Rurutia – Water Forest
ルルティア – Water Forest
(released February 26th, 2003)
1. パヴァーヌ [Pavane]
2. 朱雀の空 [Suzaku no Sora]
3. オール [Oar]
4. 星のたましい [Hoshi no Tamashii]
5. サンクチュアリ [Sanctuary]
6. ゆるぎない美しいもの [Yuruginai Utsukushii Mono]
7. 幻惑の風 [Genwaku no Kaze]
8. シャイン [Shine]
9. 満ちる森 [Michiru Mori]
10. 思季 [Shiki]
Rurutia’s 2nd album. It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any of Rurutia’s works, so it’ll be interesting going through her again and seeing if her style has changed much since R°.
*some songs have already been reviewed, and are linked to their reviews
It’s too early to say whether Rurutia is continuing the trend of having a signature album-opener like Elements on her previous album, but Pavane is a wonderful contrast piece to begin Water Forest with. The poetic lyrics speak of sin and the speaker’s search for redemption (I get this whole image of the Seven Deadly Sins and an indulgent feast in which the people are surrounded by grim reapers). Pavane is like some mad dance – the verses’ calm movements compared to the frenzied storm of the chorus. I really like the instrumentals – they set up this whole “palace” atmosphere – not a majestic one, but one that’s past its glory and is fading into corruption.
And we get hit with a single track next, Suzaku no Sora. After Pavane’s dreamy haze, Suzaku no Sora is a wake-up call. I still like Suzaku no Sora as much as when I first heard it, so it brings back a lot of fond memories for me.
Oar brings us back to the land of dreams – or more accurately, rows us through it. The pulsing guitar chords are the rowing motions one makes with an oar, and Rurutia’s voice are the waves carrying us through. I think about rowing through one of those slow rivers in which the willows are really low and draping over the passengers. I love the vocalizing (sighing) throughout the song. The song just sounds very lonely – and indeed, Oar is about missing a beloved person, and just sighing and continuing to row through life alone.
So now we’re floating among the stars and clouds in our dreams with Hoshi no Tamashii, the first happy song on this album. The title means “star’s soul” – and reminds me of a little girl looking up stars and not wishing on one, but just looking. It uses similar accompaniment to Oar, but sounds less trippy. It’s also full of hopeful feelings and I guess it might just be me, but I think this is the first time I’ve heard Rurutia sound cutesy.
Given that Sanctuary‘s lyrics are about someone willing to die to be with someone else for eternity, I’d been expecting something dark and depressing, but what I hear is actually a lot better. Instead of resignation and despair, there’s this calm ache of longing, and a hint of madness. It’s as if the woman is entirely convinced that what she is doing is the perfect thing to do. The instrumentals alternate between serene and foreboding, creating a disorienting atmosphere. I keep thinking of a sunset over the edge of some dark cliff – which could be looked upon as either beautiful or spooky.
The album then piles four previously released tracks in a row. Yuruginai Utsukushii Mono, Rurutia’s 3rd single, sounds out of place after Sanctuary, and would belong more placed next to Hoshi no Tamashii, but I guess alternating moods works too.
And alternate they do, since we get the windy Genwaku no Kaze, the B-side of Suzaku no Sora. right after. I still love this song, but it seems to have lost the impact it used to have – maybe I’ve just gotten more critical, but I’ve also noticed that Rurutia sings a bit off pitch in some areas. And it doesn’t have the same amount of impact as the A-side.
Ah, Shine. How fondly I remember your flute part. It’s track that stands out most on the album, since it doesn’t seem to go with the style of the rest of the songs. Although I can’t help noticing this time that Rurutia seems to have trouble hitting the lowest notes…
Michiru Mori, the B-side of Shine, is yet another strong track. I like it even more after revisiting it, because it’s a strong, driving track – a lot of this album seems limp in comparison to it. Would be a great way to end the album except…
…there’s Shiki. “Shiki” means “seasons”, and I thought it would be a song that takes us through the seasons musically – instead, it seems to focus on summer, with its lazy feel and the cicada/cricket-like sounds. Rurutia’s singing just sort of meanders about without any direction. It’s a decent album outro, fading out as the end of summer arrives, etc.
