Ever heard of the band I-アイ- (I-ai-)? No? Performing since 2011 this band is relatively young. Nevertheless the men of I-アイ- are very talented and have already planned a European tour for 2014. I-アイ- consists of singer Hiroaki Nakashima and guitarist Yuki Aneyoshi. Shortly they will release a new album with the name “I-ai-!”. I have had the pleasure to receive an earlier album named “Crystallize” for review. Interested in what I thought of the album? Read more below!
The track list of the album “Crystallize” is as follows:
02. STARTING POINT
04. Mona Lisa
05. DEEP SEA
07. Everything Flows
09. NIGHT WING
10. Eternal Love Song
The first song is an intro. Prologue is very calm and composed of a piano playing in addition to the natural and tranquil sound of the sea in the background. The song sounds somewhat sorrowful, but at the same time it sounds very relaxing. It sounds very beautiful, perhaps even graceful I would say! After the begin the sounds of the sea starts slowly disappearing and only the piano remains audible. Towards the end of the song the sound becomes more dramatic because of the additional chords and the mysterious, ominous sounds in the background.
The second track, STARTING POINT, immediately starts with guitar play followed by drums. After a somewhat intense intro the drumming and guitar fades as Hiroaki sings against a backdrop of calm piano play. This quickly turns into a more dramatic sound as the drums and guitar make their comeback. In addition there is also a nice guitar solo from guitarist Yuki. When I hear the song it reminds me of a sad or a painful memory. However I do think the song is pleasant to listen to as the song has plenty of variation and you can clearly hear vocalist Hiroaki in the calmer sections. The song ends very gently with a guitar play that slowly fades away in the sounds of wind gusts.
The third song is the cover track that shares its name with the album. Crystallize begins like an explosion of different tunes and then flows into a guitar and drum piece which is played at a high tempo. After the intro Hiroaki can be heard with a filter over his vocals, as if he’s singing through something other than a microphone. In the chorus two voices can be heard, I am unsure whether both voices are Hiroaki or if Yuki also joins as a background singer. This song gives me the sudden urge to get up and dance! Especially the chorus gives me a nice boost in energy. After the second chorus the song is changed up with a rather quiet piece of music, which calms you down a bit. This quiet piece is followed up by a guitar solo performed by Yuki after which the chorus returns. A very enjoyable song which I will frequently listen to!
The fourth song, Mona Lisa, begins in contrast to the other two songs as a very calm piece after which the intensity picks up with drumming and guitar play. A woman with opera vocals can be heard in the background. Subsequently vocals by Hiroaki can be heard with soft music in the background. It sounds like he’s hiding behind something, his voice is being muffled and appears to echo. After this, once again the song increases in intensity and you can hear a duet of the singer and female backing vocalist. Personally, I think the female vocals in the background are a very nice addition to this track, it gives the song a little more of a mysterious touch. Furthermore it also fits the title. It made me wonder “Is this female voice supposed to represent Mona Lisa?”. Also featured in this song is an instrumental part and a beautiful piano piece backed by violin. Towards the end of the track silent whispering is added in addition to the vibrant piano and violin play. I think this is a very beautiful song, especially a lot calmer compared to the other previous songs!
Number 5 on the album is DEEP SEA. The song starts with some drumming and sounds of the sea which is followed up by guitar strumming. In this song Hiroaki’s voice is very clear since the music is soft and mellow, which makes this track quite pleasant because Hiroaki has a very beautiful voice. The soft and subtle sound effects reminds me of the sea. Furthermore, I also feel that this song tells the story of two people who do not want to lose each other, as several times “What will you do?” and “Do not leave me.” is sung in the track . What I found special about this song are the very high vocal notes that Hiroaki reaches, it fits his vocal talent and the theme of the song. The song ends with Hiroaki’s voice that slowly sweeps away in the sea. A nice and calm song with some very special highlights!
Track number 6 starts with a rather quiet and mysterious tone. 月 (Tsuki) is the Kanji for moon or month. The song starts out with violin, chimes and piano playing at a very pace. Hiroaki’s voice is truly stunning in this song! Very peaceful and emotional when compared to the other songs on this album. The song gives off a mixed atmosphere of serenity and melancholy yet you can’t quite point out which of the two it is supposed to be. Further into the song a more prominent piano melody is heard and during the refrain Hiroaki showcases his high vocal tones, which is then followed up by Yuki performing a smooth guitar solo maintaining the down-pace feeling of the song. This track ends with a very beautiful and soothing piano piece. This song is absolutely incredible and I could easily listen to it a dozen times without getting tired of it.
