Klaha - "Nostal Lab"

01. 心象プリズム [instrumental]
A mysterious, slow music-box piece. I liked this track; it gave the impression of wandering or searching in the mist. That is, until...

02. scape ~with transparent wings~
BAM! I got hit by this little number. Now don't get me wrong, Klaha's vocal stylings are impeccable as usual, but the hip-hop drumbeats and commercial-sounding string synths struck the wrong chord with me. The vocal melody itself was decent.

03. 太陽の檻
This is a slower, more relaxing piece with a sort of "slurred" vocal line over some piano chords, the occasional sound effect, and the omnipresent drum machine. The chorus is a stronger melody over some more electro-instruments. Overall, this song was "just OK". It makes agreeable background music, but it doesn't really leave much of a lasting impression.

04. Red Room ~硝子の花~
Now THIS is more like it. This is a high-energy song with powerful vocals over intricate Spanish guitarwork, combined with some electric guitars. The percussion is also vastly improved over the past 2 offerings. This song manages to convey true energy and passion - making it one of the two standout tracks on the album.

05. penguin
Alas, my happiness was not to last for long. This song is another piano-driven number that can be a bit overexaggerated at times. The understated parts with the quiet guitar and pulsing beat-instrument are pretty nice, but the "big" parts left me cold. And, Klaha actually goes "Wo, wo, wo" around 4:35 into the song... gah.

06. 感情プリズム [instrumental]
Another instrumental, this one a bit more muffled. It sounds sort of like a piece of old-time radio music or something. Not bad, ends abruptly.

07. 奇蹟の声
This song starts off with a long (45-second) a cappella intro, which feels a bit awkward. But then the instrumentals join in, and things go downhill. It sounds sort of like someone was trying to write a Christmas song on "Mario Paint". Lots of staccato strings, sleigh bells, and weird silly fake bongos. When an actual violin part comes in, the music improves however. Like "penguin" though, this song succumbs to the urge to become "big" as it nears the end, as Klaha decides to turn on the EMPHATIC bass drum and everything just seems to be beating together toward the same non-impressive result.

08. ショコレイト
Hoo boy... this song features a weird gospel-sounding keyboard as the main instrument. That notwithstanding, I nonetheless derived some pleasure from the quiet, understated first 2 minutes of this song, which had a certain sentimental charm to them. Then... BAM! There came the silly beats from "scape", accompanied this time by synthesizers apparently borrowed from "PilotWings 64". Not that I didn't like that game or anything, but the sound is just kind of airy, laid-back, and silly. My conclusion: this song had a good beginning, but veered offcourse.

09. カメレオンの接吻
8 tracks into "Nostal Lab", having only had one glimmer of musical light, I was starting to question my unwavering respect for Klaha. And then it happened. I was hit by the big, bold jazz stylings of "カメレオンの接吻". Everything works togerther perfectly here - the jazz piano, the brass instruments (which are real, not synthesized), and the judicious use of sound effects. And Klaha is on top of his game delivering his smooth lounge singing like he's ready for Vegas. Also noteworthy is the excellent instrumental solo around 1:40. My only complaint is that this song, much like "Red Room", is one of the shorter offerings on "Nostal Lab". Nevertheless, we have another instant classic on our hands.

10. サヨナラ
Alas, my dizzied mind was brought back down from the light and sound of Vegas to the nowhere-in-particular that is the rest of "Nostal Lab" in short order. Once again, we have a song that's heavy on the piano, with a quiet drumbeat holding the piece together. Klaha's vocals are more interesting on this track than some others, though. Not much more to say here.

11. Green ~伝えたい想い~
This song combines the "Nostal Lab" staple of a "big" sound with a higher-energy composition, and the result is surprisingly non-bad. The dual vocals work well here, and the drumbeats sound less ridiculous at this high tempo. The guitarwork in this song is nice as well, and complements Klaha's singing nicely. At one point, this track flirts with mediocrity by quieting down and bringing back the piano, but this interlude is short lived, and with another heartfelt "Woaaahh", Klaha sets things back on track. Overall, this is one of the better offerings on the CD, though not in the same league as "Red Room" or "カメレオンの接吻".

12. 解放プリズム [instrumental]
In this final instrumental, we triumphantly emerge from the mist into the light. A piece that gives the impression of victory, nobility, and fulfillment, before we come back to the music box where the album started. You don't have to listen to the whole thing again though.

On the whole, I was ambivalent about "Nostal Lab". While there were few out-and-out clunkers on the album, only 2 tracks lend themselves to repeated listening. That said, given his illustrious history, I'm going to give Klaha a little more time to show his true colors. We've seen that he's capable of writing innovative new romantic music, now let's hope he puts that ability to work a little more next time.