It’s that time of the year again. The release of the full version of Touhou 16: Hidden Star in Seasons is naturally the highlight of this event, but there are some excellent albums being released, too! Like usual, the top of my list contains the albums that I’m looking forward to in some sort of vague order, and the albums at the bottom of my list are albums that I think deserve an introduction.
Also, the people over at Reddit put together an event recently: Redditaisai 2. It’s intended to be a sort of Western counterpart to the typical conventions you see in Japan – the full list of entries is here. There’s some great stuff there, including one of my albums, so check it out if you have some time! I’m releasing a new album the week after C92 called Petite Symphonie, so please give the demo a listen if you’re interested!
I’ll add a few more albums to this list closer to the release date. Touhou Jihen forgot to submit an application for a booth at C92, so they’re collaborating with another circle [Details yet to be announced]. TAMAONSEN is also releasing a new album, but the details are likewise yet to be announced.
1. Tokyo Active NEETs’ “Touhou Explosive Jazz 11” [東方爆音ジャズ１１]
If you’ve been following these posts over the past 2 years, you’ll know that I have a very… complicated relationship with Tokyo Active NEETs. They used to be one of my favourite circles, but then I didn’t like the direction they took with the Explosive Jazz series, so I stopped seriously following them…
And then this album happened! I mean, Ten Desires has my favourite soundtrack, and the Toyosats is my favourite character, so it’s only natural that I’d like this album. But there’s something more. The arrangements are more varied, and there’s more… space in general in the album. I think it’s a remarkable step up from the previous albums in this series!
Their arrangement of Rigid Paradise also doubles as a cover of the Snarky Puppy track ‘What About Me?’. How cool is that?!
2. Shinra-bansho’s “Synchro” [シンクロ]
This album features all of the songs from the event-limited CDs Shinra-bansho has been releasing over the past couple of months. That’s not all – it also features brand new arrangements of Wonderful Heaven and Shrodinger’s Bakeneko. I wasn’t able to listen to all of the event-limited singles on Youtube, so a few tracks on this album are brand new to me, which makes it even better. I’m looking forward to finally being able to properly listen to these tracks! 10 tracks of Ayaponzu* and Ayo goodness. What more could you ask for?
Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that Liz Triangle was originally going to disband after this event. However, kaztora pushed the date back to C93 because he wants to do what he can to make Liz Triangle’s last release something truly special.
3. Ringing Volcano’s “The Rest of a Dream” [夢のつづき]
XFD || Official Site
We used to see quite a few vocal tracks from Machikado-Mapoze, but this is surprisingly the first time we’ve seen vocal tracks from Ringing Volcano. I think they’re all spectacular. The vocalists do such a great job, and the accompaniment is so fulfilling.
It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I appreciate the fact that one of the arrangements is of Kosuzu’s theme. That theme needs more love! Hopefully this album will make an appearance on BOOTH so I can buy it and translate each track as soon as possible…
4. Diao ye zong’s “Omoi” [音]
Like usual, RD delivers another high-concept, high-quality album. The theme of this album is ‘forgetfulness.’ I can’t quite decide whether it’s a dark album or a light album. Perhaps it’s a bit of both?
My favourite tracks so far are the second one (I particularly love the wordplay in the title and can’t wait to read the lyrics) and the 10th one. Nayuta always gives it her all when she sings for RD, and I think it’s paying off. That track in particular demands to be listened to.
5. + 6. BUTAOTOME’s “CHILD HOOD’S END” and “Touhou Keyboard Cat 14” [東方猫鍵盤14]
In the end, I wasn’t too fond of the last few BUTAOTOME albums (with sachlich being the exception), but I like the direction CHILD HOOD’S END is taking. The original themes are clearly audible, and each track seems to have its own unique identity. I took a bit of a break from listening to Ranko, and I almost forgot how good of a vocalist she is. There’s really nothing quite like a good BUTAOTOME album.
Paprika also put together another Keyboard Cat album for us. This one reimagines Touhou themes as if they were in an RPG. If there’s one thing I really love about this series, it’s the variety of themes and concepts explored in them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed how much Paprika has grown as an arranger over the years.