Final Thoughts: Despite my excitement to review Water Forest, it was definitely a bit of a step down from R°. Rurutia’s album originals feel very lacking in comparison to the singles, which were stuck mostly in the second half by some bad tracklist compiler. The three singles preceding the album had good variety, but the new material sounded pretty much the same. Rurutia seems to be adding a bit more rock and trying to make the songs more mainstream-friendly, but all we get is this non-catchy, in-between, watered-down shmuck – aside from a few moments, the emotion was flat. While I still liked Water Forest somewhat, I hope Rurutia doesn’t fall into a rut that artists like her usually do – a unique overall style that sets her apart from other singer-songwriters, but sounding the same within her style. If it weren’t for the inclusion of the single material, I would have given this album a much lower rating.
Favorite Track(s): the singles by a long stretch, but I also really like Pavane and Oar.
Overall Grade: B
So far, I’ve reviewed all of Rurutia’s music in her R° era and the singles in her Water Forest era; if any of you have noticed, save photoshoots for CD covers, we haven’t seen her face. Rurutia has an mysterious air around her; even now, nobody knows her real name and age.
In my quest to learn more about this secretive chanteuse, I did a bit of searching around. I found an interview she gave in 2006. It was from a French fansite, and whether it was momentary whim or diligent pratice for my French final exam, I sat down with a dictionary and translated it.
For those of you who don’t know, Rurutia switched over to an indies label in 2005. This interview tells you her thoughts and reasons behind the decision, as well as her insights into her creative process. Enjoy!
Continue Reading Rurutia’s first interview…
Rurutia – Shine
ルルティア – シャイン
(released January 22nd, 2003)
1. シャイン [Shine]
2. 満ちる森 [Michiru Mori]
3. シャイン（ヒマラヤンハーモニー）feat. インドラ [Shine (Himalayan Harmony) feat. Indra]
Rurutia’s 5th single. Shine is one of the rare Rurutia songs to get a music video (the preceding two being Itoshigo yo and Lost Butterfly) although it has not been officially released. This single is also her first collaboration with another artist – the flutist Indra.
Shine – since a lot of Rurutia’s songs fit their title, I expected the image to be something glittering. This shine is more of a soft morning glow on a mountain peak overlooking a valley of trees covered in layers of clouds. I’ve praised Rurutia’s vocals enough by now so there’s not much to say except I like her clarity here. What makes Shine unique is the composition, which has an ethnic tone because of Indra’s flute playing. The piano and strings were nice too. Maybe it’s just me, but ironically, the melody sounds the most mainstream out of all her songs so far.
Michiru Mori sees the return of the guitar that was absent during the A-side with an interestingly discordant intro. Rurutia also returns to her “siren voice” that she’s well known for for the verses. Her head voice note in the chorus makes me wish she’d sing in that register more often. The electric guitar solo before the final chorus was enjoyable, but felt a bit out of place. The highlight would have to be, again, the song composition. The discordant intro I mentioned is a repeating motif, and gives the sense that one is wandering lost in a shady forest.
Shine (Himalayan Harmony) feat. Indra is basically the same as the first track but with Indra playing the melody instead of Rurutia singing. Her backing vocals are still there, but faint. Indra’s playing a shakuhachi (?) instead of the common flute we hear in bands and orchestras. This version has a more folk song feel than the original; I’m no expert on Asian folk songs, but I’m guessing this track sounds Tibetan? It’s a nice calming track, but seeing how I’m more partial to strings, I would have preferred a violin version instead.
Favorite Track: Michiru Mori
Overall Grade: B+
Rurutia – Suzaku no Sora
ルルティア – 朱雀の空
(released September 30th, 2002)
1. 朱雀の空 [Suzaku no Sora]
2. 幻惑の風 [Genwaku no Kaze]
Rurutia’s 4th single. Suzaku no Sora is a departure from Rurutia’s previous works – while her previous singles featured a mix of electronic and acoustic pop, this one’s a bit more rock-oriented. Rurutia never ceases to amaze me; even though she has an established style, she’s still out to try something new.
