THE FLOWERS OF PASSION: Stories from the Underground Japanese Idol Scene – Ep. 1

THE FLOWERS OF PASSION: Stories from the Underground Japanese Idol Scene

Idol Underworld is finally releasing their documentary about underground idols titled The Flowers Of Passion; here’s a review of the first episode!

If you follow even just a bit of the alternative idol scene, the name of Derek Vasconi will probably ring a bell: whether it’s for his previous and current collaboration with some groups or his idol-themed web store Idol Underworld, it’s clear that he has been working in this world for a while. Last year, IdolOnChaos did an interview with Derek, in which he mentioned the documentary about the underground idol scene he was working at the time; finally, the documentary is being released and now I’m going to review the first of five episodes of The Flowers of Passion: Stories from the Underground Japanese Idol Scene.

Introduction

Let’s start by giving some context to this work: the underground idol scene is by definition a very niche world — at least for us in the West — meaning it’s something you probably discovered thanks to your deep interest in Japanese alternative and idol music; it’s like a niche scene born from two niche scenes, which makes it not really easy to find randomly. The Flowers of Passion takes for granted that you know more or less how the underground idol scene works and its target audience is people who already know this world and want to know even more; it’s not meant to explain the complete history of idols from the beginning to the modern days, it’s literally what its title says: stories from the scene, told by some of its protagonists.

Sure, there is a nice introduction about how the concept of idols was born and developed through the years in Japan, and it actually explains — although very quickly — how loud and alternative idols came to be in the last decade; but being so short, it’s clear that this is just to put some context on the main content of the documentary.

The Idol Stories

The first episode features a few groups and artists, some of which also appeared in the Know Your Idol interviews; however, instead of introducing them, the documentary goes more in depth about their experiences in the idol scene. I’m not going to spoil you everything of course, but let’s say that if you are interested in idols such as Mizuho Asakura (formerly in Bellring Shoujo Heart and now in SAKA-SAMA), NaNoMoRaL, Usakura Beni from Avandoned (now in FRUN FRIN FRIENDS) and MERRY BAD END, you’ll be glad to get a good amount of unique content about them.

All the artists involved prove that they indeed have their own stories to tell, and they all show the huge effort and the hardships that idols need to overcome; but, of course, there are also positive stories of actually overcoming these hardships. From the harshness of AQBI Records founder Koji Tanaka regarding Bellring Shoujo Heart to the difficult start Chihiro and MERRY BAD END had to deal with, passing through the deep artistic connection of the two NaNoMoRaL members and the interesting thoughts on the meaning of being an idol of Usakura Beni, the documentary delves into all the kinds of different experiences idols faced during their activities.

Interviews aside, you will also get to see very peculiar aspects of the idol life: not only small portions of live shows, but also idols chatting with fans during buppan and cheki sessions. This is something you probably would experience only by attending an actual show, so it’s a nice bonus for people who never had the chance to go in Japan.

Technical Aspects

I’ll be honest, I’m no big expert regarding audio and video quality, so I’m not going to pretend to be one. But let me point out a few things.

First, I was pleasantly surprised of the fairly good sound quality of the live shows and especially of the chatting with fans parts; it’s not something that obvious, and I’m glad that the quality allows us to get a very good taste on these aspects.

At the same time, I want to praise the fact the documentary does a good job at being visually interesting: the interviews are shot like you would expect them in a documentary and the switching between them and the live recordings are made to give you enough time to enjoy both of them.


All in all, judging from this first episode, The Flowers of Passion is an interesting documentary made for idol fans, and by who used to be just another fan and now works behind the scenes of this world. You can buy or rent The Flowers of Passion on Gumroad.

Migma Shelter – Alice

Migma Shelter

Listen to the new Migma Shelter album “Alice”, inspired by Alice In Wonderland and featuring a fable-inspired version of their psy-trance sound.

Concept albums are always fascinating, but there are certain ideas that sound even more awesome; take for example Migma Shelter releasing an album based on Alice in Wonderland: how great does it feel? Not as much as the actual work is, to be honest. Alice is indeed an ambitious and incredibly detailed masterpiece, so let’s spend some words about it.

