I’m going to be honest, I LOVE this cover. It’s simple, it’s striking, and while it may seem like it doesn’t relate to the album at all, the horns of the antelope are meant to tie it into the album cover, since they’re obviously spiraled. Honestly, though, out of the album cover shoot, this is the worst photo, so I’m not sure why it was chosen to be the only cover across both versions of the album, but it’s still beautiful.
Now technically, the album opens with the intro that is Secret Place… However, it’s over three minutes long. The first minute and fifteen seconds are mostly ambiance and a few synths playing quietly in the background, making for a rather calm intro until immi comes in and begins vocalizing over the top of it. Then it quickly breaks into a little electro-pop tune using the same synths that has immi actually singing something coherent. It’s a pretty little tune to kick things off, at least, but it feels a little long for what it is.
Thankfully, things kick up a notch with FIGHT BACK, a dark tune using a constant guitar riff and a lot of 80s synths to create what really is a sinister little 80s electro tune focused around a consistent house arrangement. Now, the song makes great use of immi’s vocalizing, and it’s got quite a lot of little hooks and loops to get you hooked onto the song, so it really doesn’t feel like it’s lasting for almost six minutes, which it actually does. Funnily enough, as good as it is, it was only a b-side to the lead single of the album. So, yeah, that’s a good thing, though it WAS originally meant to be an a-side.
Even funnier is that it’s followed up by its a-side, Sign of Love. This song is actually rather ambient and light in contrast, using a simple beat, a lot of fading buzzes and some punchy beats. It’s full of all kinds of melancholy, even if you can’t understand what she’s saying, and it’s the kind of song that suits her voice perfectly, especially when it gets to the bridge where things focus a little more on the piano riff for a little while. This was a perfect way to lead into the album, because it’s easily one of her best promotional tracks.
Though it instantly leads into something quite different. Swimmer is odd for a song on an electronic album, as the main focus of the track is actually the bass riff, with it being the only thing in the song for at least four bars before the coupling synths come in and it eventually turns into a bunch of reverb-packed synths that give a real feeling of being surrounded by water. As simple as the verses are, the song has a lot of punch in it, and the bass riff alone is enough to get you hooked onto it. Then it gets to the chorus, where a real buzzing synth comes in over the top and the bass drops out, giving a real sense of urgency to the song. It just does its job really well, and shows that not even electronic songs have to be packed to the hilt with sounds and ambiance to drag you into it.
The next song, however, works the exact opposite angle. Jeezy Peezy, a collaboration with The SAMOS, is packed to the hilt with buzzes, wubs and everything in between, dropping out every few seconds to allow a little cowbell solo before coming back blaring til you’re deaf. While the choruses are all out like this, the verses are actually surprisingly simple, mostly being a beat with immi singing on top, which seems to be a bit of a trend. It also ends as another ambient track, having a lot of warm sounds and some guitar to end things off gently. Honestly, it didn’t need the dips; if it had been all-out all the way through, it would have been even better. Still amazing though.
However, things go back to a more general electro-pop route after two experimental tracks. Step Up is another 80s flashback track, using a few video game synths at the same time, and while they are rather catchy… I must say that immi’s vocals really don’t fit in this song. Not because there isn’t any real processing on them (Because when is there?), but the notes she’s hitting sound like they’re off in the first place, so it kind of throws me off when it gets to the chorus, but the verses are catchy enough. The first drop the album’s actually had in quality so far, but even then it wasn’t a very big drop.
The 80s aren’t gone yet, and the promotional track for the second era’s EP, Alice, kicks it up yet another notch. It’s actually quite similar to FIGHT BACK (though it should be vice versa, considering Alice is the older song), having rather dark choruses and a dark intro, though the verses are pretty bright to give it a bit of contrast, since the synths that really drive the song only appear in the choruses and bridges consistently. Surprisingly, the song is drawing some inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, as the chorus actually says in English, which I was surprised to hear when it ended up being so 80s. Definitely a nice step back up though.
But now we’re back to the ambiance with Rainbow, an atmospheric song opening with some wind and a guitar, with immi’s reverbed and panning vocals coming in pretty quickly. The song’s under three minutes long, and she doesn’t start singing until about a minute in, so it’s kind of hard to listen to it as an actual song and not an interlude, but the laid back, natural feel it has to it was an interesting approach to take now, even if halfway through the wind drops and more unnatural synths start popping up again. I would’ve liked to hear more of this, actually, because it was a great change of pace!
Next up, we come to the ambient pop song in sora to i. The main synths have a little bit of distance to them, while still buzzing around, giving it that nice mix of ambience and a little bit of hook. The simple verse, active chorus structure is back here, slowly building until it crescendo’s into the intro again for the chorus. After Rainbow, it’s slightly disconcerting to come back in on this note, but it is a nice and simple little number.
Another collaboration is up next, with THE LOWBROWS stepping in to take over the production for Black or White. This song is another of the 80s influenced songs, though it buzzes around a lot less, going for a smoother approach in its synth usage. It’s consistent, in that it’s never entirely sparse but the choruses don’t add any huge touches like they do for other songs. Due to this, I kind of don’t really think much of it compared to the other songs. Especially since the opening lyrics for the second verse contain some of the worst English I’ve heard in a J-Pop song. I’m really torn by this song.
To me, immi’s best stuff is always the experimental tracks. Which is a good thing at this stage, because No. 1 GIRL comes in to take up the slack, involving a consistent thumping beat and what is actually quite a few brass samples to give the song a real house feel compared to the rest of the album. It’s a really sensual song overall, sporting quite a bit of a showgirl feel to it, with this factor increased quite a bit by the translated lyrics, talking a lot about love and dancing. As absurd as it may sound at this stage of the album, if anything could possibly compare to Swimmer in terms of how amazing it is, it’s this song.
We’re back to another thumping house track now, with Go Around‘s main focus being the consistent drum beat that appears through the whole song. The focus is never taken off of the drums, with the only real addition later on in the song being the looping blare of synth that appears in the chorus. A simple track, but an enjoyable one perfect for filling out the album a little bit more.
I was hoping this album wouldn’t have a ballad for ages when I was first awaiting the album. Unfortunately, circle – square – triangle is the ballad of the album, though it’s notable for its use of what I believe is a sitar sample alongside the slow jam beat. It’s nothing I’m largely tempted to listen to, especially since it drags on for a good six and a half minutes, so I’m a little disappointed that it had to come in here, of all places.
Thankfully, the album ends on a great note; the first promotional track from an EP for the album, WONDER. It makes good use of buzzing video game synths and a fast beat to give the song a real feeling of, well… Wonder. The verses are deceptively simple, and may throw you off a bit, though once it gets into the chorus, things (of course) explode into a real cacophony of different sounds, giving it a real spaced out sound. While I would’ve expected her to end the album with a song like circle – square – triangle, WONDER is actually the perfect way to end things off.
When it comes to electro, 2010 was one of the best years we ever had for it, with Spiral being one of the main reasons for that. It’s almost entirely consistent in quality, it’s got a few different styles going on, and she wasn’t afraid to experiment with different sounds. The lack of vocal processing was another little plus, considering how much you hear of it in this industry. This was easily one of the best albums of its year, and really solidified my place as a major immi fan. Any electronic fans out there really need to try this album.