Review Exclusive

HARU NEMURI - LOVETHEISM

10/11/2020 2020-11-10 01:00:00 JaME Author: Adolfiina

HARU NEMURI - LOVETHEISM

The angry singer keeps shouting, remaining faithful to her style.


© HARU NEMURI
Mini-Album 12-inch vinyl

LOVETHEISM

HARU NEMURI

It has been about two years since the release of HARU NEMURI's debut album Haru to Shura. And as sometimes happens to chosen Japanese indie albums, that one was set upon with a great excitement by review blogs and reaction videos around Europe and America. With her passionate (to the point of downright screaming) vocal interpretations, HARU NEMURI penetrated the hearts of many indie music enthusiasts. At the same time, the cool lo-fi production and the singer's peculiar, half-melodic, half-declarative singing style provided enough novelty for the album to positively stick out among thousands of other passionate artists. As a musician, NEMURI was, and is, a neat mixture of trendiness, creativity and strong social commentary. An article by The Japan Times even characterised NEMURI as ”speaking to the zeitgeist of 2018”.

Thus, it is no wonder that the singer's second album LOVETHEISM was greatly anticipated both in Japan and overseas. In addition to worldwide digital availability, the French indie publisher Specific Recordings has answered collectors' demands with a European vinyl pressing. The record is a heavyweight coloured vinyl available in three different colours, each of which is limited to 333 copies. The first pressing (red) has already been sold out but the other two are still available at Specific Recordings' Bandcamp page. Until now, there has not been much to complain about with Specific's vinyl pressings, and such is the case with LOVETHEISM as well. All the basic information about the record, such as musicians featured on each song, is printed on the back cover of the jacket. The only slightly questionable detail is the lack of printed lyrics, which is slightly disappointing when the inner sleeve has been left plain.

A point worth criticising is the lack of original Japanese song titles. English translations of the titles are of course justified in a European edition. However, as translations always carry a risk of spreading misunderstanding, it would be desirable from the publisher to always include titles and lyrics in original language as well. Unfortunately, LOVETHEISM contains an example illustrating this point. The album's closing track, translated as Apple Song (Ringo no uta), is not in fact an ode to the delicious fruit but rather NEMURI's farewell song to her late guinea pig named Ringo, a fact completely hidden by the, semantically not incorrect (”ringo” indeed means apple in Japanese), translation. (This and other facts regarding the album referred to in this review are based on an interview with natalie.mu.)



How about the audio content of this pretty plastic disc? At first glance, one aspect of the album may strike some as rather unusual. Namely, it features only seven songs and lasts but half an hour. By contemporary standards, such a length would probably be labelled as a ”mini-album”. Then again, especially considered together with the album's vinyl appearance, the concise length gives a certain nostalgic air from times when long-plays were not actually much longer than LOVETHEISM.

Another somewhat old-fashioned feature of the album is that it has a surprisingly strong feeling of unity: not just a collection of individual songs but a well considered piece of art as a whole. The three singles released as music videos - Fanfare, Trust Nothing but Love (Ai yori tashikana mono nante nai) and Riot - are songs that stand quite nicely on their own. The remaining four - Pink Unicorn, LOVETHEISM, Be Your Ocean (Umi ni natte) and Apple Song - on the other hand, are each largely based on one progressive key theme. As such, the songs do not leave such strong impressions taken individually but serve instead excellently as parts of the album's dramatic run.


As may be deduced from the title, a major lyrical theme of the album is love. Together with the suffix "-theism", it makes up a word that was the result of NEMURI's attempt at finding an object of faith that would not result in the numerous mistakes and misconceptions that faith in specific religious dogmas have caused over the course of human history. However, what the singer means by love does not seem to be quite the same as most rock singers. Instead, she talks of love as a sort of personal recognition of one's existence here and now. This self-recognition is a fundamental aspect of human existence and there is nothing surer than it, as NEMURI heavily emphasises on Trust Nothing but Love. In this sense it seems correct to hail the singer as a voice of our times.

