My thoughts on “Avant-gardE 0 point”, the latest album from KAQRIYOTERROR.
Release Date: September 9th 2020
4. nanchara bubbles
6. Life is Despair
8. Human Fly
What a difference a year makes folks, both generally speaking given current global events and also in the world of Idol. So many comings and going, groups debuting, hiatusing and disbanding and all of that fun stuff. A roller coaster of emotions at times let me tell you, and more twists and turns than one too where it gets to the point where you just sort of learn to go along with it otherwise you’re really not going to find yourself having a very fun time. That’s my philosophy at least, thank you all for coming to my TEDtalk.
KAQRIYOTERROR are no exception to any of this, though I suppose it has been just a little bit more than a year between the group’s rebranding and the album release that I’m going to be talking about here today. Rebranding might even be too tame of a word to describe the wholesale change in the group’s membership since its debut but again, you learn to roll with the punches and take comfort in the fact that the original line-up that started all of this all appear to have found success for themselves in new projects. Still, compared to the other groups in the codomomental stable things have changed rather rapidly so I wouldn’t blame anyone for struggling to adjust to it all.
“Avant-gardE 0 point” is the first album from the current iteration of KAQRIYOTERROR and much like their sisters Yukueshirezutsurezure (review here) this release looks to compile the group’s recent singles while also injecting a few new songs into the mix. I won’t lie, I haven’t exactly been enjoying some of the stuff KAQRIYOTERROR have been coming out with lately, something I’ll get into further here in due course, so I don’t exactly have very high hopes for this release. Its all gone a bit too experimental for my tastes recently, not that doing so is necessarily a bad thing but it kinda has to work at least some of the time and that hasn’t been the case so far. Well, they’ve got a few new tracks here that will hopefully impress me so with all of that out of the way, let’s get into this review and see what we’ve got going on here.
We start the album out with lead track “Avant-gardE”, which is also the main promotional song for the release and gets a music video and all of that fun stuff that goes along with the role. It’s a very chaotic note to kick things off on with the instrumental basically being this swirling mess of abrasive synthesizers and heavily distorted guitars being kept just about in time by a dense, thundering drumbeat. Vocally there’s a lot of modulation, distortion and other such effects which do tie in pretty well with everything else going on but it does sort of feel like it’s a little bit too much at times for me personally. A surprising amount of harsh vocals feature here too, which is even more odd when you consider the distinct lack of them on the Tsurezure album that we talked about a little while ago. The choruses see the track take on a much more melodic, Pop sort of dynamic which is a much welcomed development after all of the insanity occurring elsewhere on the track. The lyrics are quite catchy and the synthesizer melodies are bright and very melodic which makes for a pretty effective palette cleanser I think and more importantly helps the choruses to stand out from the rest of the track which is already very heavy on character. As for things I was a bit iffy on, I wasn’t totally sure about the mid-song interlude on my first couple of listens if I’m being honest but I think it was probably needed to balance things out and it was kinda cool that it wasn’t in the typical bridge spot. It made for something just a little bit different, even if I’m not really sure you could class this song as “Avant Garde” in the traditional sense of the term. Off to a pretty good start, let’s see how long they can keep it up here.
Following on from that we have “lilithpride” which was the title track of KAQRIYOTERROR’s first…ish single. You can read all about that release and my initial thoughts on it here if you’d like to, though I’ll do my best to sum it up here for you anyway. I said at the time and obviously it could change depending on the contents of the remainder of this album but this is probably my favorite song I’ve heard out of the current iteration of this group thus far. The undulating synthesizers and pounding drumbeat of the track’s Digital Hardcore inspired instrumental are familiar but also serve as a great starting point to build upon. That’s just what KAQRIYOTERROR do, with the introduction of some heavily vocoded vocals that do still even now kinda sound like they’re trying to replicate Nonamera’s distinct tone. Not the best Rap flow I’ve ever heard on an Idol track and that sort of thing has been done quite a lot recently but it’s alright for what it’s trying to achieve I suppose. The chorus is one of the real stars of the show though, bumping up the energy and taking things in a more melodic direction while also providing the listener with a very infectious beat which bounces along at a pleasing tempo with the lyrics. I also liked how the song started to unravel and get more unhinged the longer it went on, it created a really interesting slant to things and added a bit more color which they could have easily chosen not to do but for my money the song is made all the more better for it. It also allowed for some harsh vocals to creepy their way into the mix which while something I’d much rather hear more from out of their sister group I’m more than happy to take where I can get it here. Like I said in my original review, this was a pretty strong first outing for this line-up and that nagging feeling of the song missing something has faded somewhat in the months since its release.
