If you haven't seen it already, Victor Entertainment has launched a special website to promote the release of the gigantic limited-edition remastered Aku no Hana behemoth Aku no Hana -completeworks-, which we first discussed in this post. The release date is February 1st, which is the same date that the original Aku no Hana album was released on in 1990. Surprisingly, the trailer contains some interesting information about the remastered version of the album, so here's the translation, for your reading pleasure:
"Using master tapes that have been sleeping for 25 years in storage at Victor Aoyama Studio, in 2015 the Aku no Hana album will be completely reborn!
"With the oversight of the band members, Producer Tanaka Jun'ichi, still trusted by the band, backed up the creation of this new version of the album, mixed by recording engineer Hiruma Hitoshi from the original tapes recorded 25 years ago.
"Each instrumental track has been newly mixed down, in a production process that employs Victor's original K2HD processing technology to up-convert the original tapes into a high-spec data format.
"The new audio data generated maximizes the potential of the recording master, and has been recorded in high-fi format onto cutting-edge Platinum SHM discs. (*Platinum SHM discs are designed for play in a standard CD player.)
"Using Victor Studio's original K2HD processing technology, the original tapes were converted to high-resolution digital data before editing.
"Platinum SHM discs enabled a further increase in the resolution of the data generated during the production process, and minimize the amount of loss caused by skips as the disc surface is read by the laser of a CD player.
"Now, let's listen to a comparison between the newly remastered version of the album and the 1990 originals. (Use headphones for a better comparison.)"
In fact, I don't think you need headphones to tell the difference between the two recordings. The 2015 version is obviously clearer and sharper, and more in line with the type of sound we've come to expect from major-label bands. However, I would argue that at the same time, there's a certain lyrical beauty in the very softness of the original analog recording. Despite the album's dark themes and bombastic title, the overall sound of the entire disc has a gentle, brushy feel, like a charcoal drawing or watercolor painting. This sound is particularly characteristic of Sakurai's vocals. In contrast to the band's previous four albums, where Sakurai generally seems to be singing at top volume most of the time, in many places on Aku no Hana, he almost appears to be humming to himself or whispering in your ear. Whether this was a deliberate artistic choice or simply a reflection of the band's immaturity and the limited recording technology of the day, it works in service of the art. Though still far lighter the intense psychological journeys the band would later explore in the albums that followed (Kurutta Taiyou, Darker Than Darkness, and Six/Nine), Aku no Hana is nonetheless dreamier and more inwardly focused than the band's previous four releases, full of surrealist, fragmented imagery that doesn't quite make sense. Illusions and shadows are both major themes (see "Maboroshi no Miyako," "Pleasure Land," "Misty Blue," "The World Is Yours," "Love Me," and even "Dizzy Moon.") As such, the blurry quality of the original sound seems fitting.
While I'll be as curious as anyone else to hear what the album sounds like in modern glitzy glory, I'd hesitate to dismiss the merit of the old record. Yes, they were kids, and they had a lot to learn, and the record is imperfect, and it's dated, but at the same time, it's also impressively experimental in the broad variety of sounds and unfailingly sensual despite the sometimes-goofy lyrics. These days we may look back and wonder if it really deserved its chart-topping popularity or status as the band's best-selling record of all time, but when that record was released in 1990, the Japanese youth of the day had never heard anything quite like it. It touched a generation of young people who grew up making music in its influence, and though it might seem campy at times, without the success this initial exploration of Baudelarian psychological decadence and the intensity and confusion and human life force at the nexus of pleasure and despair, who knows if the band would ever have gone on to making Kurutta Taiyou at all.
Another point of interest about the 2015 remaster: the music videos have all been upgraded from the original master tapes, meaning that the quality might be worthy of Blu-Ray high-fi after all. And since those of us who've seen the videos at all have likely seen them either on old VHS tapes or grainy avis uploaded to the web pre-YouTube in the days of soulseek, I bet you're all just as curious as I am to finally find out what the hell is really going on in all those split-screen shots in Pleasure Land and Dizzy Moon, or whether there were really naked ladies in Maboroshi no Miyako, or what the hell the Misty Blue PV was even like because at this moment I can't seem to remember it at all. Then, of course, there's the Sabbat PV, which surely remains one of the best the band has ever produced. Aku no Hana maybe the PV that won the award, but Sabbat is the PV that contains still like this:
Last but not least, in the gargantuan 5-disc special box, Disc 5 is actually an analog record...and since the original pressing of Aku no Hana was never released on vinyl, this is the first time in the history of time that an Aku no Hana vinyl has ever been available. If any of you out there are buying the special box and want to sell Cayce your vinyl, we will buy it! Victor wants you to know that this vinyl was cut in Japan, using Japanese vinyl cutting technology. And this is the point in the trailer where I realized that translating this trailer isn't so different from translating press releases and promotional materials for tech companies, which, just between you and me, is the job that pays most of my rent.
Beyond that, the special box comes with huge postcards of the band members featuring photos that were shot as part of the Aku no Hana promotions, and to underscore just how sexy these photos really are, Victor has set this part of the trailer to a soundtrack of "Pleasure Land." Ohhh baby.
Oh yeah, and it comes with a serial number.
So what are you waiting for? Spread those wallets wide, and wait for Victor to reach its hungry, questing fingers into the slippery wet of your billfold. You can always close your eyes and imagine it's Acchan-chan.