Artist Analysis: Kalafina

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Kalafina

This post: Kalafina analysis a.k.a. me talking ad nauseum about one of my favourite J-Pop groups.

Time for something new! Today I’m going to do something I call Artist Analysis, where I share my thoughts on a particular artist’s vocals, music, and anything else I can think of. The topic of this post will be girl group Kalafina.

 Short Bio

Kalafina was formed in 2007 by composer Yuki Kajiura to sing the ending themes for the anime Kara no Kyoukai. Their debut single was called Oblivious. Originally, Kalafina consisted of the duo Keiko Kubota and Wakana Ootaki, but in 2008 two additional vocalists joined, Hikaru Masai and Maya Toyashima. While Maya only stayed for their Sprinter/ARIA single, Hikaru has become a permanent member of their line-up. Other anime Kalafina have sung for are Kuroshitsuji, Mahou Shoujo MadokaMagica and Fate/Zero. They have released four studio albums to date.

Vocals

Kalafina has three main vocalists – Hikaru, Keiko and Wakana. While all of them have their flaws, they have many strengths too, which makes listening to their music an aural delicacy!

Hikaru

Hikaru 1Hikaru is the weakest member of the trio. Compared to the other two, there are more moments where her vocals need improvement – sometimes she sounds nasal or slightly childish, her head voice is ordinary, and she generally has less control. She also hits her notes poorly in certain songs, for example Haru wa Kogane no Yume no Naka, by sliding up to the notes with a sudden change in dynamics. While all the Kalafina members do this to some extent, Hikaru’s volume changes are greater, making it more obvious and hence more annoying. Also, her singing is not as good live as Wakana or Keiko’s.

But while Hikaru’s technical skills make her the weakest, she does have the most vocal strength. Hikaru can rock. When she sings low and aggressively, like in Magia, her intensity and power is outstanding. And she can also get a rough edge to her voice. I love it. You don’t get too many female J-Pop singers who can do good grit, and that’s one of the reasons I treasure Hikaru.

Being able to channel fierceness into her vocals, dark songs are her forte. But that’s not all she can do. Hikaru has an aptitude for folk pieces, for which she uses a higher tone. Her lighter songs always have a bright, bubbly spark, and you can tell from her vocals that she’s having fun performing them. And she has improved throughout her stay with Kalafina. For example, I’ve been impressed with her control on ballads from their latest album Consolation.

Hikaru harmonises best with Keiko, especially when singing low. In these songs, like Obbligato or Magia, their voices sound similar and blend nicely. While the Hikaru/Wakana combination still sounds good, they don’t sit as well together because their voices contrast more.

Overall, while Hikaru has more technical flaws than the other two, she makes up for it with passion. She’s also Kalafina’s most versatile singer, able to take on various tones and fully utilise her range to suit different types of pieces.

Keiko

Keiko 1Keiko is the singer with the deep voice, and the one you get most people fanboying and -girling over (yes, that includes me). She takes a lot of the lower lines, and she actually sings the most out of them all – when she’s not singing lead, you can nearly always find Keiko laying down the harmonies.

Keiko’s vocal range is smaller and centred lower than Wakana or Hikaru’s. This doesn’t present much of an issue though, as Kajiura usually just writes low sections for her. You’ll often find Keiko’s lead roles in the verse, where she starts off with a low melody, before handing the lead over to one of the others. Something I’ve noticed is that when Keiko exchanges the lead with Hikaru, the transition flows well and is smooth(ish), because of the similarities in their voices. An example is the verse of Hoshi no Utai.

I can’t find much to complain about with Keiko. It’s refreshing to find a singer who uses a deeper tone among the hordes of squeaky J-Pop vocalists. She harmonises brilliantly with Wakana and Hikaru, her ability to hold long notes is fantastic, she has lovely vibrato, and she’s recently shown off a much-improved head voice in Hikari Furu. Sometimes I find her a tad strong, and when singing live she has less control over her strength and dynamics. But generally, Keiko is a consistently good performer. And I love her .

Wakana

Wakana 1Out of Kalafina’s three lead vocalists, Wakana is the most technically correct. She has a clean, even tone, which suits a variety of songs. Whether she is delivering a serene ballad or a cheerful folk tune, you can rely on Wakana to hit the notes well. Wakana is also the go-to singer for high parts. While her range doesn’t extend up as much as, say, AKINO or Nana Mizuki, Wakana can easily rattle off extended phrases with consistently mid-to-high notes without sounding strained. She’s also the best live performer, retaining her tone and control, at close-to-studio quality. Finally, another of her skills is holding long notes with a very stable tone.

