Minikon - Life Is A Game...
Listening to Minikon is going back to a childhood that is still here, slipped into a mainstream, feel good, fuzzy, synthetic world scored with pop music that is trying, like Mozart, to get the kids smarter right out of the womb.
The newest album, Super Minikon!, flaunts the band's great love of Japanese pop culture, without crass American commercialism screwing it up yet. A joy of electronic video game melodies swirls non-stop, pervading the mind with upbeat instrumentals that are dying to underscore something. But something surpassing fun--G-rated, of course.
Storybooked into 2 chapters, the first is Sky Adventure, containing
Shiver and Smile
then swim the moat to the Castle of Dreams wherein lies
The most beautiful of these could be the aptly-named "Mellowbee", with its soft-spoken vibe accent layered among many beats, some of which speak like plugged-in glasses full of wine, hit quickly and distinctly. One rhythm could bring the image of a shower curtain getting beaten, before quietly settling down as if the door has just closed on the party downstairs.
"Flying Hero" is what tiny tots want as soon as their steps stop falling and start to balance on their own wavelength. Minikon provides the wavelength, however; a trippy hop down man-made drum machines, with no minor keys allowed into the chocolate factory at the end of the road. It is as bright as we imagine the Hero of this air story to be, anime eyes and all.
Try not smiling during the effervescence avulsion of "Bubble Maze" and you might break your jaw. Its irregular beat and jovial wings of musical snap, crackle and POP delight the ears as soon as it reaches the open, like blood turning from blue to red. Eyes will crinkle and memories flood back to the days of popping Juicy Fruit and Bubble Yum and opening packs of non-sports cards when they still had bubble gum in them. Those are the thoughts that come to mind when this CD finds a player, so be warned.
Denty One, the voiceless voice behind Minikon's domain, obviously states that "Nintendo (particularly Shigeru Miyamato's games) is the single greatest influence for the Minikon sound, but Yellow Magic Orchestra's early works are without a doubt engraved into my psyche forever. God bless them.
"Nintendo is so innovative and fun, but that seems to describe Japanese culture in general... Innovative, fun and let's not forget, beautiful. I find it very difficult to throw away any wrappers from Japanese candy. They're just so darn cute."
So, his tastes must always run to the Far East, right? "Manga? No, I read mostly non-fiction, but I have been eyeing Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa books. Anime, hmm, not much but just about anything by Studio Ghibli, and I really like the Last Exile series. Range Murata is awesome."
As you might expect, Denty One's musical background includes the a-typical musical family. "My father can play just about any style on just about any instrument. He taught himself guitar at the age of 12 and played in the Grand Ole Opry when he was 16. I started writing music at 16. It ranges from tiny Casio ditties to hardware samplers and synths to software based music production. I've failed every music class I've ever attended, including history and theory. So, I guess my love of music taught me."
Super Minikon! took about a year to put together, though some of the melodies had been written before his first album. "My songs usually come from a simple melodic structure that gets stuck in my head for weeks, basically forcing me to render it so that I can move forward with my life. I have volumes of incomplete work that are these sound 'sketches.' My albums are sketches that I got around to finishing. That's pretty much it."
Music isn't all, though. "I paint and do graphic design work, including my own album covers as well as others. My regular job is pretty exciting. I'm an inspector. I inspect homes. I use a flashlight. It's pretty cool. My off hour activities include spending time with my wife and daughter and hiding in the attic."
Seeing through an artist's eyes gives Denty One a unique perspective on the visuals created in the composition process. As his music flows, he sees "clouds with eyes, dancing flowers, pastel enemies and shooting stars to name a few. Pixels and animation!" The next album sounds like more of the same. "The next Minikon will be a little more focused on innocence and joy. I love innocence, it is precious while it lasts."
So what about the precious future? "Well, I hope Super Minikon devours the world with its happiness and I hope to own a camel someday."
Until then, if you want to hear him in Tokyo this Fall, pull up a Playstation and enjoy the game.