Suzaku no Sora is one song that never fails to “get to me” no matter how many times I listen to it because the emotion echoes so strongly in it. Rurutia’s delicate whisper betrays the pain in this song. Her vocals are at their best, especially the transitions to her lower range and to head voice at certain parts. There’s heavier guitar and percussion than in her usual fare and a strong synth line. This song makes me feel like I’m watching the point where the sun sets in the ocean, staining the afternoon sky blood-red. Not surprisingly, this is one of my favorite songs.
Genwaku no Kaze lives up to its title (“bewitching wind”) because the first image I get is a forest on a windy autumn late afternoon with the leaves swirling around. This track has a similar rock-influenced feel as the previous, but it’s markedly more “atmospheric” and I don’t think I hear any synths. Rurutia’s using a more lilting singing style, and the backing vocals blend so well with the main voice that this entire song feels like an illusion. The best part is the “bridge” before the final chorus with only vocal “oohs” and a variety of percussion.
Overall Grade: A+
Rurutia – Yuruginai Utsukushii Mono
ルルティア – ゆるぎない美しいもの
(released June 26th, 2002)
1. ゆるぎない美しいもの [Yuruginai Utsukushii Mono]
2. ロスト バタフライ (Brave Mix) [Lost Butterfly (Brave Mix)]
3. ミッドナイト・ラジオドラマ 恵みの島～星のつぶやき – 第1話 - [Midnight Radio Drama Megumi no Shima ~Hoshi no Tsubuyaki -dai 1 hanashi-]
4. – 第2話 – [dai 2 hanashi]
5. – 第3話 – [dai 3 hanashi]
Rurutia’s 3rd single. Included on the CD is a 3-part radio drama that uses Rurutia’s songs as BGM, but since it does not seem to feature Rurutia’s acting and I am not fluent enough in Japanese to summarize them, I left them out.
Yuruginai Utsukushii Mono has one of the best introductions. I just love listening to the harp runs over and over again, especially when Rurutia comes in with her “ohhhhh. In contrast with the flashier intro, the rest of the song is rather simple – I think those simpler songs are the ones in which Rurutia emotes the best. This track makes me think of watching the sunrise from a mountaintop cabin in the chilly morning air, with light fog and dewdrops on the grass. The only flaw was the “popping” noises in the background, but they didn’t really bother me.
Lost Butterfly (Brave Mix) – about time, I was wondering when we’d get a remix from her. Maybe it’s my imagination, but the vocals sound wispier in this one, probably due to the stronger background. The Brave Mix is considerably more electronic than the original and has a slight dance feel. It also sounds more “glassy” and even has an Oriental tint in some parts. My favorite parts were the new intro and the harp scale right before the chorus. I don’t know how daring Rurutia considers this music-wise, but it’s a great novel take on an old favorite.
Overall Grade: A
Rurutia – R°
ルルティア – アール
(released March 6th, 2002)
1. エレメンツ [Elements]
2. 知恵の実 [Chie no Mi]
3. 愛し子よ [Itoshigo yo]
4. ロスト バタフライ [Lost Butterfly]
5. 赤いろうそく [Akai Rousoku]
6. 雨の果て [Ame no Hate]
7. 僕の宇宙 君の海 [Boku no Uchuu, Kimi no Umi]
8. 僕らの箱庭 [Bokura no Hakoniwa]
9. 銀の炎 [Gin no Honoo]
10. ハートダンス [Heart Dance]
Rurutia’s 1st album. This album contains the singles Itoshigo yo and Lost Butterfly. R° utilizes a nicely balanced blend of acoustic-pop sound and electronic influences. Floating above it all is Rurutia’s mesmerizing, wispy, siren-like voice.