That’s not to say she’s a flawless singer though. I have two main problems with Wakana, the first of which is her head voice. Now, often it’s good. Listen to Fairytale or Hikari Furu for example, where her head voice is reasonably strong, blends well, and is overall pleasant to listen to. Unfortunately, there are a few songs where her head voice is flimsy, especially in the Red Moon era. In songs like Lacrimosa and Gloria she has a weak, poorly transitioned head voice. In fact, I hardly listen to Gloria specifically because her transition annoys me so much, even though it’s just a little part which has the problem. However on the good side, apart these faults from Red Moon, she often sings in her upper register well.

The second problem is her breathing. This can be split into two sub-issues: the breath itself, and the placement. Regarding the breath itself, Wakana’s breathing is loud. I’m not sure whether she takes her breaths near the microphone or if she’s a bit of a “gulper”, but the sharp noise as she breathes in irks me. The other sub-issue is that sometimes she takes her breaths in odd places. Take Kiichigo no Shigemi ni. In the first verse alone, she takes far more breaths than necessary. The opening line, “kiichigo / no shigemi ni” has a breath taken where the slash is. This interrupts the phrasing of the line, so instead of being smoothly delivered there’s an awkward break in the middle. And it’s not that she’s running out of air, as the second line of that verse (which is the same length) is sung easily in one breath. This seems sloppy from both Wakana and Kajiura, one whom should have picked it up (well, that and all the other mistakes I’ve moaned about). The chorus of Consolation combines these two breathing sins, resulting in an awkward, rushed feel.

While I’ve written most on Wakana’s negatives, they are outweighed by her positives, and I still adore her voice. I love how when Wakana sings, you’re guaranteed to have an excellent vocal performance, and her voice suits Kajiura-style songs fantastically.

Additional Thoughts On Vocals

Apart from the three vocalists I’ve already spoken about, for a short time Kalafina had a fourth vocalist, Maya. She was only featured on their Sprinter/ARIA single. It’s difficult for me to comment on her voice because I haven’t heard her much, however in Sprinter (lyrics here) she’s singing the following lead lines: earlier on from “bokura ni dekiru koto wa tada” to “sekai no hate made” (excluding a short Keiko part in the middle), in the middle at “konna karakuri no kokoro ni mo / afuredasu hodo tsumatteitanda” and “bokura wa / toki wo keri hashiru”, and towards the end from “kimi ni aitai” to “kimi ga itoshii”. I think she’s also the one singing “I’m calling your name” in the background. Judging from these lines, she sounds pretty competent, but I can’t say much apart from that.

Getting back to the main trio, one of Kalafina’s assets is that their vocal differences allow them to handle a range of musical styles. Hikaru’s darker rock voice or lighter pop voice can fit well into different genres, Keiko sounds fine doing pretty much anything and Wakana is especially good with songs that ask for control and precision. The contrast between the voices is another factor which makes their songs interesting,

Finally, as a live act the Kalafina girls do a good job. Their tone isn’t as good as studio quality, which is to be expected. But they still harmonise well, and as live performers I would definitely rate them highly.

Note: Sadly, I haven’t actually been to a Kalafina concert; this is based on watching live videos.

Musical Style

A prominent feature in Kalafina’s music is the extensive use of vocal harmonies. Harmonies make the world go round! Kajiura loves writing multi-part harmonies, and having three vocalists who, range-wise, can cover all areas only makes it easier. Not only that, the way Kalafina sing makes it easier for them to harmonise. They don’t use vibrato much (apart from a short “flutter” at the end of long notes), which means they don’t have to worry about synchronising it with each other. Wakana and Keiko are also great at holding long notes (not that Hikaru’s bad), so they don’t slip off note and clash. And harmonies are not limited to the Kalafina members. For a richer vocal experience, additional parts are sometimes contributed by Yuriko Kaida, Hanae Tomaru and Kajiura herself.

A lot of Kalafina songs have similar instrumentation. They use Kajiura’s favourite combination of instruments, namely electric guitar, bass, drums, piano, violin and vocal backing. In their poppier songs you can also find dance beats and synths, and in their folk pieces there’s acoustic guitar and flute. Less common instruments can be found scattered around their discography. Recently, Kajiura’s been playing around with accordian, which works well in some songs, and not quite so well in others (like Signal). Other instruments include xylophone in Fairytale, a string quartet in Seventh Heaven, bells in Red Moon, brass in Symphonia and sitar in Te to Te to Me to Me. The different instruments make these tracks feel unique and interesting.

Kalafina’s musical style is rather distinctive. This is due to the fact that their composer is Yuki Kajiura, who often garners criticism for all her music sounding similar. Thoughts on this range from mild “they sound reasonably similar but I don’t mind” (like me) to… somewhat harsher views. Now, Kalafina in no way breaks the mould, and Kajiura never really ventures outside her comfort zone. However, what you will find is a bit more variety. While songs like To The Beginning and Haru wa Kogane no Yume no Naka are standard Kajiura compositions, in other tracks she branches out with Middle Eastern influences in Serenato, playful folk in Moonfesta, dark rock in Magia and classical/pop combinations such as in Yami no Uta.

