Saturday, February 9, 2019

Song of the Day #350 - 戸川純 with Vampillia - 諦念プシガンガ


I can't find this anywhere on Youtube, but it's really worth tracking down. It's from a collaboration between Japanese sorta-metal band (and veteran on my favorite record label, Virgin Babylon) Vampillia, and the legendary un-idol Jun Togawa, where they rework classic songs from her catalog. It's a fantastic release, where the contrast between the driving technicality of Vampillia's metal and the strange kawaii-guro moe of Jun's voice isn't so much a compelling juxtaposition or a surprisingly coherent "chocolate and peanut butter" thing (although, it is at times each of those too), but a feeling of each artist creating space for potentiality in the other; that is, you're never sure that they couldn't go any harder in any given direction, that they couldn't suddenly go hard in some brand new orthogonal direction, such is the hugeness of the space marked by their extremes.

And oh my god do they ever go hard. On this song, especially, there is an apocolyptic reckoning that never fails to rouse an inner wildness that I cannot name or place. It almost scares me, or it would, if it wasn't also so fiendishly addictive. Right from the initial "declaration of war", the stampeding drums and animal howls, crashing into the almost nautical swinging rhythm, there's a restlessness, almost a reckless wastefulness of energy, a feeling of compulsion to go not just hard, and not just very hard, but needlessly hard, dangerously hard.

The structure is fairly simple and works largely in anticipatory modes... especially as an English listener (although ganbaring at Japanese every day!!), I really cling to things like the ra-ra-ra-ra-rai chorus lol. Seeing the contrast between each verse as it builds to that point tells you enough, even if the lyrics are above your head... what at first seems whimsical, almost silly, leading to a childish sing-song "la la la" eventually devolves into a desperate, demented, cry of what is lost. It's haunting, and the fact that it's most haunting when Jun's vocals become most muted, and, in some way, comical, only makes it even more haunting. Even when meaningless it is bleak.

This is all perfectly scored by Vampillia's escalating instrumentation. Throughout the album, they show off an insane variety of musical skills, but here they play to the core talents that drew their cult: huge electric riffs, hammering drums, and wild screaming vocals. Oh, but also the contrasts that proved their genius: sneaking in a drifting violin line or punctuating with quiet precise, almost military, almost breakbeat snares. Feeling the "hidden beats" of their music, and letting your feet hit the floor or your hands smack the desk to trailing phantom ellipses, it's manically addictive.

The amount this song has affected me is probably mentally unhealthy, especially when you look up the English translations. When not meaningless, it is... especially bleak hahaha. With my limited Japanese, it's rare for me to be able to parse song lyrics even when I know what I'm looking for, but, and I'm very proud of this, I worked out "ushi no you ni, buta no you ni" (like a cow, like a pig) mostly on my own, and triumphantly sing along to it every time I hear it. What a strange juxtaposition of feeling and meaning! But then this song, too, with it's hopeless nihilism, sung so wildly, is a brutal paradox. Jun sings about being betrayed in love, of the ideals of these emotions soaring high above the dirty reality of humanity. And so, if you would betray her, you may as well kill her; after all, she is only flesh, she is disposable. But then the emotion that swells, the loss of composure, her voice bending into a terrifying baritone, you can tell she isn't half as resigned to it as she'd like us to think she is. But it isn't like she thinks she's wrong about what she's saying, either: she really does feel that it would be OK if she was killed, like a cow, like a pig... so in the end, it's sort of like "everything is meaningless but then also fuck it!". And with that we'll end our three hundred and fiftieth post!

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