Ayumi Hamasaki

Ayu-Mi-X, Vol. 6: Gold

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Ever the musical chameleon, pop starlet Ayumi Hamasaki gave her sound up to the whims of other producers in 2008, the culmination of which was this album of remixes. Where she normally has a touch of rock and a hefty dose of sugary vocals,she gains new dimensions in sound in the hands of electronica producers. The album opens with "Step You," remade into something of a Michael Jackson-era dance track courtesy of the Young Punx, followed by a DJ Kentraro remix of "Moments" (which has also lived a life as a piano ballad) worked into a techno frenzy not unlike Yoko Kanno's work for the Ghost in the Shell series. Stonebridge adds a touch of New Order's style of electronica to a track, and a sludgier, more industrial sound is given to "Beautiful Fighters" by MSTRKRFT. When some of the international heavy hitters come along, her sound is nearly unrecognizable. Armand Van Helden twists and cuts her vocals into a dance track that hardly uses more than a syllable at a time. Coldcut keeps her firmly in the dance realm and keeps her vocals mostly intact, but adds some proper cuts and breaks to add a touch of funkiness and a hint of Bollywood. Mad Professor (of course) adds a heavy piece of dub, stretching and echoing around Hamasaki's voice in surprising ways, and actually removing her from the picture for a period. Throughout, the mixes are intriguing, and add more levels to what are otherwise some fairly lifeless singles. Hamasaki has some talent and a lot of star power, but in combination with other styles of music she really starts to come out as a viable lounge music star.