I guess this quarantine has helped me revive some old blog segments lol
Waaaaaay back in 2018, fellow blogger/Japanese music fan Leap250 and I started a collaboration where we both gave each other an album from our respective libraries to listen to and review in a blog post. Cleverly named “J-Music Exchange/Rate” by Leap, it was a pretty cool idea and at the time, I also thought it would be a good way to expand my horizons regarding J-music.
We’ve only done one instance of this segment where I reviewed Leap’s choice, Kinoko Teikoku’s Uzu ni Naru, while he went ahead and discussed my choice in SHISHAMO 3 (you should definitely check those two out). And after nearly two years later, we decided to do another one of these reviews! This time around, I’ll be talking about NEGOTO’s first full-length studio album, ex Negoto, and you can check out Leap’s take on my choice, THIS IS MUSIC by Ohashi Trio.
To be very honest with you, I still don’t exactly know how to write an album review lol. It’s a lot more different than what I’m used to with anime and movies and such. But hopefully my thoughts will make sense in this post!
But before we dive into the music itself, let’s take a brief moment to talk about the band NEGOTO themselves.
Consisting of guitarist Masuda Mizuki, bassist Fujisaki Yu, Sawamura Sayako on drums and vocalist/keyboardist Aoyama Sachiko, NEGOTO was formed when the members were still in high school, like many all-female rock bands. While they did form in 2006, it wouldn’t be until 2008 when they started performing for live audiences, including an appearance at a Sony Music-run competition for teenagers. NEGOTO would later get the chance to sign a music label with Sony Music sublabel Ki/oon Records and release a mini-album named Hello! “Z” in September 2010.
Since their debut in 2010, the group has released eleven singles, four EPs and five albums, with a few of their songs being featured in big name anime series such as Gintama and Mobile Suit Gundam. In December 2018, NEGOTO announced that they would be disbanding after their final live tour (more specifically July 20th, 2019).
Leap’s thoughts on ex Negoto:
NEGOTO, following their recent departure from the Japanese Music scene, will forever go down in the record books as one of the true pioneers of Electro/Synth Pop Rock in contemporary Girls Rock. That being said, the real ‘magic’ of NEGOTO comes not from their Electronica but rather mostly from their atmospheric bass and drum work, the best display of which (in my own opinion at least) came with the band’s explosive debut album ‘ex Negoto’. This absolutely mystifying instrumentation is uniquely present across all the tracks in the album, but best exemplified in songs like the opening track “Cider no Umi” or some of the bangers of the album like “B-Side” and “Mercilou”. “Loop” and “Charon” bring the style full circle with what would be NEGOTO’s now-trademark synth and hooks. These are all held together and seamlessly mesh thanks to Sachiko Aoyama’s vocal presence, especially for songs like ‘Fuwari no Koto’ and “Kisetsu”. Just a beautiful album all in all.
The band’s name, ‘NEGOTO / ねごと’, translates to ‘sleep-talking’ in English and as Aoyama Sachiko explained in an interview with Arama!Japan, the name reflects the kind of music they create: dream-like. While it may not seem apparent when you listen to the very first track “Cider no Umi” and its loud intro, you really do start to get that feeling throughout this album. When I thought about it, a lot of the tracks on this album could be considered like riding a rollercoaster. They start off with the verses generally being calm and cool, given different aspects like the note picking on the guitar or the bass have more of a presence at times. Then the intensity starts to build up and the chorus ends up being the loudest and having the most energy. And right after, we go back down into a more soft sound; rinse and repeat.
…did that make sense? Well, basically all I’m saying is that this collection of songs definitely showed off NEGOTO’s excellent expression of emotion. The ‘rollercoaster-like’ pattern within their songs definitely gave that ‘dream-like’ and almost psychedelic vibe since there was so much going on while still having a mellow feel to it. “Charon” is a good example of such, with the lyrics also being reflective of that: How many dreams will I have to pass through before I can meet you? / Right now, right now, I’m crossing through a country of tears / The distant yet close moon is just like you / If I believe in this feeling, will I meet you? (lyric translation thanks to Kafka’s Japanese Musicbox)
That particular atmosphere of ex Negoto is thanks to Sachiko’s strong vocals and especially, the instrumentation. While Sachiko sounds, kind of, similar to other all-female bands/groups, it’s very apparent that she can sing with a lot of passion if needed. Especially at choruses, like with “Charon” or “Tanabata”, her being able to hit those high notes while also singing in a more somber tone at certain times makes for a very nice vocal performance.
As for instrumentation… it’s amazing. One song in particular definitely can sum up my thoughts on NEGOTO and how great of a job they compose music. “Beside” (I wish they had a video on YouTube) is just full of sentiment and has so much going on. The smooth bass, ringing synth, sick guitar solo and especially that awesome drum playing in the back… everything was combined so well to make a song that was just super memorable due to its amount of passion. The ways they play their respective instruments and how they come together was something I absolutely loved, since it truly did sound dream-like and psychedelic.
“Beside / ビーサイド”
And as I mentioned earlier, NEGOTO is one of those rock bands where piano/keyboard has a pretty big presence throughout their music. While a lot of other groups tend to stick with their normal guitar-bass-drums combo and may have a piano part here and there, Sachiko and her abilities on the keyboard showed that adding an instrument like that works in a rock music setting. Not only as a way to express a more electronic sound but even the songs where a more classical-sounding piano was used like in “Kisetsu” and the final song in the album “Instrumental”, it just mended together with the aggressiveness of the guitar or the drums in a fantastic way. It definitely added some bright flair to what was already a nice rock group.
The combination of electro/synth and rock is something I don’t think I’ve really experienced a lot of, even before getting into the Japanese music scene. It may have been because I didn’t exactly find electro/techno/EDM music to be intriguing at the time (it has grown on me recently) but NEGOTO’s first album introduced me to not only the genre of electronic music but also its combination with rock.
Now I know ex Negoto is not entirely electronic. In fact, it has way more of an ‘alt-rock’ sound, compared to their newer stuff. But to just hear a taste of how NEGOTO combines the two genres together was great to hear. The most notable performance with synth was “Mercilou” with the very memorable riff by Sachiko. When I first heard that song (and pretty much, every time I listen to it), hearing that almost sad-sounding synth with the more traditional rock melody immediately got my attention and at that point, I knew I was in for a sick track.
In conclusion, ex Negoto by NEGOTO was a very, very enjoyable album. Being someone who had never heard of the band prior to being introduced to the album, I did not expect NEGOTO to have such a unique style to them. Usually rock bands are pretty traditional with their sound but I think this particular band just takes the genre to another level with its intense energy and electronic flair. I absolutely loved the amount of differing emotions expressed throughout this album, whether that be from Sachiko and her vocal styling or each of the instruments played; my mind felt like it was on an adrenaline rush at times. And while this album isn’t as ‘electronic’ as the group’s other stuff, I believe it was still a great showcase of how NEGOTO implements that in a genre like rock.
If you’re looking for a rock group that has more of a unique characteristic about them, I’d say NEGOTO and their first album is something that you may find interesting.
Aaaand that’s all I got for you today!
I hope you found this review to be interesting! I had a blast writing it and I’m glad Leap introduced me to this album and group. Also, you can click here to read what Leap said about the album I gave him, Ohashi Trio’s THIS IS MUSIC, which is more on the jazz/blues side of things.
Thanks for reading!! 😀