LUV K RAFT - Luv it

review - 20.11.2018 11:01

Cool, cute and catchy.

Founded in 2013, the rather funnily named LUV K RAFT started their European conquest at Japan Expo in Paris this summer. The band consists of two singers, a drummer, and a guitarist who is also credited for ”manipulate”, which probably refers to the use of synthesisers and such. The band describes their style with three informative C's: ”Cool & Cute & Catchy”. In addition to that, they make a special point about all the content from audio designing to visual illustrations being self-produced by the band members themselves. Independent and creative are what listeners are led to anticipate.

Luv it is the second mini-album by LUV K RAFT, although the eight songs and half an hour length could be considered a full album as well. Seven of the tracks were composed by the band members themselves while the eighth, marked as a bonus track, is a cover of Yoshiharu Shiina's RABBIT-MAN, cleverly named RABBIT-MAN ~LUV it MAN~ here, a wordplay on the original title. Lyrics for the original songs were written by the vocalist KAREN while compositions are by the guitarist-manipulator Masato Kitano. Arrangements are credited to the band as a whole. In the info sheet accompanying the album LUV K RAFT promises that their sound that mixes up pop, rock, and coolness will provide some new sensations. The claim will have to be evaluated by giving the album a good listening.

Mikakunin hokou buttai gives the album a buoyant start with an electronic beat and a simple synthesiser riff. These are soon accompanied by a decent pop singer's voice running through verses and choruses. No age-old pop music conventions are shaken; the easygoing melodies flow smoothly through the listener's ears without stirring up too many passionate emotions. For a while the song sounds like the perfect example of an unsurprising pop song until the C-part strikes with a surprising rap-like spoken word section. And it's in English at that! The utterly unexpected element breaks the song's conventional lukewarmness with an almost violent force, providing plenty of personal touch that the song seemed to lack at first.

The following FOXY continues on the same tracks of synthesised pop rock sound with rap passages recited mostly in English. In fact, this formula proves to be common to almost all of the album's songs. Traditional rock band instruments, to say nothing of acoustic ones, are not heard on the album. True, Masato Kitano has been credited as guitarist but if there's guitar on the album, the sound is so heavily synthesised that one can't particularly recognise it as guitar. Also the drummer Kazya's performance has been modified to sound like electronic drums throughout. Due to these artistic solutions, Luv it is thoroughly characterised by a rather personal sounding synthpop atmosphere. Overall, the soundscape is closer to retro synthpop than futuristic spacerock. The band's synthesised performance radiates analogic warmth instead of industrialised sterility and coldness. The sound is smooth and flexible rather than violent and aggressive.

Another trait that marks the uniqueness of LUV K RAFT's sound is the use of two very different kind of singers. KAREN has been credited as vocalist while Mishu does ”performance” as well. One may probably guess that this refers to Mishu being in charge of the rap sections, or perhaps it's just the other way around. Anyway, the share of work between the vocalists is clear enough. One is in charge of the bright pop leads while the other does the rapping and provides some backing vocals in a lower register. Twin vocals are widely and creatively used, and differences between the vocalists nicely made use of. This makes an integral part of the album's overall impression.

While the basic concept and sound design on Luv it are rather personal and interesting, the compositions leave a bit to hope for. There's no doubt that LUV K RAFT is a band with clear artistic vision and the capacity to realise it. Nevertheless, the compositions don't appear to be as creative and interesting as the overall sound. After the somewhat catchy FOXY, the album spends a long while in a grey mist of songs that incite neither grand emotions nor uplifting sensations of novelty. On the other hand, none of the songs can really be reproached as being particularly annoying either. Rather, the easily flowing songs present themselves as harmless summer day's music that is easy to get on with but not very apt for any deeper relationships. This may very well have been the composer's intention, though, since there surely is the demand for easygoing summer music as well.

Be that as it may, the end of the album brings some evidence of LUV K RAFT's ability to provide brilliant compositions as well. The sixth track Hourensei, with its longing melodies and jazzy brass sounds, is an excellent song that you may want to listen to over and over again after the album has ended. The track is like a startling awakening from the slumber into which the earlier part of the album had fallen. Luckily, the state of awakening continues with the seventh track as well. THE CITY ON BLACK starts off with an irresistible latino funk groove and provides some very danceable rhythms, successfully illustrating the song's title.

In addition to the band's own compositions Luv it contains a cover track, RABBIT-MAN ~LUV it MAN~ by Yoshiharu Shiina, as a bonus track. The dramatic composition serves perfectly as an album closer, even if the song has been heavily re-arranged to fit into the overall soundscape of Luv it. The original guitar oriented rock
band version has been skillfully turned into synthpop that doesn't collide with other material on the album but fits nicely into the whole. Despite the arrangement being independent and creative in other parts, for some reason the lead vocals are not performed by KAREN and Mishu. It remains a mystery who is behind the dramatic voice,
interpreting Yoshiharu's words. In any case, the vocal performance is very faithful to, if not downright imitating the original, which is just a little strange considering how freely they arranged the song otherwise.

With regard to sound production and basic concept Luv it fulfills the promise of providing something novel. The album presents LUV K RAFT as an interesting and talented band that has many great ideas and the creativity to realise them. Whether or not the somewhat conventional and unsurprising compositions prove to be an obstacle for
greater interest in the group will depend on each listener. However, the last three tracks on the album in particular show that there's some really inspiring songwriting as well. If both risk-free and carefree synthpop is your thing, then Luv it is definitely an album to check out.
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