A few weeks ago the new antennasia album 23 Bluebird Street, Velo-City dropped on the doormat. A neatly designed album-cover was visible through the shimmering plastic wrapping. A sticker adorned the plastic wrapping and on that sticker a very familiair name could be read. The message on the sticker was a reccomendation written by none other than Ryuichi Sakamoto. It was clear that antennasia had once again come up with something very special.
Ryuichi Sakamoto has his own radioshow on the Japanese radiostadion J-Wave, which features an audition corner where beginning bands can send in samples of their work. While recording the new album, antennasia decided to try their luck and send in a few of the new tracks. "Ryuichi Sakamoto is one of my heroes, but I haven't meant to make music like him, yet his music is one of my ideals." Producer Nerve explains, "Always sharp, radical, beautiful and also academic. Simply, I love his music from early Thousand Knives to recent Chasm. Of course, YMO is great, too. I think his early style is already something we call electronica recently. I guess there is some influence from his music in mine that I am not aware of. We were very lucky to be able to get a recommendation from such a great musician."
So what about this new album then? Vocalist san gives us some pointers on how this album should be percieved: "antennasia has built a city called 'Velo-City' on this album. '23 Bluebird Street, Velo-City' is your address. We have put many events in this city on the album and we hope that miraculous pictures come to your mind while listening to the songs." Well, with that in mind, it's time to sit down and listen.
The first thing that's noticable when comparing to previous antennasia albums, is the absence of the lead-heavy 'Bristol'-dub-bass. Secondly, there's a lot more experimenting going on. While most tracks are perfectly arranged 'head to tail' songs, many of them are plastered with choppy gritty sound effects, which somehow fall perfectly into place. Nothing seems to be coincidental. The most powerful aspect here is the incredible synergy with the dreamy vocals from san. The opening-track Pegasus does a good job of setting the scene for things to come. While the music works itself away from conventionality, the vocals bathe the overall mood with unprecedented comfort and warmth. Familiarity strikes and makes you feel right at home, yearning for more.
While tracks like Kemono Michi, Nightcamel and Velowitch's Trick provide for educated danceability, it's tracks like Mannequin, Blue Dress, Yojigen Kosa Shingo Ikiru and First Flight that put antennasia into a league of their own. Blown away is the trip-hop / dub label that's been stamped on them in the past way too often. So far this album is probably the best example of how antennasian music is supposed to sound.
It's difficult to say what my favorite track on this album would be. With every listen there's new layers of sound to discover. If you instantly like what you hear, you're going to love this in the long run. These days it's near impossible to come up with an authentic sound without ending up with pretentious, hard to swallow material, but antennasia have actually managed to achieve this with 23 Bluebird Street, Velo-City.
It's hard to imagine where antennasia will go from here. It's going to be a challenge to come up with a worthy successor. Nerve hopes this album will be a turning point for antennasia, which carefully implies he's got more of this goodness in the pipeline. Meanwhile san has a more zen-like approach to the future: "We'll go anywhere we like, floating with the stream of life. Our next destination hasn't been decided yet. We'll flow being given energy from many people, like we always have". Whatever happens, they won't be needing any recommendations from the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto. Their music will carry their rising star on it's own strength.
Album: 23 Bluebird Street, Velo-City
Label: Forestnauts Records
Cat. nr.: FNRI-8
1. Pegasus (4:22)
2. Kemono Michi (5:21)
3. Mannequin (4:12)
4. Yojigen Kosa Shingo Ikiru (5:49)
5. Blue Dress (3:20)
6. Night Camel (5:26)
7. Paradise Parlor (3.20)
8. Sorrow (version about me) (6:10)
9. First Flight (5:51)
10. Velowitch's Trick (5:01)