I still dig fhana, now that their sophomore studio album is out. I gave it a spin or three, and what keeps true are its bright, open instrumentals. And now that I know what they sound like live, I can easily imagine what it sounds like in that context.
To explain, fhana is possibly the first anison band that I felt a distinct need to get audiophile-y on. There’s a dimensionality to their sound in the live that just doesn’t show up on home audio unless you really game for it. It’s like hearing four sources of sounds that just go at it with each other, rather than what two speakers or however many that goes into your ear in an average listening situation. There’s this thoughtful interplay in some of their songs that just don’t translate well on a recording. In some ways hearing a new fhana studio album is almost like just getting a sample and knowing you are not getting the full meal. I feel plugging my meager K7xx into that Orb amp isn’t going to make any difference.
The best track on the album is the title track, What a Wonderful World Line. The PV is right below->
Unfortunately, I think as a whole this album is not as enjoyable as their Lantis solo debut album, but musically I already hear the necessary twist and turns that comes within expectation of a healthy, developing, ongoing artistic effort. Maybe what I’m hearing is just how things go with a band that is making music for the sake of it. Maybe it’s deliberate. To start, the sound doesn’t betray, and it stays true to what we know as fhana, if albeit less punchy than it used to be. Towana’s vocals is as impressive, but it doesn’t quite explodes for me the same way; rather, her always-full-thrust voice runs a little more than it used to be, grates a little harder at those same registers. The instrumentals fade a little compared to what it used to be; some of the tricks are no less obvious the second time around, and it’ll be up to you to find either comfort or repetition in them. And I think fhana accounts for all this by mixing it up, giving Sato more vocal room (no other reason to explain why that track is in the middle of the album) and more stylistic variety between tracks. Even The Seed and the Sower, which is probably a good example of what to expect from this CD, comes in more as diversion, a falsely familiar, same-sounding, but somewhat different experience for a climax.
It’s kind of like being in the sun a little too long?
But these are sophomoric changes within expectation I think. Grading it on a curve, This Wonderful World Line still comes out ahead of the pack. Which is always to say fhana is really neat in that they exist as an anison band, who write music for anime and games. Maybe you can see it as a handicap, but I think that’s the undercurrent of their artistry. It can’t be easy writing for hire for committees of banks and media conglomerates on projects involving hundreds of people and embrace that as your main thing as an art.
If you like progressive jpop and anime music, please listen to fhana and you can iTune their albums on the JP or US stores. It’s a on CDJ here, the LE comes with a Blu-ray with their Lisani footage and some PVs. I think the full verdict on this one is still not finalized because some of these tracks will likely grow on me on repeat. Well, guess our mileage will vary.
PS. Breaking some ground, fhana recorded an all-English track with What a Wonderful World Line. It’s also the most Japanese thing ever, by that I mean the meaning and expression in the song. Penned by Lynne Hobday. Have a look. Every time I hear it I want to MST3K it.