KOKIA - Sakura no ki no shita de/Hikari no hou e

review - 14.05.2011 04:00

A deeply evocative double A-side.

KOKIA is well-known for her varied musical styles and above all, her voice. Her vocal flexibility lends itself well to many different musical genres, from classical to pop. As such, it is unsurprising that she is often enlisted to provide music for anime and games. Her latest single release, consisting of double A-sides Sakura no ki no shita de and Hikari no hou e, are featured as the opening and ending themes for the anime OAV "Saiyuki Gaiden."

The first track, Sakura no ki no shita de, is a great example of an East meets West crossover. In terms of overall sound it could be described as a pop ballad, but this is too generic a term for something so detailed. It begins with a violin and viola accompaniment to a niko solo. The two-stringed instrument, used traditionally in Chinese and Japanese music, features throughout the song and blends seamlessly with the other more Western instruments. It gives the piece a traditional feel without being overbearing, in a similar style to one of KOKIA's older songs, Hana utage. The star of the piece, as always, is KOKIA's flawless voice. During the verse it is delicate and soft, sitting comfortably with the piano backing. When the chorus arrives she displays the power and emotion with which she can sing, the pure clarity of her vocals standing out against the full swell of the instruments. The layers of sound in this track give it a great richness and texture: a subtle koto gives a little flourish, the cello's depth and the flute mirrors the pureness of the vocals. Just as the cherry blossom petals it describes, the song dances, flows and carries the listener along with it to the end. Complex and moving, it is a beautiful piece of music in every sense.

Hikari no hou e is a much simpler ballad than the previous track but is still a thoughtfully written song. KOKIA is accompanied only by a piano, as is often the case in her compositions. This puts the focus squarely on her performance, which she delivers with much skill and feeling. As the song is so stripped down, the vocals are equally unassuming to match. Instead of making the piece seem bare and boring however, this quiet arrangement and the soothing vocals give it a warm and enveloping feel — it has an intimacy to it, to make you feel as if you were all in the same room. Filled with much longing and a touch of sorrow, it is just as poignant as Sakura no ki no shita de. It just makes its point modestly as opposed to the more grandiose nature of the previous track.

It has been almost a year since KOKIA released a maxi-single (her other 2010 singles were all digital download only), but it has been worth the wait. The sound and quality are unmistakably KOKIA, and with these two memorable songs she has proved again why her voice and song-writing ability are so much in demand.
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