By the way! Tiramisu Cowboy is celebrating its 2nd anniversary! It’s a treasure trove of BUTAOTOME information, so please give it a look if you haven’t already.
7. + 8. prestige and wealth’s “image” and minimum electric design’s “Zero-Second Starlet” [0秒の主役]
prestige and wealth (known as paw) is a sister circle of sorts of minimum electric design. They’ve released a single or two before, but this is their first full album. All of the tracks are original compositions, but minimum electric design’s signature sound is still there. I haven’t heard some of the vocalists in there before, but I was quite impressed by all of the tracks. They’re very unique. Let’s face it, all I need to see is ‘ヴォーカル：mineko’ and I’m on board, anyway…
The second release is an instrumental-only album. It features some old tracks, some karaoke tracks, and some new tracks. I can’t help but judge it a little more harshly than their last release, since the tracks feel like they need vocals. Still, listening to these instrumental tracks makes me appreciate just how much work goes in to making your usual med track!
9. “INNER VOICES”, by Hatsunetsumiko’s
This album is only 5 tracks long, which is a shame, but those 5 tracks are 5 excellent tracks! This circle has really polished the pop/rock sound they’ve been focusing on over the past two releases. The album art is simply divine, too.
The fifth track in particular stands out for me – it’s a rare arrangement of “She’s in a temper!!”. Ark Brown always delivers such energetic performances. He’s kind of like a Japanese Justin Timberlake.
10. + 11. Cajiva’s Gadget Shop’s “SCHLUCHT” and “HYPERSOMNIA”
Before I start talking about the albums, I need to apologise, because I’ve been calling this circle “Cajiva’s Gadget Workshop” when it’s actually just “Cajiva’s Gadget Shop.”
Putting that aside, there are two releases from this circle. The title of the first one can be roughly translated to “Canyon.” My favourite track is the 4th one. It’s just… so full of hope. The instrumentation combines with the addictive beats, and it all just works. Addictive beats. I might use that phrase again…
The second features contributions from a broad spectrum of arrangers. The thing linking all the tracks together? They’re all arrangements of Doremy’s theme. So if you’re a fan of her theme, like I am, you can’t go wrong with this album. The first track in particular is so haunting and evocative.
The circle also recently opened up a BOOTH shop, where even overseas fans can pick up digital copies of their previous releases! I picked up three albums, and I’m so happy I did.
12. AramiTama’s [荒御霊] “The Sealed God’s Offering” [塞神奉納]
Celebrating Mountain of Faith’s 10th anniversary, AramiTama has put together a MoF ‘Deep Electronic’ album. As a whole, I really like the sound design of this album. The percussion is sharp and pointy, and the other sounds float above it. It’s very futuristic, and very cool. My favourite tracks are the second and the eighth ones (the Suwako tracks).
I found out that this circle has a BOOTH shop, too, but unfortunately you can’t buy digital copies of any of their albums at the moment…
13. Casket’s “Casket IV”
XFD || Official Site
Casket always has interesting stuff on offer. It looks like they had some troubles with their website, so we don’t really know anything about this album, apart from the fact that it exists. I wonder what the tracklist is like? Does it contain arrangements of themes from Old Adam?
Update: I checked their Bandcamp page, and since Casket II was an original album, it stands to reason that Casket IV will also be an original album.
14. + 15. Pizuya’s Cell’s “Liquid & Splash” and “Stand Alone” [スタンドアローン]
I had trouble picking which album I like more, to be honest. Anyway, the first one is a Sealing Club EDM album, featuring a bunch of different vocalists. I was so surprised to look at the last track… and see that Ayaponzu* is in charge of the vocals. She really shows up everywhere, doesn’t she? One day we’ll look at an RD album and see her there. Anyway, EDM isn’t normally my thing, but I really liked the demo. I think the mixing is good. There’s a danger of making the backing track too overwhelming, but that doesn’t happen here. My favourite track is F.A.S.S.