*some songs have already been reviewed, and are linked to their reviews
Elements is a longer version of Elements (Lode Star Melody) (which is found on the Lost Butterfly single) and has lyrics. I mentioned previously that the LSM version sounded a bit like a tribal forest ritual. This version further solidifies that image in my mind because of the wild, meandering melody and the repeated percussion (it now reminds me of a tribal rain dance). Rurutia’s own backing vocals are used more often than the choir vocals, which I liked. This version is much more stronger than the LSM one.
*Chie no Mi seems like an appropriate Track 2 after the strong album-opener. It’s markedly calmer and more “tamed” but does not lose the raw energy of Elements.
*Itoshigo yo - I don’t know how fond I am of sticking this song right here. Chie no Mi was Itoshigo yo’s B-side, and I’ve already heard them in close conjunction many times on the single.
*Lost Butterfly - it might seem awkward to pile the two singles’ title tracks together, but I like it this way, since it shows the contrasting styles and moods used in the two songs.
Akai Rousoku is what I’d call an “atmospheric” song. Instead of having the vocals as the focus, they blend with the background music in a way that allows you to “sink into” the song. The melody reminds me a bit of Bokura no Hakoniwa, but composition-wise Akai Rousoku sounds gentler and less bare. This track would make a perfect lullaby; I’m not saying that it’ll bore you, but the song’s mixing creates a soft, entrancing atmosphere that will wash over you and calm you down. Rurutia even sounds like she’s trying to sing you to sleep.
Ame no Hate is what you get when you mix Itoshigo yo, Chie no Mi, and a rainy day together. I really love Rurutia’s lower register; though nowhere near the sinister Itoshigo yo, the verses have this dark tone that sends a shiver down my spine (not from being scared, though). She uses her edgy voice during the chorus but it doesn’t stick out too much and still flows smoothly. The instrumentals are what give the song the “rainy day” image (the percussion reminds me of falling rain). Plus, the lyrics are about two lovers in the rain.
Boku no Uchuu, Kimi no Umi is a calm, minimalist song. The vocals are light and plain compared to all the other songs on the album, and the accompaniment is just piano enhanced by an electronic background, with sparse percussion. Even Rurutia’s backing vocals aren’t present that much and when they are, there’s just a simple “oooh” instead of the harmonies she usually does. The melody has no peak, even during the chorus – it just floats serenely throughout the song. The image this track conjures up is a feather drifting slowly in the sky.
*Bokura no Hakoniwa – here’s Lost Butterfly’s B-side. It was probably put right here as a transition song, since is has similar accompaniment as the previous track but with more energy and emotion.
Gin no Honoo makes use of Rurutia’s cuter, more playful side – which isn’t surprising, since the lyrics tell of a woman coaxing her lover to come closer. The melody dances back and forth lightly, flickering like the title, which means “silver flame.” You also get to hear her use her head voice more in this song. The accompaniment is a strange but beautiful mixture – I can’t discern all the instruments used. The acoustic guitar and percussion dominate, but I’m pretty sure I heard a harp somewhere. The best part is the music box as it gives this song its sparkling sound.
Heart Dance sounds more or less the same as its Heart Voice counterpart on the Itoshigo yo single, albeit a little faster-moving once the lyrics are added in. The length didn’t change much, though. Although it’s fitting to have this song play the epilogue role it did on the single, I had hoped that the Heart Voice version would end up on this album as an interlude; Rurutia’s vocalizing would make perfect material for one. Still, the opener and closer idea (i.e., Elements & Heart Dance) is great, and I hope she uses it in future albums.
Final Thoughts: While R° did not blow me away, it was a very solid debut album and shows that Rurutia can put out quality album-originals, unlike a lot of other singers (I won’t mention names). She’s got the voice, she can compose, and she’s a brilliant lyricist. I say it’s still too early for her to really get noticed in the J-Pop world, but that’s okay – her appeal lies in her non-mainstream style.
Favorite Track(s): I still think that the singles’ lead tracks are the strongest musically, but from the new album tracks, I would pick Akai Rousoku and Gin no Honoo.