We’re treated to some more new material on third track “ususu” which starts off going hard in a Synth Pop direction with some bright, atmospheric synthesizers warming things up before vocals are eventually brought into the equation. Can’t say I was expecting the heavy Rap flow given how we started out but it hit pretty hard, had some catchy lyrics and did a good job of pushing the song further on and into the main arrangement. The main synthesizer melody reminds me so much of a Club song from back in my youth but I can’t put my finger on the name and it has been bothering me ever since I first heard it here. If anyone knows, please let me know and put me out of my misery thanks. It’s pretty hype and upbeat though so no real issue with the arrangement itself outside of the fact that it’s almost 100% a blatant rip-off of a very well known song. Even the vocals are oddly familiar in how they’re structured and delivered which was honestly more of a distraction than anything if I’m being honest. Thankfully there are plenty of other parts to the track that sound a bit more original while still maintaining that Eurobeat sort of inspiration and I guess if you’re of a certain vintage like myself then you’re always going to have something of a soft spot for this sort of stuff. I do wish that the vocals didn’t get quite so drowned out by the instrumental at times though, as they sounded pretty interesting and like they had some pretty decent hooks of their own. It was just a bit hard to make them out sometimes given the very dominating presence and personality of the instrumental. That’s probably most of the reason why I thought the chorus on this one felt a bit weak if I’m being honest. There’s so much other stuff going into it that it’s really hard for things to really get their own chance to standout and shine. A fun track but man do I wish I knew where I heard like 3/4 of it before.
Our good time is then brought to a grinding halt as “nanchara bubbles” pops up as the album’s fourth track. This song originally featured as the b-side on KAQRIYOTERROR’s “BWG” single which I reviewed recently. You can read my initial thoughts here if you’d like to but I’ll be honest they haven’t changed all that much in the past month or so. I really don’t know what the idea behind this one was but for me it didn’t work at all. I know some people enjoy the song and I thought it showed a lot of promise with its swirling synthesizer opener but then in came the sugary sweet, traditional Pop Idol sounding vocals and it just took me right out of it if I’m honest. I guess the instrumental felt the same way as it all but disappeared at that point too and everything just ended up sounding really empty as a result. The middle of the track raised further questions as it felt like the instrumental got put in this really boring loop and we were left with a plodding beat that felt like it went on for far too long as the composers left the room to go do something else or I dunno, whatever I guess. It eventually comes back around to that empty sort of Idol Pop thing we had going on which at that point was better than nothing but not that much better that it saved this one from being easily my least liked song from KAQRIYOTERROR, KTA or codomomental in general in a long time, and quite possibly ever. I would love to know the thought process behind this track but since I’m not a mind reader I’m going to chalk it up as “filler material” and we’ll move swiftly on. Hopefully to better, much more interesting things.
I don’t know about you guys, but there’s just something really fun about the title of the album’s fifth track “TEKITWO”. It just sort of rolls off the tongue in this nice way I guess, or perhaps I’m just feeling particularly easily amused at the moment of writing this. So yeah, this one starts out with a pretty relaxed, Chill-Hop vibe to its Synth Pop instrumental, something that has become fairly popular in the Idol realm in the past 12 months or so and I quite enjoy it myself for the most part. I was sort of expecting a bait and switch here though given the group involved but when the vocals came in with this pretty standard, for the genre at least, Rap flow it was at that point that I realized we were going to be playing things pretty straight here. The lyrics themselves are rather catchy and afford the members plenty of opportunities to show off some personality which is always a plus in my book and it made for some pretty interesting and at times fairly humorous moments depending on the subject matter being sung about. I suppose one knock I would have on the track is that the instrumental doesn’t really feel like it’s going anywhere a lot of the time and there aren’t any particularly distinct changes in tone or tempo to really give the idea of defined moments. They are there but if you’re not paying super close attention then they can be pretty easy to miss. That’s actually how I feel about the choruses too in a way, yeah they’re there but unlike some other examples of this genre these ones don’t pop off as much. Still, a very pleasant and entertaining song to listen to but I think they could have added an extra dimension to it by injecting a bit more tempo or intensity to really drive home some of the bigger moments on the track. I might be being overly harsh there though as I do really like this one apart from that.
