KOKIA - trip trip

review - 05.22.2008 08:00

trip trip shows KOKIA's talent at singing and composing pop songs with a twinge of Middle Eastern sound.

After releasing her first album Song Bird in 1999, KOKIA changed labels and took a break for a few years. She then released three singles in 2001, followed by her second full album trip trip in January 2002. With trip trip, she seems to be showing a truer side of herself, subtly mixing her incredible vocal talent and classical background with pop.

trip trip starts off with the song Chouwa, which serves as an excellent introduction to the album. The song starts with only KOKIA’s vocals and some soft, synthesized sounds in the background. The song has a feeling that may remind one of the Middle East, not only because of the instruments used, but also because of the vocals. Instead of singing in the eight note scale that we know here in the west, KOKIA strays from the usual path and uses twelve tones to base her melody on. Often, this style of singing sounds whiny and annoying to western ears that aren’t used to it, but KOKIA manages to do it in such a way that the song ends up being very catchy, with an arabesque feeling to it. In the rest of the album, this singing style is occasionally used, though much more subtly.

Another fact worth mentioning about Chouwa is, during the second part of the song, the lyrics sound like they are Japanese, but actually aren’t. It turns out that KOKIA is singing the syllables backwards, giving it an even more foreign feeling.

After the impressive introduction, three pop songs follow which have little in common with the first track and show us a completely different side of KOKIA. Jikau toki wa actually has a bit of a country western flavor because of the acoustic guitar and mouth harp playing throughout the song. Say Hi!! is an upbeat pop song bringing images of summer to mind and The rule of the universe is a slower paced pop song, which is actually a bit reminiscent of songs by American singer Jewel.

The next song, Princess ÉHIME, is mysterious and somehow sounds a little threatening. The instrumentals have been kept to a minimum, with the basic rhythm only consisting of percussion instruments and a little bass. KOKIA sings with a breathy voice, floating through the mysterious song, and somehow the repetitive, steady rhythm works in a hypnotic way.

Tenshi follows; it's a ballad that starts out very quietly. The fragile sounds of KOKIA’s voice builds up with the tension and changes the gentle ballad to a louder sound, which gives the song a more emotional feeling. Next up is a song that is a little reminiscent of Princess ÉHIME with its repetitive, hypnotic rhythm: Pink no zou. However, this song is more playful and quirky and actually rather cute, seeing as it refers to pink elephants.

From the experimental song we are launched into Hello passing days, which is quite a contrast seeing as it’s an upbeat, catchy pop song. Parts of the lyrics are in English, which makes it very appealing to sing along with during the catchy choruses. Things quiet down again with the next song, Hana, a beautiful ballad with fragile, breathy vocals. Slowly, the song builds up a little, and a subtle Middle East feeling returns in both the rhythm and the vocals.

Ningen tte sonna mono ne is actually the heaviest song on the album. It’s a moderately paced song, but because of the drums, cymbals and the electric guitar solo, it sounds like rock. Though KOKIA’s vocals are high-pitched and still very lovely, there’s a feeling of unhappiness, negativity and frustration brewing in an underlying layer. The following song, Ashiato, contrasts with this sound again. The song has a French accordion playing once in a while, and is a very merry and cheerful pop tune.

Then, the Middle East comes back in full force with Tomoni. The vocals are done beautifully, with trills and the use of the Arabic scales to allow for more notes in the melody. The song is quick, with acoustic percussion, and especially in this song we can see KOKIA’s amazing vocal talent, as well as her ability to compose a very complex song completely off the beaten path.

The album ends with a gift, a beautiful ballad with fragile vocals and a dreamy atmosphere.

With trip trip, KOKIA showed us the many talents she has to offer. Even though it’s one of her older albums, it’s understandably still a fan favorite, and is also suitable to pull new listeners who are not familiar with KOKIA’s work yet into her world.
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