Review: Suiyoubi no Campanella – Superman

Suiyoubi no Campanella (Wednesday Campanella seems to be their new go-to English name), or Suikan for short, is huge hit pop/hiphop/electronic group right now in Japan. They play all the major festivals, are on TV frequently, and have an upcoming oneman show at the renown Budokan, the judo arena built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and frequently used venue in the past for live recordings of Western artists visiting Japan such as Bob Dylan. However, when I first encountered Suikan, almost exactly three years ago, they were playing at the modest O-Nest venue in Shibuya to a crowd of about 20 people.

Although I had been a Japanese music fan for years, this was just around the time when I was starting to look beyond big name bands with TV show tie-ins and also start going to more concerts. I discovered an event called Freesia and Chocolate, where during the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day, live music venues across Japan held shows with only female-vocal bands and artists. Over a weekend, I ended up on a YouTube binge looking at almost every performer playing at these various events. In this way, I discovered Yubisaki Nohaku, MAMADRIVE, Miketoroizu, and Suiyoubi no Campanella. I found the next show for each and checked them all out.

Suikan is a three person team. The singer and performer KOM_I (pronounced Komuai) is incredibly charismatic. Dir. F (Dir. for Director) is the manager. Kenmochi Hidefumi is the songwriter behind the scenes. Although I’d talked to both KOM_I and Dir. F at their shows (Dir. F always did the merch table), Kenmochi never came to the shows. He always just posted pictures of cup ramen to Twitter. I asked Dir. F what Kenmochi was like and he described him as a “cute, small man, like a fairy.” According to an interview, Dir. F and Kenmochi were looking for a singer for their group and Dir. F invited KOM_I after meeting her at a house party of a mutual friend. Of all of the indie groups I found, it was clear that Suikan were the mostly likely to make it big, and they gained popularity at a startling rate throughout 2014 and 2015, before finally making their major label debut on Warner in 2016.

Their music is unique, featuring electronic pop tunes with a kind of spoken-word-esque rap, often with singing for the chorus. The lyrics are frequently about movies and manga such as Mothra and Rambo, or famous historical and semi-historical figures like Marie Antoinette, Sen no Rikyuu, and Dracula. Their music videos have always been quirky, and now with real budgets are often ridiculous. Live performances have always been a strong point, with antics from KOM_I such as her recent gimmick getting into a giant inflatable ball and rolling around over the audience.

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Track List

  1. Aladdin (アラジン)
  2. Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬)
  3. Ikkyuu-san (一休さん)
  4. Onyankopon (オニャンコポン)
  5. Genghis Khan (チンギス・ハン)
  6. Chaplin (チャップリン)
  7. Audrey (オードリー)
  8. King Kamehameha the Great (カメハメハ大王)
  9. Zeami (世阿弥)
  10. Ama-no-Uzume (アマノウズメ)

I must admit that I am quite out of my element when it comes to talking about electronic music. I don’t think I can accurately identify most of the subgenres, and so for this review I won’t be trying to. My overall opinion of Superman is that it is a much stronger, more coherent effort than their first major label release, UMA. That said, their previous albums like Zipangu and Cinema Jack still outshine their more recent efforts. While generally all lyrics and songs are written by Kenmochi, UMA featured multiple non-Japanese producers and even Kenmochi’s tracks fell far from the group’s typical sound. Superman marks a return to their previous form, with every song penned by Kenmochi, an obvious reason for the more cohesive sound. There’s also a touch more of the 80s in a number of the tracks than usual.
Standout Tracks

  • King Kamehamaha the Great – Very chill, interesting instrumentation
  • Zeami – Catchy chorus
  • Aladdin – The raps really stand out here and also the chanting in the bridge

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