Alice Nine

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Supernova Review

by John D. Buchanan

Alice Nine followed up their grandiose debut for Tokuma, Gemini, with the much more accessible and back-to-basics 9, and on this album they continue to move in an even more pop direction filled with electronic flourishes, and occasionally jettisoning rock altogether. "Shining" bursts out of the blocks with a thrilling, charging riff, blasting a punk beat and huge melody, even managing to cram in a brief electro breakdown. It's the first taste of a new electro-pop direction that Arisu take on a number of the album's tracks. "Moebius" has an '80s dancefloor feel with machine-tooled beats, fuzzed-out synth, disco-funk guitar licks, and a melody that could have come straight from the back catalog of a new romantic or synth pop band. "Shooting Star" is even more pop, with electro-funk stabs, tinkling keys, and a lush balladic chorus that harks back to their major label debut Alpha. The wub-heavy "Kid" is preceded by a one-minute funky house intro which is actually called "One Minute Kidding." Elsewhere, this is as aggressive as anything they have ever done, with nods to punk in the high-velocity rhythms. "Plus Minus" tears it up, almost metal in its intensity, with ethereal guitar on the verses and even hardcore-style gang shouts. "Exist" has a hint of that classic Alice Nine darkness and melancholy, while "Shadowplay" picks up where Gemini left off with its epic hard rock. The schizophrenic "Kaisen Zenya" ("The Eve of the War") probably sounds closest, in an oblique way, to their old-school style. Perhaps the best track is the inspirational "Daybreak," with one of the most powerful, uplifting choruses they have ever written. This is a very varied album that seems to have been written to have as broad an appeal as possible. Arisu have always been very typically visual in their carefree mixing and matching of genres, but it has never before sounded forced. At first listen some of these songs sound a bit like the band have tried too hard to shoehorn too many ideas into them. Veering from hard rock to synth pop to electro-funk in the course of a single song, there's a tendency for them to sound disjointed. But after a few spins, the approach kind of grows on one. This is a very good, albeit not great, album, which brings together elements from across the breadth of the band's career and combines them with new ideas in a predominantly successful approach.

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