Well, given the current global situation and all of the other events that have played out in 2020 thus far a song with a title like “Life is Despair” is perhaps cutting a little too close to the bone in some respects. It’s definitely an accurate statement that I’m sure a lot of people agree with right now but…oof. The uptempo synthesizer instrumental and the heavily vocoded vocals that kick this track off are a bit at odds with all of that then aren’t they? Really nice, ethereal sounding stuff with a catchy beat so no complaints here but not where I was expecting this one to start from. The mood does drop a bit as the song gets into full swing though, with moody vocals and a deep, fuzzy synthesizer tones shifting the atmosphere more in the direction of what I initially expected out of this one. The track’s addictive beat remains a prominent feature however so it’s nice to see that continue through as something of an underlying feature of the composition. Despite the moodier tone that develops, there are still some really nice melodies being produced and especially so in the chorus which sees things brighten up a bit and return to around where we start off from if only for a few brief spells. The interlude they use for the bridge with all of the whispering and ambient synths was also a really cool moment that stood out to me and was a pretty simple but incredibly effective change of pace that didn’t sound at all out of place with the rest of the song. Really great atmospheric stuff on both ends of the spectrum though, depending on which you prefer and if you like a bit of both then I think that you’re probably going to have a really good time with this track. Not a bad way to dress up what is essentially a Ballad huh?
Its been a little while since we checked back in on some previously released material so it’s about time we do that with “Persona_” coming along and slotting right in as the album’s seventh track. This is KAQRIYOTERROR’s first digital single, released back during the height of the pandemic where no one really knew what the best way to put out new music was so a lot of groups started to experiment with digital only content. You can read my initial review of the track here if you’d like to by the way. Quite a bit of a Zenbu Kimi no Sei da vibe to this one still for me, with the Synth Rock style and mildly vocoded vocals being more than just a little bit reminiscent of the sort of stuff that KAQRIYOTERROR’s older sisters have been putting out for a while now. I’m still not really sure how I feel about those male sounding backing vocals but all of the lyrics are pretty catchy so the song definitely has that going for it too along with my predisposition to liking this sort of Zenkimi style. The darker, more brooding tone that the group are known for does eventually work its way into the mix, along with the Rap flows that we’ve been hearing quite a lot of on this album up to this point. It makes things sound a lot more dense and distorted than they were initially and the contrast in the styles was pretty interesting to sit back and let the ears digest. More whispering too by the way, if that ASMR style is something that you’re especially fond of this group for then you’ll get some more of that here too. Things eventually snake their way back around to that more melodic Synth Rock style and that’s pretty much us heard everything that this track is bringing to the table. An interesting mix of a lot of the codomomental styles that makes for a pretty entertaining listen even if there is quite a lot going on and a few eyebrow raising decisions made along the way. It works a lot better than it probably should is I guess what I’m trying to say here.
“Human Fly” is the last totally new track to feature on the release and while I don’t mind this 5/5 split that they’ve done I could have maybe gone for another new track or two if I’m being totally honest. That’s besides the point though, we should all instead be focusing on the very heavily distorted bass wubs that are hard to miss right from the get-go on this song. A bit abrasive to my ear I’ll admit and they don’t exactly take too much of a backseat once vocals are brought in either. Speaking of which, we’re treated to a familiar Rap flow that we’ve heard on several other tracks on this release so if you’ve been enjoying it up to this point then here’s more of that but if you were hoping for something a bit different then you might be a bit disappointed here. That’s not all that’s going on of course, but it does make up a decent chunk of it, we also get a really drawn out, held vocal note for some reason which i kinda liked for a little while but then it really did overstay its welcome in my opinion. Not the most exciting of lead-ins for the songs’ choruses, which are admittedly a bit more melodic and Poppy in style so at least they got that part pretty well done. I guess if you’re looking for the avant garde component of the album then we’ve probably found it on this track. Very dense, intense stuff with a whole lot of unusual instrumentation and vocal techniques that mostly don’t really appeal too much to me but I definitely see there being an audience for this sort of thing out there somewhere. This one could be a grower I’m sure but right now it hasn’t really found the mark with me. You should still definitely check it out though if for no other reason than just how different it sounds to a lot of Idol music coming out these days.
