TK From Ling Tosite Sigure
Fantastic Magic


3.5
great

Review

by instantradical USER (64 Reviews)
August 30th, 2014 | 24 replies


Release Date: 2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: TK hasn't run out of magic yet.

The risk inherent in developing as sound as unique as that of Toru Kitajima - best known as the front man of hyperkinetic prog-pop outfit Ling Tosite Sigure - is that of overstaying your welcome. Ling Tosite Sigure quickly carved out their place in a Japanese indie scene dominated by pusillanimous post-punk, thanks to a unique sound that sounded quite different from anything else at the time. But Sigure's sound is so unique, and so well-defined right from the band's beginning, that evolution is difficult. Fans will certainly notice a change from one album to the next, but Sigure's core sound hasn't changed. Though each Sigure album (and TK solo release) has been of very high quality, the inevitable question is: when is TK going to run out of ideas?

While Fantastic Magic has its problems, TK still has plenty of interesting things to say. Like 2011's Flowering, Fantastic Magic shows a broader range of sounds compared to Sigure's albums. While Sigure is an unambiguous power trio, TK's solo music features much larger arrangements, with strings, keys, and additional instrumentation. Considering how overwhelming Sigure manages to sound with only three members, you might think that the additional performers would reduce the songs to an incoherent mess, but TK manages to skillfully balances his compositions on the edge of collapsing into a singularity.

TK's high-pitched vocals and intricate, angular guitar playing are still the stars of the album, but special mention should go to the drums. While Sigure's Pierre Nakano kit often overplays on a kit that sounds like a muddy, indistinguishable blur, BOBO's playing is much clearer and often serves the songs better, particularly on tracks like Spiral Parade that revel in trace-rock atmospherics. The strings and keyboards make positive contributions as well, and what's particularly interesting is how TK often uses short bursts of these instruments that sound almost like samples, despite being live playing.

Flowering was an album that had a few upbeat, aggressive songs amidst other tracks that explored an atmospheric side of TK's songcraft rarely seen on Sigure's music. Fantastic Magic has more fast-paced moments than its predecessor, placing it closer to Sigure's sound on tracks like Kalei De Scope and Spiral Parade. These are also among the best tracks on the album, and draw on the almost-electronic stylings that TK sometimes explores. But TK's favored method is to blend a palette of moods into each composition - as tracks like Fantastic Magic, Unravel, and Shinkiro explore. It culminates perfectly with Contrast, which merges all of TK's disparate influences and aspirations into a prime cut of neo-romantic art pop.

Unfortunately, TK can end up being his own worst enemy at times. He's seldom sounded whinier than on the unbearable tokio, or the beginning of Unravel (which takes time to develop into a worthwhile song.) Shinkiro is one his most innovative songs in quite some time, with a lush, bossa nova vibe that resists the urge to explode into overblown theatrics. Unfortunately, the track is dragged down by the awful female vocalist, who sounds like a deranged, developmentally challenged child deliberately attempting to be whinier than TK. One of the easiest ways for TK to change up his game would be to sing in a more conventional style; on the other hand, TK's vocals (and, as usual, the impressive intricacy of his music) certainly suggest that he's not at any risk of selling out.

Fantastic Magic has a few weak tracks and doesn't have anything quite as impressive as Flowering's Phase to Phrase or Film A Moment, but it's still a welcome release from one of the best musicians in the contemporary Japanese indie scene. It's hard not to wish that TK would go a little further left-field and starting producing full-blown progressive rock albums, but you can't deny that there are few artists capable of releasing album after album that will appeal in equal measure to grass-eating Japanese hipsters and post-hardcore fans.



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user ratings (31)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
DangerBatty
August 30th 2014


89 Comments


Tokyo Ghoooooul

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
August 30th 2014


16346 Comments


wow neat! is this streaming anywhere?

Digging: Crimeapple - Viridi Panem

ComeToDaddy
August 30th 2014


1805 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh baby, going to get a hold of this ASAP. Had a quick look though and couldn't find any streams

elbaliem
August 30th 2014


1051 Comments


no tokyo ghoul reference?




FrozenVain
August 30th 2014


3039 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love LTS so I should probably check this out. Nice review! Got me interested. Pos'd.

