Earworm of the month for me is Wagakki Band 和楽器バンド from Japan who combine traditional Japanese instruments, western rock and vocaloid songs. Yep, they have a flute player in a rock band!
The first track Homura 焔 is a gentle introduction to the band; we start with a powerful stadium guitar-led piece before bassist Asa (male) gifts us a solo. Then things get super spicy when Beni starts strumming her shamisen. Homura barely finishes as Wagakki dives headlong into Akatsuki no Ito 暁ノ糸 with the flute, strings, and taiko drums leading into Yuko Suzuhana's traditionally shaped vocals for a short rest. Pause, breath, slow down, boom! Then the whole band erupts. Hair standing on end stuff! Akatsuki is worth several listens to untangle what the different maestro musicians are doing.
Senbonzakura 千本桜 A thousand cherry blossoms covers a popular song originally written for the vocaloid Hatsume Miko. The polish in the performances shows that every band member is a true master of their instruments. I also want to take a moment to praise the sound mixing because an ensemble of many instruments can sound muddy, yet the mix is as clear as a mountain spring. Other worthy vocaloid covers are Tengakku 天樂 Heavenly Music and Roku chonen to ichiya monogatari 六兆年と一夜物語 A tale of six trillion years and a night.
Things slow down a little for the song Queen of the Night. Fun fact: Yuko's floaty-nasal singing style was traditionally employed to link the woodwind and stringed instruments that might otherwise sound like opposing combatants.
Also sizzling from their latest album, Sun Wheel moves so masterfully quickly you barely have time to process it. Beni stuns on the shamisen with some beautiful highlights from Kiyoshi's koto, and heck, did I mention how metal is that flutist! The composition uses some crazy technique to allow space for all the instruments to be heard while never having them quiet. The night-time bamboo garden video is an apt contrast because such places are mean to be tranquil!
For the last track, I have chosen a concert performance of Kishikaisei 起死回生 Arise from the dead. Don't get me wrong, the music video is also wondrous, but I love the live energy. Watch the flutist skip around the stage like an aerobics instructor, and he never misses a note. Metal!
Wagakki Bando is an excellent example of popfolk - the merger of the traditional and pop in ways that appeal to a popular aesthetic and don't sound overly academic, forced - or to use the contemporary vernacular - cringe. I'm hoping they have a long career because they keep on getting better and better.
I like to do giveaways for engaged readers. The prize will be three staked VIBESM to the user who first links me to the best Wagakki Bando song that I have not yet heard. And two runner-up prizes of 1 staked VIBESM. Three attempts allowed per user. The contest closes at post payout.