We start to wind things down with a look back at the first of KAQRIYOTERROR’s two physical singles to date. This time the song in question is “SOS” which originally featured as the b-side on the group’s “lilithpride” release and my review of both tracks is still available here if you’d wish to go back and read it. Opening with a very catchy synthesizer melody and beat, it doesn’t take long for the track to settle into that very familiar KTA style that made many fall in love with the group in the first place. Even the vocals are playing up to this idea with some pretty solid tributes to the group’s original clashing of whispered and high pitched vocal styles which provide a nice range in which the members are able to work. Very Poppy choruses offset the darker tone of the track’s verses rather effectively and everything feels like it has a pretty nice balance on the whole. There are a few times where I thought that the instrumental got a bit too loose for its own good though and the definition took a bit of a hit as a result but not the end the of the world by any means. Just maybe could have done with being a little less distorted and reverb’d on the low end if I had to pick out one thing to change. It does afford the vocals plenty of opportunity to stand out though, and along with the catchy synthesizer melodies they are doing the bulk of the heavy lifting on this track. Still a super fun song even now, and the sort of style that I do kinda wish that this iteration of the group would go back to with a bit more frequency than we’ve heard of late.
Finally, we wrap things up with closing track “BWG”. This is KAQRIYOTERROR’s most recent single and I wrote up a review for it not too long ago that you might have already seen here if you’ve been paying particularly close attention to the site during the past couple of months. Lots of screaming and instrumental brutality early on on this one, with the song sounding more like something you might hope to hear out of Tsurezure than this particular codomomental project. Great intensity from the Heavy Metal inspired instrumental which is pushing a thundering drumbeat as one of the main mood-makers until things transition more towards that typical Electronica style that most people would associate with this group I would imagine. More rapping features so I really hope that’s your thing at this point, though the instrumental is doing its best to hold onto some of that bite that it had initially. There’s a sense of familiarity to it all but not overly so as it kinda feels like this is an attempt to blend old influences with new ones. I said at the time that the choruses feel a bit flat and I’ll stick with that opinion I think while still stressing that there is nothing at all bad about them. There’s just a lot going on here for better or worse and what might have really stood out on another track doesn’t do so as much with so many other strong components on show. I think the song really finds its stride when they bring all of the different elements together for the last minute or so and you could almost begin to see a potential way forward for this new style and tone. Still up there as one of my favorites that this new line-up have released so far, though there hasn’t exactly been fierce competition for those spots so far.
As I come to the end of this review I’m not really sure what I make of “Avant-gardE 0 point” if I’m being totally honest. I don’t exactly get this avant garde feeling from the release, as for one we’ve heard a lot of this sort of stuff from KAQRIYOTERROR and other groups before and also a lot of these new influences are all coming from genres of music that are really quite popular these days. It also feels like they go back to the well on a lot of stuff like the rapping which makes it feel more like a deliberate change in musical direction as opposed to the “experimental” dynamic that they seem to be trying to push here.
Ultimately it feels like codomomental aren’t really that sure what sort of group they want KAQRIYOTERROR to be right now. At least where I’m sitting anyway, they seem to be throwing elements from the group’s very much loved older style, trendy mainstream genres and a bit of Rapping and screaming at a wall and seeing what ends up sticking. I guess in that way this release might be classed as experimental and while I don’t mind much of what I’ve heard here, if this is going to be a sustained shift in direction for the group then I don’t really know how on board with these ideas I’m going to end up being long-term.