Overall Grade: B+
Rurutia – Lost Butterfly
ルルティア – ロスト バタフライ
(released December 6th, 2001)
1. ロスト バタフライ [Lost Butterfly]
2. 僕らの箱庭 [Bokura no Hakoniwa]
3. エレメンツ (Lode Star Melody) [Elements (Lode Star Melody)]
Rurutia’s 2nd single. Lost Butterfly further explores Rurutia’s ethereal voice and talent as a lyricist.
Lost Butterfly shows Rurutia’s more vulnerable side through the tenderness in her voice and the emotional lyrics. The entire song also echoes the butterfly image with her “lahahahahaaa” intro, quick transitions from chest voice to head voice, and overall lighter singing style. The guitar, percussion, synthesized string parts imitate the repetitive motion of fluttering. The key change near the end was a nice touch with its happier and more hopeful tone (as if the metaphoric butterfly found its way out at last). Like its title, this beautiful song was very fleeting as well.
Bokura no Hakoniwa has a strange, calming ambience due to the synth and random piano notes here and there. The title means “our miniature garden” and this song reminds of a garden on a starry night. I’m not sure, but I think the lyrics allude to the Garden of Eden. The vocals are rather low-key during the verses, and Rurutia sings as if she’s musing to herself. The yearning in her voice for the answers she seeks strengthens during the chorus as she asks aloud to the vast silence before her. Speaking of vocals, I can never get enough of her floaty, backing vocals.
Elements (Lode Star Melody) came as a total surprise after the calm and dreamy single-ender on the Itoshigo yo single. Like Heart Dance, this track has no lyrics – just Rurutia vocalizing. Elements has an ominous, warning feel with the synth, drumbeats, and “holy-sounding” choir-vocals. I guess the title means surviving against the elements – the man vs. nature thing. I have no idea where I come up with such strange imagery, but this song reminds me of some tribal forest ritual – I think it’s the choir vocals that did the trick.
Favorite Track: Lost Butterfly
Overall Grade: A-
Rurutia – Itoshigo yo
ルルティア – 愛し子よ
(released October 6th, 2001)
1. 愛し子よ [Itoshigo yo]
2. 知恵の実 [Chie no Mi]
3. ハートダンス(ハートヴォイス・バージョン) [Heart Dance (Heart Voice version)]
Rurutia’s 1st single. I’ve decided to (very slowly) review my way through her discography starting from the beginning. I generally don’t refer to lyrics when critiquing songs, but I’ll make an exception here, since her songs have deep and poetic lyrics. It’s nearly impossible for me to compare her to another artist – Rurutia has a very unique and mysterious voice.
Itoshigo yo may mean “beloved child” but don’t be fooled – it’s a spooky song about love and lust. The song opens with a simple run of guitar chords and a siren-like vocal “oooh.” The vocals sound deceptively gentle on the surface but are suppressing intense emotion. Rurutia’s voice displays two personalities – her lower notes sound dark and even cruel while her higher register is more of a pleading whisper. The background is kept simple, with some light percussion and backing vocals added to guitar. In my opinion, this is the strongest song on the single.
Chie no Mi has simple accompaniment like the A-side, but with a repeating piano line instead of guitar. The song echoes the “young child” theme (look at the lyrics) but in more of a sad than sinister tone. We have Rurutia’s trademark whisper expressing a more melancholy side and the edgy, as-close-as-she-gets-to-yelling with heavier guitar and percussion as she cries out with suppressed pain. This song is a like-it-or-hate-it; you’ll either appreciate her raw emotion or find her voice too grating during the choruses.
Heart Dance (Heart Voice version) consists completely of vocalizing without any lyrics. I especially liked the strings, and I think this track would function well as BGM for some fantasy story, since it evokes dawn in a mystical forest lake or something. Heart Dance also has a more cheerful and almost playful sound. It seems like it’s either an “epilogue” for the single or a “setting up” for the next one. You’ll find it either soothing or boring. One thing I’m wondering is, if this is the Heart Voice version, where’s the original Heart Dance?
Favorite Track: Itoshigo yo
Overall Grade: A-