Unshin - Waltz for Broken Dolls

review - 04.05.2011 09:14

Unshin's debut album is a mix of everything, from light Shibuya-kei influenced sound to rock and eerie ballads.

The Sendai and UK based group Unshin is a multicultural group whose members are extremely talented. They offer a wide selection of musical styles in their debut album Waltz for Broken Dolls.

Waltz for Broken Dolls relies heavily on the concept of a young Japanese girl struggling to maintain her identity under societal pressures and expectations. The tracks on the album are designed to be listened to in order and convey moments of the young girls’ psyche and her interactions with her surroundings. The quieter, submissive tracks define her moments of reflection; the remaining tracks that stray from this show the young girl's interactions with the world.

The album opens with Since When, which starts with a sound byte of children playing on a playground. A short dialogue follows and layers upon a beautiful melody and even features shakuhachi. Since When is a nice segue into the second track, Temporary Relief.

The eerie ticking of a clock paired with the gentle strum of a koto in Temporary Relief opens up an intriguing secret world and even sounds similar to the intro of Sting’s King of Pain. Temporary Relief begins with a quiet, captivating melody that soon dissipates. Less than forty seconds into the song, the tempo changes, the koto disappears and the song turns into a rock song: Unshin’s real face is unveiled and for the first time, Megumi’s voice is heard.

Water Knife is a wonderfully eerie track set in minor key. The cello and violin complement the track well. Vocalist Megumi softens her voice to a partial whisper and carries a melody that runs fleetingly through the vibrato violin line; the piano, towards the end of the song, offers a range of beautiful minor key chords that leave the listener thinking, “Am I still listening to the same song?!”

Doll sounds like the run-of-the-mill J-pop song; it carries the typical melody found in most J-pop as it uses the pentatonic scale but is little dull as it’s something that has been done before. However, Evidence shatters all expectations and brightens up the tone of the album. With elements of jazzy Shibuya-kei and a psychedelic brass band, the track tells the story of the young girl and her bizarre journey into world. It’s a little surprising to hear such a lively track in amongst quieter tracks but otherwise, Evidence is a good addition to the album.

The intro to The Face is amazing! It begins with layered dialogue of young women talking and grows louder, like bees buzzing around the ears, before jumping into an 80's glam/hard rock sound. The vocals sound as if they were broadcast from a radio and create an interesting style. The line “if you have anything to tell me, scream it out right now / because you have nothing to be scared of…” reassures the listener that self-expression is normal and encouraged, and in terms of relating the meaning of the song to Unshin’s concept, it highlights the moment when the young girl realizes this. The Face ends with a simple piece advice: “Live your life.”

The album ends with Waltz for Broken Dolls: a short waltz on the piano that illustrates the end of the young girls’ journey. It sums up the album in just under a minute and half. The listener tastes sorrow, beauty and passion as the seconds count down to the end.

In general, debut albums are a treat for any fan. It showcases a band’s true talent before they conform to a popular style, and Waltz for Broken Dolls does just that, encompassing a wide variety of styles into an album and containing beautiful lyrics.

The single Running, taken from the album Waltz for Broken Dolls, will be available through iTunes and Amazon.com. A preview of the single can also be heard through Unshin's Myspace and Facebook pages.
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