaser actually sounds very different. Without all the bombastic music and over the top visuals Hatsune Miku sounds like a gitlish pixie through a vocoder. (Certain people might be able to imitate it inhaling helium and singing, but not for long.) Because the voice still sounds a bit computer generated, all the lyrics don't seem crystal clear on first listening. The way Gogh uses the Vocaloid program within the context of the songs though is quite nice. "Serenade" is a space love song ballad, for lack of a better description. Although the Vocaloid is front and center, it is definitely enhanced by the other worldly synths, and combines into something magical. "Play With Me" is ultra cute synthpop with a strong hook that jumps at you right off the bat. Third and final track is the instrumental version of "Serenade." Stripped of the Vocaloid program it sounds like Gary Numan meets Kraftwerk in Vangelis's Blade Runner theme park.
Joseph told me via email that 'Serenade' is the second EP of Lightphaser's using the Miku program, and the "Instincts of Future" EP was the first release with it. There is a third EP planned for September, but what happens after that is still up in the air. It should be interesting to see if Hatsune Miku fans take to this different aspect of the girl's performance. I know I like it a lot more than the typical applications that have exploded across the Internet.
There is a kind of silly but amusing little video made for the "Serenade song, and you can check it out with this link.