Review Summary: Young and boundless, an intense and emotional album that makes all of its flaws its assets.
There’s no feeling quite like the feelings you have when you’re young. You suddenly have all of these emotions and desires and thoughts that you don’t quite know how to deal with; they bottle up inside you and threaten to make you implode into yourself. The belief that everyone is wrong, that no one could ever understand you are amongst various other typical burdens that come with being young and inexperienced in the world. You could tell people about your thoughts, but no one else is quite you and these feelings just build and build and build until you can’t take it anymore. If you were to just all at once unleash this passion you can imagine something like an enormous cluster of distorted, bright light; beautiful and unpredictable. If I could choose one image to describe Ling Tosite Sigure’s first full-length album, this image of bright, distorted passion exploding in front of you would probably be it.
There’s really no other way to go about explaining what Ling Tosite Sigure achieved with #4. Growing up probably isn’t lyrically what’s addressed on the album, but this dazzling passion is certainly what is captured here. There’s definitely feelings of some aspect throughout the songs, because you can definitely feel them. Ling Tosite Sigure’s erratic flavour of alternative-rock is certainly a unique one. Their distorted, heavily reverbed and scorching guitar passages backed up by blistering bass work and technical drumming that’s capped off with childish, throat tearing vocals make the music very difficult not to enjoy, even if the vocals put you off at first. #4 displays Ling Tosite Sigure’s unrestrained sound at its most raw. The songs go from being soft and mellow to crazy and bludgeoning in a split second, with most of the songs rarely ending up in the same rhythm that they started out in.
What makes #4 stand out so immediately from the material that the band would go on to release is that the band seem to be playing above their own capabilities a lot of the time, especially when it comes to the vocals. You can physically hear the strain that Touru “TK” Kitajima and Miyoko Nakamura are putting on their voices to pull off the wails that burst from the songs when you aren’t paying attention, at times it sounds like they can't even sing the songs properly. The band play their instruments fast and loud, the reverb on the guitar creating a blur of sound reminiscent of shoegaze. This is where that feeling of all of your thoughts bursting out of your body comes into effect. The band couldn’t care less whether or not they can physically pull of what they’re trying to attempt or if it even fits with the song they’re playing, they’re going to do it anyway. This is immediately apparent on the album’s first track “Azayaka na Satsujin” when you think you know what you’re going to be listening to, then BAM!! The tempo changes into a rhythm that definitely doesn’t work and yet, it provides it with that character that makes the whole experience unique. Of course, being the band’s first full length effort, the sound is raw and unrefined. It’s unexperienced and it deals with this by shouting at the world, begging for someone to just listen to it for once; exploding in bright, distorted images that you can’t quite make anything out of.
“Azayaka na Satsujin,” amongst other things also stands to warn you that if you can’t stand the vocals, you should leave immediately. It also prepares you for a lot of what you can expect throughout the album's modest 45 minute running time. One minute the song is uncomfortably noisy, the next minute the guitar is just distant feedback, then it’s a casual post-hardcore track, then the tempo goes crazy and then it all happens again. What makes #4 so interesting to listen to is how unrefined the whole experience feels, as if the band behind weren’t actually in control of it. The fact that the guitars are absolutely soaked in reverb brings out this sense that the sound is filling it all of this space that you didn’t even realise was there. This vastness that the guitar provides encircles how far the vocals and the drumming on the album reach. The drums on #4 are fantastic, Pierre Nakano always making sure to attack each song from a different angle, showcasing just how versatile the hi-hats and the snare can be sometimes.
The restless structure of #4 helps to keep it very well balanced content wise. Tracks like the slightly less erratic “O.F.T” act as palate cleansers by helping to keep the album from overdoing itself. “O.F.T” helps to calm the listener and help them to adjust to the somewhat furious nature of the album (and is perhaps one of the few moments where you can sing along without hurting yourself). Not to slow itself down, “Crazy Kanjou Style” kicks straight back in with noisy feedback and stop/go rhythms. It must be mentioned that while #4 is an incredibly rewarding listen, some of its aspects (namely the vocals and the careless tempo and key changes) can come across as hard to listen to and are a bit of an acquired taste. The music that the band demonstrates on #4 shouldn’t be analysed or nit-picked, “oh I like the guitars and drumming, but I wish they didn’t sing like they did,” is not how this should be listened to, #4 is one of those albums that are an experience to hear. It’s the musical acne that #4 poses that makes it as good as it is, because it seeks to achieve beyond the listeners comfort zone and play beyond what it’s meant to be capable of.
#4 is open and unrestraint, stretching out into a sonic void simply because it believes it can. The songs that Ling Tosite Sigure wrote on #4 are young and inexperienced and definitely naïve as to what it truly is… and it’s beautiful. Ling Tosite Sigure channelled pure, raw emotion without a care as to what the resulting music would sound like. #4 pushes itself to be more than what’s expected of it, reaching beyond music’s conventional boundaries to write its own name. Confusing, unpredictable and enthralling, a young Ling Tosite Sigure have unleashed their emotions and their aspirations in the hopes that someone, just someone will listen… and you most certainly should.