Album Review: Kanon Wakeshima – “浸食ドルチェ”

1. sweet ticket
2. 真紅のフェータリズム (Shinku no Fētarizumu; Crimson Fatalism)
3. 鏡 (Kagami; Mirror)
4. still doll (album ver.)
5. マボロシ (Maboroshi; Illusion)
6. アンニュイ気分! (Annyui Kibun!; Feelings of Ennui!)
7. 砂のお城 (Suna no Oshiro; Sand Castle)
8.  Monochrome frame
9. L’espoir  ~魔法の赤い糸~ (L’espoir ~Mahou no Akai Ito~; Hope ~The Magic Red Thread~)
10. 黒い鳥籠 (Kuroi Torikago; Black Birdcage)
11. skip turn step
12. 白い心 (Shiroi Kokoro; White Heart)
13. sweet dreams

Kanon Wakeshima’s debut album, 浸食ドルチェ (Shinshoku doruche; Dolche Violation), was released on Feburary 18, 2009. It was also released in the United States on June 29, 2008.

The first song, sweet ticket, is an instrumental. Kanon sets the mood for the album  by playing the cello. The song is very pretty and builds up a grandiose atmosphere.

真紅のフェータリズム is next. It’s a fascinating song, combining the classical element of Kanon’s cello and a dance-y, techno beat. I was surprised at how strong her voice was during the chorus, as it’s normally very soft and meek. This track is a blend of the old and the new in the best way possible, and definitely makes the listener excited to hear more.

We get to hear a much more Gothic sound on , a chillingly upbeat number. Like I mentioned before, Kanon’s voice sounds much more breathy on this one, but I can’t really say I mind. The lyrics, in particular, are very interesting, as they are a clear tribute to the fairy tale of Snow White. I like how well this song displays Kanon’s ability as a songwriter and storyteller.

And here we have still doll (album ver.), a slightly altered version of the song that made Wakeshima famous. One can definitely hear how it fits as being the ending theme to a vampire anime, as it is extremely creepy. The dark strings and small bells set up a really dark, ominous atmosphere. Kanon’s doll-like voice doesn’t do much to help the situation either. The only thing different about this particular version is that the ending chorus is repeated once at the beginning of the song.

マボロシ first struck me as very pretty. Once again, we get to hear Kanon’s impressive skills as a cellist on top of a dance beat, but with the addition of xylophone and light chimes. Her actual vocal performance sounds very smooth and without any strenuous effort. Overall, it’s a very enjoyable song.

アンニュイ気分!is rather strange, in my opinion. It starts out with the sound of birds chirping, a cat mewing, and Kanon taking a shower. Then, the phone rings, and the listener is jerked out of their reverie by some unexpectedly cheerful bells. The first verse starts out nice enough, but the melody of the chorus is painfully hard to follow. I wish I could say more, but I felt like I had to focus closely just to get a handle on the song. In the end, I wasn’t very impressed.

砂のお城 is the second of the two Vampire Knight themes done by Miss Wakeshima. In some ways it’s definitely the darker of the two, since in the verse Kanon is basically forcefully whispering the lyrics. She sounds great in the chorus though. The arrangement is definitely more dance-influenced than still doll. Rather than basing the final verdict for this song on its predecessor, I will simply look at the song itself and say that it is a pleasing and interesting listen.

Monochrome frame is probably the most mainstream-sounding track on this whole album. Rather than being mostly classical or mostly dance, the arrangement is closer to that of a contemporary ballad. The drumbeat is nice and relaxed, and the strings ease the song along rather than rushing it. The chorus is truly one of the most loveliest I’ve heard so far; Kanon’s wistful voice seems to just float above the music.

L’espoir ~魔法の赤い糸~ is a deceptively grandiose-sounding song that is actually about dating and pursuing love. It’s very romantic and charming, and decidedly more exciting than the previous song. For all you language enthusiasts out there, there is an interest French verse at the beginning and end of the song that you might have great fun translating (here’s a hint: it’s very morbid). Kanon’s accent isn’t particularly great, but at least she’s trying. Overall, it’s a very well-done track.

I do realize that most Wakeshima fans adore 黒い鳥籠, but I’m not too crazy about it. The dance synths and strings are interesting, sure, and I’m not saying it’s a bad song by any means, but Kanon’s performance is a bit too weak. The whole song just sounds kind of rushed and sloppy. I’d pass on this one if I were you.

skip turn step definitely gives you the feeling of being in a French Rococo dance party. As the longest song on this album, I’m definitely glad they put more time into this one to make it especially fun and charming. And even though the arrangement is, of course, classical, the drums sound like they came straight out of a rock song. It’s a nice touch and they compliment Kanon’s cute voice very well.

I can describe 白い心 in one word: peaceful. Sweet, nostalgic piano surrounds Kanon’s gentle voice, making a lovely combination. It picks up a bit in the chorus, with addition of strings and such, but it still manages to remain pristine-sounding and calm. In short, it does a good job of winding the album down a bit.

And so, the album ends as it began – with an instrumental. sweet dreams has the same melody as sweet ticket, except rather than the large-scale orchestra, it is played by a music box. Very sweet and very pretty, and of course, enjoyable.

Summary: The beauty and uniqueness of Kanon Wakeshima’s music has earned her international notoriety, and for good reason. This is a great debut effort as it displays her talent as not only a cellist and vocalist, but as a songwriter as well. The tracklist of Shinshoku Dolce are arranged in such a way that as soon as it starts to lag a little bit, it picks right up again, and because of this I can honestly say that I enjoyed this album much more than I thought I would.
Also, before I close out, I just want to mention how friggin’ gorgeous Kanon is. Seriously, the girl is like a damn doll. Never in all my years of listening to Japanese music have I seen more beautiful album covers. I love, love, love it.

Album Grade: A