Rhyme
August 30th 2014


1405 Comments


i like LTS so yeah i'll check this out. nice review too pos'd

looks like i also need to start watching toyko ghoul too

EasyModeDX
August 31st 2014


140 Comments


The manga is what's worth your time really. The anime, while nicely produced does not make it justice since it does not focus on certain story aspects and submits to the samey anime cliches we all know.

EasyModeDX
August 31st 2014


140 Comments


I really recommend the manga, the anime is subpar but it's your call really

Rhyme
August 31st 2014


1405 Comments


well i dont normally read manga but i'll read because i need to read more anyway

my friends are watching tokyo ghoul too so i still planning on watching so i can talk about it with them

EasyModeDX
August 31st 2014


140 Comments


Yeah, please do, I used to do that until I noticed where they were taking the anime, so I actually stopped, have fun and I mean, the anime is nicely produced, but the manga isn't ugly either, albeit inconsistent. The artist is pretty well known tho.

instantradical
August 31st 2014


313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't really watch anime so it's not particularly relevant for me - however, I am really glad that his music is being featured in stuff like anime OPs (Sigure's song Abnormalize was the first theme for Psycho-Pass) because it's exposing a lot of people to his music who otherwise wouldn't hear it. That's definitely a good thing.



If I got the sense that he was selling out it'd bug me but the songs that have been featured in anime are just as intricate as anything else TK's ever done, so I don't mind.

EasyModeDX
August 31st 2014


140 Comments


I kinda feel the same for tk's music as well as LSS. It obviously expanded their target audience by far. But we can't really forget that LSS has been signed to Sony Music for five years or so, which is a big record label and hence they are much better known in Japan. Thanks to the OP's they've made they've also welcomed fans from the west and it's all good. They've performed in the UK too.

amanwithahammer
September 7th 2014


585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Looks like you were pretty fast with this, I only just listened to this for the first time today! For me unravel is his second best song yet after film A moment (the version on flowering). It's just so epic for a song that's just four minutes long (like, low key epic?). Anyway, great review! I wasn't blown away by this on the first listen but it seems solid. Didn't dig flowering that much at first but this year I suddenly came back to that and began loving it so there's still time.

leviegalapon
September 8th 2014


78 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, but "grass-eating Japanese hipsters"?

leviegalapon
September 9th 2014


78 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just listened to Shinkiro, lololol those female vocals man

leviegalapon
September 9th 2014


78 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Did some research on it, and apparently the guest vocals on Shinkiro is by Chara. A jpop artist who is known for her whisper singing.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1QJ56BINLw



^one of her songs

BigSimo
September 25th 2014


190 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

tokyo ghoul is a piece of crap but this album is great. especially Fantastic Magic. That song is his best and blows my mind with each listen. Amazing percussion.

instantradical
September 25th 2014


313 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Kalei de Scope remains my favorite track from this thing.



I love Shinkiro but that Chara gal seems like she's deliberately trying to sound as annoying as possible.



By the way you can hear some of Sigure's new song Enigmatic Feeling in a preview for the second season of Psycho-Pass on YouTube, the song sounds completely amazing. Can't wait to hear the whole thing. I tremble nervously with each new TK and Sigure release, worrying that this might be the time when they finally run out of ideas, but they haven't stopped delivering awesome stuff yet.

amanwithahammer
October 11th 2014


585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dude, Chara has been doing her thing since 1991, don't hate! Actually her vocals here are easier on the ear than in others songs she's done. Tried to listen to her most recent (?) album and I did find it kind of hard to really enjoy. Many songs were like 7 or 8 minutes long if I remember, and I'm not huge on jpop in general, even when it is produced by a member of THE NOVEMBERS.



Came here after rating to say how surprised I am that this album still only has 4 ratings including mine. Though Ling Tosite Sigure was at least kind of popular on Sputnik and with non-Japanese people in general as far as Japanese bands go.

CSthereader
October 25th 2014


1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I just bought the Regular Edition version of Fantastic Magic. Rated 5. In my book it is truly fantastic.



Looking forward to Flowering on CD+DVD in the mail too. Thank you for reviewing. Enjoyed reading.



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