Song number 7 on the album, Everything Flows, does not start with instruments as do the other songs. You can hear children playing in the background, a car door closing and the car driving away. After this the song truly begins with a piano melody. Hiroaki sings quietly and displays his vocal sustain with very long notes. The chorus sounds slightly faster in tempo than the vocals. The song contains a guitar solo by Yuki which sounds all over the place and feels like it doesn’t fit into the song, yet at the same time a melody can be heard within the chaos. You could describe it as a controlled chaos which matches the title of the song. The chorus is repeated quite often in this song, but to me this is one of the highlights of the song. Towards the end of the song Hiroaki’s high vocal notes are combined with Yuki’s guitar play which forms a nice combination. The song ends with another guitar solo from Yuki. This song is a very nice piece when you are looking for something to listen to when you are pre-occupied, for example when you are working or travelling a long distance. Great background music!
ROSARIO is listed as track 8 on the album Crystallize. “Stop ..” is whispered by a woman’s voice at the beginning, immediately followed by spectacular guitar and drums! This song sounds a lot more dynamic than the previous tracks! The pace is fast, the music sounds a more energetic and cheerful and the vocals are completely different. It sounds like a filter has been placed over Hiroaki’s voice to contrast it to the previous songs. With the filter his voice gives the impression of a Vocaloid character. What surprised me about this song was that there isn’t just singing but also grunting! This sounds very cool and shows that I- ア イ – have other things in store than just plain vocals. Compared to the other tracks this song has very elaborate and fast guitar play by Yuki, I like it very much! The song ends with a heartfelt grunt. This song is totally different from the previous songs which gives it a very contrasting sound. This makes the song especially memorable and satisfying to listen to. This makes it certainly one of my personal favorites on this album.
The 9th song on the album, NIGHTWING, straight from the start this track blows you away with great energetic drums and guitar play. The vocals are impressive and rapidly clean vocals are followed up by powerful grunts. This song is a mix of vocals and grunting. There is quite a lot going on in this song, but that in itself makes the song very exciting and enjoyable with a lot of variety! Once again Hiroaki showcases his vocal talent with very long sustained notes. In addition to the vocal work Yuki’s guitar solos in this song are spectacular! Very cheerful and energetic song with ample variety in sound to be found.
Number 10 on the album is Eternal Love Song. This song begins with a slow paced piano melody. The vocals are very soft and harmonious, peaceful is the right word that comes to mind. Hiroaki’s voice is supported by Yuki’s acoustic guitar with a simple yet warm melody. Also featured in this song are once again background vocals which add a layer of complexity to an otherwise simple piece. From the atmosphere that the song radiates you can clearly tell that this is a love song. In addition there are very beautiful piano pieces and acoustic guitar solos in this song. Perhaps most surprisingly and pleasant is a short duet between the acoustic guitar and an electric guitar. I have little more to say about this song except that I think it sounds very nice, idyllic and peaceful. I could listen to this song frequently because everything comes together perfectly. The song ultimately ends with a choir of women who repeatedly sing “ta da la la la la la” under the direction of an electric guitar.
The last song, listed as number 11 on the album, is “I” AWAKE. The music slowly fades in and the first thing you hear is a piano duet. Shortly after this the sound of drums and guitar come crashing in and blend together with the piano melody. Next up Hiroaki’s vocals join the fray and sound very loud in comparison to the instruments. This is followed up by a fast paced guitar solo after which Hiroaki can once again be heard together with background vocals. When I hear this song I imagine that this could be the opening of an anime or drama series. The song sounds very enjoyable and would easily appeal to a large audience. It’s not too loud or too soft, it’s just right! At the end of the song the piano melody returns and the song ends with a long sustained guitar note by Yuki. Nice song to listen in the background as you’re working on something and it sounds marvelous!
And that’s it! Those were all the songs of this album. Personally I have really enjoyed being able to review this album and have found a couple of songs I will certainly listen to many times to come. ROSARIO is my favourite song together with Prologue. The previous time I reviewed only a few songs but this time an entire album! But it was especially enjoyable to be able to do this because before this I wasn’t quite as familiar with I-アイ-. Because of this review I really got to know them a little bit! On the 17th of January we shall be able to see them live in The Hague! Are you joining as well? Until the end of the year you can win the album by buying a ticket for one of the live shows of I-アイ- in Europe.
Crystallize was released in November 2011 by ZEROTH RECORDS and is available to purchase on the website of I-アイ-. It is also available to listen on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Spotify.