キセル (Kicell)


Summer in San Francisco

What makes Kicell a compelling listening experience is the way the duo creates lush but economical music. The brothers are fearless in incorporating all manner of strings, percussion and special effects, but their songs feel wide open.

On the pair’s last album, Mado ni Chikyuu, they eased a bit on the quirkiness of their arrangements, and it worked well for them.

But this time with its latest album, Tabi, the loosened grip results in less stellar results.

A number of the flourishes added to the song feel more predictable. The string work on “Kimi to Tabi” sounds closer to Paul McCartney than to Kronos Quartet.

“Charry” is a thematically busy song, thoroughly orchestrated with a relatively traditional band of organ, guitars and drums. It’s a feast for the ears, but it feels like Kicell could have done something more — or weirder — with it.

Other songs on the album are performed straight, with little of the band’s eclectic aural vision. “Niji wo Mita” comes as close to a rocker as Kicell gets, while “Hana ga Kudasai” has all the flourish but little of the flash of the band’s richest songs.

The nearly six-minute instrumental “Michi ga Massugu” doesn’t do much more than pulse, and in an odd way, it’s one of the most interesting tracks on the album.

It also marks the turning point — after that track, the songwriting doesn’t have the kind of forcefullness of Mado ni Chikyuu or Yume.

Would these songs have come off stronger if Kicell kept with its usual modus operandi and went crazy with the effects? Maybe not, but it would have given something on which the ears could latch.

Strangely enough, the most stripped down track on the album is also one Kicell’s best performances. “Yuki ni Kieru” is little more than guitar and a pair of voices. This time, the Tsujimarus invite female singer Kudo Hazuna to offer a contrasting timbre.

Kudo is obviously an untrained singer, and her harmonizing with Tsujimaru Takefumi is slightly out of tune. It’s that bit of grit that makes the performance riveting.

Tabi, in a way, is a reflection of the band’s second album, Kinmirai. The less cluttered arrangements on Tabi conjure a feeling of warmth, in the same way Kinmirai felt like winter. The idea of summer seems to weave itself into the songs.

While Tabi emphasizes more human performances — and less reliance on cold electronics — the songs themselves seem tepid and uninivting. Mark Twain once said the coldest winter he spent was a summer in San Francisco.

Kicell may not have had the City by the Bay in mind when recording Tabi, but for its next album, the should try to keep its heart where it’s been.

Kicell releases new album, single in May


Kicell will release both a new album, Tabi, and a new single, “Natsu ga Kiru”, on May 21. The coupling songs on “Natsu ga Kiru” include English versions of “Enola Gay” and “Mado ni Chikyuu”. It’s been a year and three months since Kicell released its previous album, Mado ni Chikyuu.

Kicell releases new single in December


Kicell will release a new single, “Kimi to Tabi”, on Dec. 16. Details about the single have yet to be determined, but the band has booked a pair of live performances in Kyoto and Tokyo to promote the new release. Kicell also contributed a track to the CD and instructional picture book Do Re Mi de Utaou, which hits stores on Oct. 16. Kicell recently participated in Bofest ’04, held at the Kyoto University western auditorium.

Lying awake

Kicell’s first full-length album was titled Yume, which means “dream” in Japanese. And it was an appropriate word to describe the brother duo’s ethereal music.

Kicell’s third album, Mado ni Chikyuu (“window to the earth”), could also have been titled Okiru, which means “to wake up”.

The lush but sparse sound Kicell crafted on its first two albums give way to more concerte songwriting.

It’s also the band’ strongest album to date.

In the past, Kicell would take a lot of different timbres but meticulously arrange the music so the texture would remain open. This time, the brothers are willing to lay it all out.

“Yume no Tegami” uses a real backbeat during its chorus. “Yawaraka na Oka” feels grandiose without actually having to get too cluttered or too loud. And while “Umi Neko to Teishokuya” may include harp, toy piano and strings, the song focuses on the brothers’ dual guitar work.

The songs on Mado ni Chikyuu are faster as well. Kicell loves to write in a slow or medium tempo, often at the expense of momentum.

“Tokage Hashiru”, “Enola Gay” and “Kagi no Kai” offer a boost to the album which previous works overlooked.

It’s on these faster tracks that the brothers hold back on texture — “Enola Gay” is the closest thing Kicell has to a genuine rock song, the errant flute and trombone notwithstanding.

The tighter arrangements, coupled with more varied songs, makes Mado ni Chikyuu Kicell’s most accessbile album.

The haziness of the band’s past work clears up on this album, but it never totally dissipates.

