By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Not everyone will know of Millennium Parade, an arts collective from Japan whose music can’t be easily pigeon-holed. They are led by Daiki Tsuneta, frontman of J-Pop band King Gnu, and can be categorized as New Wave or Trip Hop. The debut self-titled album is a fresh exhilarating experience for me, and their sound is similar to but not quite like the sound from the virtual band’s Gorillaz. But anime fans will know them because they’re the composers of the opening song, “Fly with Me” for Netflix’s Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045.
This work draws from Japanese folklore, and this supernatural world has modern tonality embedded in the lyrics. The songs take ideas from Hyakki Yagyo – The Night of One Hundred Demons and transform the images, stories and lore from this Asiatic world into evocative melodies that’s both a meditative and a clubbing experience. On the cover, a “Tezutsu Hanabi” (the oldest form of Japanese fireworks, encased in bamboo and held by hand) which was traditionally used to protect from evil spirits, and was also used to pray for a good harvest, is held by Ebisu (one of the 7 Gods of Fortune).
An alternative version is Kawanable Kyōsai’s Night Parade of One Hundred Demons (1890). The original was simply art showcasing spirits in a parade rather than a book; it’s easy to confuse the many versions which exist. They all callback to the same source, but are adapted to suit a particular wall scroll, drawing, tale or otherwise. Perhaps the most well known is the version “compiled” by artists Toriyama Sekien and Sawaki Sūshi centuries ago.
All the works are the same, but only one includes a narrative. Kyōsai’s take is more in sync. You can’t really dance to the tracks. Instead, you’ll want to pay attention to the etheric whispers from that spectral lover when experiencing this musical tour de force for the first time.
My favourite tune is “Philip,” and no, we’re not talking about the experiment to conjure up a spirit. Instead, there’s a social commentary nestled in how this spectre sees modern Japan. “Familia” is a romantic song, evoking the best in ghost romances, and “Fly with Me” explores the stain of what money represents and how it makes the world go ’round. “Fireworks and Flying Sparks” is a blend of genres. It’s an anthem. Also, the choral flourish evokes an image of congregating at a chapel. I can imagine finding stained glass images coming to life here and leering at the parishioners, much like how this image was introduced in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes.
The last act (group) of songs is strong. There’s definitely a light narrative arc. It’s best to follow along with the accompanying insert–if lyrics are included–to know what’s going on. I’m the type who prefers to sing (or read in this case) when I’m wanting to take on the full experience this album offers.