The second album is more of what we’ve come to expect from this circle. It features NOiSE, which you can watch here. Sadly, we don’t have any classic legend tracks. Oh well. Breaking with tradition, we have some English lyrics this time. Interesting…
16. Fuling Cat Mark’s “Starlight One Piece Girl”
XFD || Official Site
I’ve been following this circle on and off for a few events now. They call their style of music ‘Shibuya-style’, which means it’s a bit pop, yet a bit jazz at the same time. I like what I heard in the demo, and we even have an arrangement of “A Midsummer Fairy’s Dream”! How cool is that?
This circle has a BOOTH page, too! If you like the sound of their music, consider getting a digital copy of their albums if you can.
17. Hachimitsu Lemon x Aftergrow’s “Touhou Six String 04 – 儚 [Transient]”
“My days spent with you were so transient, so painful, so dear to me…”
After taking a brief trip away from the world of Hifuu, we’re back. Well, having said that, the majority of these tracks aren’t Sealing Club tracks. Would you call that false advertising…?
Anyway, I have a soft spot for Aftergrow and Hiratake’s arrangements, so I’m glad that this album series exists. I think the instrumental tracks are quite moving, and of course the mineko tracks are great, too.
17. + 18. Akatsuki Records’ “Sci-Fi ROMANCE TRAVELER” and LIMITED SINGLES season1
Akatsuki Records had the same idea as Shinra-bansho, except they actually released a new album while also re-releasing their event-limited singles. That’s on top of an event-limited disc, too. It feels weird to say this, but I’m kind of overwhelmed by all the new Akatsuki Records stuff. Where should I even begin?
Well, track 6 on Sci-Fi stands out. It’s another dramatic arrangement, just like the Third Eye one we had a little while ago. Though I’m a Stack fan, I must admit that I’m a bit disappointed cheluce has gone missing for this set of albums.
19. Arisaki Works’ “Touhou String Ensemble Compilation Vol.2” [東方弦合奏集 Vol.2]
XFD || Official Site
This circle released its first album at C90. For its second release, the circle leader hired enough musicians to form a full string quartet! Overall it sounds much tighter than the first release. Each instrument plays its own role, and it all fits together well. If you love live performances, and love string quartets, I don’t think you’ll find a better circle than this one!
20. Accord on Codes’ “A Night at the Underground”
I haven’t listened to much from this circle, but this album sounds like a real treat! It features a bunch of tracks from Subterranean Animism, but in a smooth jazz style. There’s something about Subterranean Animism that works so well with jazz…
This is the sort of stuff you listen to in front of an open fire during a cold night. It will warm you up.
21. flap+frog’s “Magical Girls and Fonts 2” [魔法少女と活字2]
XFD || Official Site
Apparently there was a #1 in this series. Anyway, each track is meant to symbolise a font. We’ve even got Eternitylarva italic. Yes, that Eternity Larva.
This is chill-out music, so it complements the above album surprisingly well. I really like the second track. The electric piano is so smooth, and I like how it just unfolds over time, kind of like a minimalist piece.
22. Konpeki Studio’s “TRIANGLE▽SITUATION”
Konpeki Studio is on a mission! Event by event, they’re going to release one album for each integer Touhou game. They’ve actually come quite a long way so far. If pop’s your thing, I recommend giving this circle a try. Personally, I like the 8th track the most. It starts off quite subdued, and then goes into full throttle!
23. TenbinTei’s [天秤亭] “Imaginary Space”
Even though this event feels a bit crowded with Sealing Club CDs, there’s always room for one more. This circle makes use of a bunch of different genres. You have pop, a bit of jazz… there’s something in there for everyone. I like the sound of the third track the most (it’s the jazz one).
I swear I heard the phrase “Merry bad end” in one of the tracks…
24. Frozen Fantasia’s “幻想音風景”
Rounding off my list, we have a charming little album I discovered while looking through Melonbooks’ website. It features live performances, and the instruments used include the piano, the flute, the violin, the cello, and the saxophone. The tracks have a classical feel to them (kind of like Ringing Volcano). The arrangements are simply stunning, but unfortunately the recording quality isn’t very consistent throughout the album. I think it’s an absolute shame since the arrangements are just so good…
And that’s it for another list! Like always, leave a comment and let me know what you’re looking forward to/what you plan to order. I tried out a bit of a different format this time since so many circles are releasing multiple albums. Let me know if it worked out for you!