Kicell previews new album


Speedstar Records has posted audio excerpts from Kicell’s third album, Mado ni Chikyuu, on its web site. The duo of brothers plan to promote the album with a series of special events, one of which features actress Sano Shirou. Kicell will then embark on a country-wide tour starting in Haruno. Mado ni Chikyuu arrives in stores on Feb. 18.

Kicell releases new album in February


Kicell releases its third album titled Mado ni Chikyuu on Feb. 18. Itsuka Mashiko, who worked with the duo on its latest single “Hakobune”, is expected to produce. A preview of the full video clip for “Hakobune” is available on the band’s official site with Speedstar Records till Jan. 7. Kicell released its previous album, Kinmirai, back in October 2002.

Kicell works with electronica producer on new single


Kicell will release a new single, titled “Hakobune”, on Dec. 17. The duo worked with electronica producer Mashiko Itsuki, whose credits include Supercar, ASLN and ROVO. The single is expected to contain three tracks. Kicell’s previous single, “Sabaku ni Saita Hana”, is a self-cover of a song the pair wrote for former Judy and Mary singer Yuki.

The winter album

On the cover of their second single, “Yuki no Furu-go”, the two members of Kicell are shown bundled up in winter gear, standing in the middle of snow-covered field.

It’s an image that’s hard to erase from the mind’s eye when listening to the Tsujimura brothers’ second album, Kinmirai.

The basics to the duo’s sound remain: falsetto vocals, shimmering guitar effects, lush arrangements.

Whereas the band’s 2001 debut Yume came across as intimate — warm, even — Kinmirai feel chilly.

And that’s not a judgment call, either — there’s nothing distant, stoic or lackluster about Kinmirai. It just reminds me of snow.

There are some sonic clues to feed this seasonal perception. This time around, the Tsujimuras put their voices through more processors, doing away with the last album’s immediacy. The robotic beats on “Nagisa no Kuni” and the echo effects on “Yuki no Furu-go” also lend a cold feeling to the music.

There’s also an economy to the arrangments on Kinmirai. Although “Haru” and “Oni” get by on just a few instruments, more expansive tracks such as “Hyaku-nen Calendar” and the title track don’t contain much in the way embellishments.

By comparrison, “Kaze to Kurage” contains much of the orchestral flourishes that marked Yume — a series of strange effects weaving in and out of the song, making it lush but keeping it lean.

Despite its wintery vibe, Kinmirai is also a kinetic album. Those beats on “Nagisa no Kuni” force the Tsujimuras’ out of their usual lethargic pace, while “Ginyama,” the album’s most appealing track, uses an honest-to-goodness running bass and backbeat.

On some level, it’s this coldness that makes Kinmirai hard to warm up to at first. (Pun sort of intended.) Although no less sonically challenging as Yume, it’s not as inviting either. But after adjusting to the album’s “climate”, it’s easy to hear the beauty in it as well.

Toward the end of the album, signs of spring appear — the hints of tropical slack key guitars on “Picnic”, the cabaret feel of “Hawaiian”.

But before a listener delves in Kinmirai, it’s best to fish out the winter gear in your mind’s ear.

Like Random Eye Movement

“Yume” in Japanese means “dream”. It’s an apt description for Kicell’s debut album.

Consisting of brothers Tsujimura Takefumi and Tsujimura Tomohara, Kicell has crafted one of the most dreamiest, atmospheric albums to grace a set of stereo speakers.

Yume positively floats from one track to another, propelled mostly by the brothers’ genteel guitar plucking.

The album starts with “Hanarebanare”, a track shimmering with strange synthesizer effects and glassy guitars. Takefumi’s eerie falsetto teases when he reaches the song chorus.

At first, Takefumi’s singing feels off-putting, too child-like. But set against the lush minimalism of Kicell’s picturesque music, no other voice seems suitable.

Yume almost feels like the album R.E.M. should have recorded with Up — sparse but complex, expansive but minimal, playful but introspective.

A simple drum beat propells “Yume no Ikura”, the closest thing this album has to a single. A solitary piano hook punctuates the phrases of “Horohoro”.

The Tsujimura brothers know the value of “less-is-more”, throwing in its arsenal of effects at strategic points in a song, weaving unlikely timbres together to form a nice rhythmic tapestry full of surprises.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the epic “Yakanhikoo (Rakka Double Version)”. The track moves along on a dub beat, but strange samples float in and out of the song, giving the song more depth than its restrained arrangement lets on.

On other tracks, the brothers are just plain haunting.

“Hi no Tori ~Hotani-en~” sports a dreamy, reverb-drenched vocal performance, while “Kyuujitsu no Mado” feels positively drugged out.

Put Yume on the stereo, and it’s a safe bet Kicell’s skillfull, minimalistic work will burrow itself into your subconscious.

Sweet dreams.