As we already know from the songs they released in the past few months, this album is not simply made of their usual psy-trance sound; instead, they imbued it with whatever felt fine. This means that, while the songs are unmistakably Migma Shelter-like and linked by a fable theme, they also sound very different from each other, drawing from an ever changing palette of colors to paint new, unique soundscapes.

Alice starts off with the magical sounds of a hang drum followed by an effected violin and a 4/4 beat, a combo which sets the fantasy, psychedelic and danceable atmosphere; “In Wonderland” does a great job at introducing the album showing its main element. The next track is one I’ve already spent some good words about and somehow follows the hints provided by the opener: “Rabiddo” brings in more symphonic elements and may different emotions, sounding both mysterious and lighthearted with a very shamanic aura. On the other hand, “Drops” changes everything with a very jazz-inspired piano-double bass combo and some electro-swing vibes in the lighter parts.

Things keep getting weirder with “Egg Head”, where a glitched chicken appears on top a powerful EDM beat accompanying playful and fable-like melodies; actually, animal cries like birds and horses can be found throughout the whole album, but this case is particularly interesting as it reminded me of Igorr. The next song is “Y”, whose colorful lyrics video has been melting my brain for a couple of months; the brass section is very strong here, introducing elements of balkan brass and even latin pop, despite the usual psy-trance setting.

Speaking of pop, the second half of “It Doesn’t Matter” seems to be inspired by recent years American electronic pop/r&b, while some strings add a symphonic touch; regarding the first part, however, it’s more similar to a fantasy ballad, featuring dreamlike and soothing acoustic guitars supported by slower drums.

From here on, Alice seems to be a bit less weird, although there will still be some unexpected twists. “Unbirthday” brings the classic Migma Shelter psy-trance style with an Egyptian-sounding melody which appears here and there. “Road” and “QUEEN” have a common element appearing for the first time at the end of the album, namely the electric guitar: on the first track it comes towards the conclusion with a tremolo picking part which later turns into a very simple and melodic solo, while on the latter it joins the song after the sudden tempo change with a more standard rock riff and then helps making the following slowdown heavier.

The last track, “My Wonderland”, is a nine minute long mastodon which starts off with a magical atmosphere, just to turn into a more typical EDM sound with various sub-styles fused together, at least until a joyful violin takes the lead with an European folk sounding melody. The song ends with a quite dark passage, closing the album on a mysterious note.


Alice is a both typical and atypical Migma Shelter release: while there are elements belonging to their trademark sound, there is a lot of different stuff going on in each track. Definitely one of my favorite idol albums of this year.


MIGMA SHELTER – Rabiddo

Migma Shelter
“Rabiddo” is the new astonishing song by Migma Shelter, a more experimental take on their usual psy-trance sound with an equally otherworldly MV.
Remember when Migma Shelter came up as the first psy-trance-oriented idol unit? At that time you would think wow, that’s really unique in the idol scene! Now go give a listen to the current Migma Shelter and you’ll find yourself thinking wow, that’s really unique in the whole music scene!

The MV for “Rabiddo” came out yesterday and I lost count of how many times I watched it. The word awesome doesn’t even begin to describe the greatness of this group. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

First of all: the dark fantasy, fable-like setting of the video. Psychedelic music aims to bring your mind to some other world and that’s what we’re experiencing through this video. Among colorful visuals and the killing of a rabbit in a forest, you’ll soon be asking yourself what kind of drug they are injecting in your brain through their music.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), the song is even more bizarre. Making use any kind of emotion you can think of, “Rabiddo” features strings playing cheerful but also melancholic melodies, while the beat are a real rollercoaster going from really intense to very quiet and calming, not to mention the usual trance rhythms which are basically a trademark of Migma Shelter‘s music. The haunting voices of the six girls not only complete, but also improve the otherworldly feelings emanating from this song, sometimes singing as if they were shamans.


This weird evolution of Migma Shelter‘s sound is getting more and more interesting; just like “Y” blew my mind when it came out, “Rabiddo” is an equally stunning song. Their new album ALICE will be released at the end of July and I seriously can’t wait.