HARU NEMURI has the aura of a punk singer not at all content with the surrounding society. To her, anger is not only an everyday emotion but also a motivator of change. Just some faults of the surrounding culture that arouse the singer's choler include making public entertainment out of human tragedies, and encouraging young people to exhaust themselves with work. The general degradation of discussion culture and rational thinking seems to be of concern to NEMURI as well. In short, the scope of the demand for change is wide and deep. And art - in NEMURI's case, music - is seen by the angry singer as a means to contribute to change. This channeling of candid irritation to music is indeed one of her most attractive and distinctive characteristics.

However, musically, LOVETHEISM does not exactly sound aggressive. Rather, it continues quite faithfully along the airy living room pop lines familiar from Haru to Shura. No actual band is featured on the album. Each of the seven songs only feature a guitarist and sometimes a bassist. Drums, synthesisers and other programming has been, with few exceptions, produced by NEMURI herself. This gives the album a fairly recognisable, cold and sterile soundscape which makes a really interesting contrast with NEMURI's fiery singing.


As with her debut, HARU NEMURI is not aiming for heartbreaking melodies on this album, either. Instead, the power of her choruses is in their beating rhythms which pound through the listeners' ears with a furious passion. Still, in spite of the lack of top-hit melodies, the album gives the impression of ”artsy pop” rather than ”punk”. Although the general soundscape is rather cold and uninviting, it's not exactly harsh either and is ultimately rather pleasant to listen to.

On its Bandcamp page, LOVETHEISM has been tagged, among other tags, as ”noise”. One must admit these influences are rather subtle, though not totally absent as Pink Unicorn, probably the album's most playful piece, proves. Based on one groovy riff in 5/4 time signature, the song rushes forward like a tank until coming to a sudden halt and sinking into a weird, rather psychedelic interlude. From there it rises again, continuing with the opening riff and developing into a mayhem of layered synthesiser patterns. This kind of musical adventure would be most welcome in larger quantities on the artist's future albums.

Another example from the album's more innovative side is Fanfare whose grandiose horn section mixed up with distorted electric guitars sounds quite fresh and exciting. The title track LOVETHEISM, with its computerised beats, and the bass-driven Be Your Ocean are both fine tracks with a cool air that successfully sustain the album's dramatic tension. And then the closing track Apple Song is a brilliant example of a tender song which nonetheless does not fall into excessive sentimentality. One can just about hear that the recording session has been emotional but the occasion has not been overdramatised, neither by the singer's interpretation nor by the simplistic composition.

The album's major weakness is most strikingly manifested in Trust Nothing but Love. The song itself is fairly good, with a catchy synth riff and an energetic tempo. However, it is precisely the energy of the composition which absolutely requires a more lively performance. NEMURI herself does great of course, but the lack of live band makes the song sound like an overblown karaoke performance by the passionate singer. Especially the mechanic drum fills in the middle part considerably impair the fury the song could convey under different circumstances. Unfortunately, the song remains half-dead without the magic that takes place when live musicians play together.


Concludingly, LOVETHEISM leaves an impression that HARU NEMURI has steadily kept up the interesting course started on her debut album. Yet, it feels that the singer's genuine artistic breakthrough is yet to come. LOVETHEISM still sounds like there is more explosive potential in the music than has actually been released. Although the album doesn't signal a remarkable stylistic departure from Haru to Shura, there are small hints here and there of NEMURI's development as a songwriter and especially as an arranger. The most obvious problem is that some songs definitely require a live band, although songs like LOVETHEISM work totally fine without one.

NEMURI certainly has no reason to give up utilising her digital music production skills. However, Trust Nothing but Love makes it undoubtedly clear that mere band arrangement and a digital imitation of a punk band are not enough to convey the artist's passion. It seems obvious that NEMURI would need a band as furious as herself to release the crackling energy in her music. One may hope that in the future this energy could be mixed up with the artist's aspirations on the field of computer music. Now that would no doubt be a genuine musical riot.

 Buy the limited vinyl edition of "LOVETHEISM" from Specific Recordings
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