In the end, I enjoy that Kalafina shows more of an experimental side from Yuki Kajiura, with the package completed by an assortment of delightful vocals. However, if you aren’t as fond of her music in the first place or find her repetitive, it’s understandable that you might not find Kalafina too appealing.

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57 Responses to Artist Analysis: Kalafina

  1. mk03 says:

    Nice analysis. But I kind of like Hikaru because she resembles Jessica Sanchez (American Idol season 12 runner-up) :< But Wakana is so pretty, and Keiko can be pretty cute, especially that one picture from a Type-Moon event where they were with LiSA, Aoi Eir and Haruna Luna, where Kalafina is wearing red, and where her smile is so wide to the point of being a bit creepy.

    Also, that's one deep analysis =O Even I who comes from some music pedigree (my grandmother was a pianist and one of my distant relatives was one of the Philippines' greatest composers; the Main Theater of the Philippines' cultural center is named after him) cannot analyze music as well as that =O

    Also, what's with the "My Sister is Cruel" tag? I don't get it😕

    Can this be a regular feature? I'd be looking forward to your analysis of other singers, such as Aoi and the up-and-down performance of her voice, LiSA, Maon, and of course, your analysis of the current I've Queen, Mami Tomoe, I mean Mami Kawada.

    • Evil Sister says:

      The “My Sister is Cruel” tag goes with the “I Hate Drafting Things” one. Because he asked me to draft it for him. And being the Evil (or Loving, as I prefer to think) Sister I am, I decided it was my duty to make sure that it was a polished as it could be!😉

    • Alex says:

      What, you’re judging by looks instead of skills? TREACHERY!!!

      Thank you🙂. Although I’ll point out, while a “music pedigree” may predispose some people to being good at music (analysis), it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t put in the practice. If you are interested, just try and you’ll improve over time (knowing a bit about music ddoes help though).

      About the tag: she said it better than I could. I was grumping as my clumsy prose was pointed out. It there’s any left, it’s my post-draft additions.

      Can it be a regular feature? Well, I would like to do a few more, but they’re quite a lot of effort so I don’t know how common they’ll be. Also, I highly doubt they’ll be this long, Kalafina’s was long because of the three vocalists. I would have to be pretty familiar with the artists in question as well, so…

      Mami Kawada’s out. Gomen.

  2. Moira says:

    So this is what you’ve been working on for quite some time, hey?😉 Ha, well anyway, I absolutely adore this post; it’s so well-thought-out and I very much enjoyed reading it.

    Oh yeah, I remember in your review of Alleluia, you mentioned Keiko having an inconsistent higher tone. No mention here?

    Hikaru is the weakest member of the trio.

    How forward. Way to put it out there. (I do agree though, haha)

    P.S. Keiko is fabulous ♡

    • Alex says:

      I spent a long time on it ‘cos I’m such a slow writer, haha. Thank you for your compliment!

      Regarding my comment on Keiko’s performance in Alleluia, that was meant to specific to that song i.e consistency within the track. Sorry about the poor phrasing there. I didn’t mention it because I thought I’d mostly stick to trends in their singing. Okay, I lie. I forgot.

      Anyway, Keiko is fabulous.

  3. Artemis says:

    Kalafina is perfection to me. I don’t mean to imply that they’re perfect in the technical sense of the word – no human being could be such a thing, and even if they could, I recognise that just like any other band, Kalafina still has its weak points – but to me personally, I don’t know that I could ever love a band more. I adore all the girls, although purely in terms of sound, and despite fan favourite Keiko, I’ve long appreciated Hikaru the most.

    • Alex says:

      There’s so much to enjoy about Kalafina, and of course they’re not perfect in the technical sense, but that need not be an impediment to loving their music. Everyone has their flaws, and while I spent a lot of time pointing out Kalafina’s, I think they do a good job overcoming them most of the time, when you take into account that they’ve released quite a lot of music.

      I originally wasn’t much of a Hikaru fan, but as I’ve reviewed more Kalafina and gotten to know the group better, I really appreciate her for the key roles she plays in some of their songs.

      • Artemis says:

        It could be a purely personal thing, but Hikaru’s voice, while perhaps technically the weakest of the three, appeals to me most because it feels warm. I can’t really describe it any better than that – for me it just has this almost child-like but really warm lightness to it, like her voice itself is somehow dancing.

  4. Overlord-G says:

    First time posting a comment at the Anime Music Meister’s domain. To me, Kalafina is the group I recognize most and label as my favorite performers. Why? I can’t explain it, maybe it’s because of Hikari no Senritsu or Magia, or maybe I just like anything Yuki Kajiura after listening to Godsibb.

    • Alex says:

      Anime Music Meister >> I APPROVE!🙂

      Kalafina’s music certainly has an attractive quality to it. I haven’t heard this Godsibb song before, looks like I’ll have to check it out soon!

  5. jstorming says:

    I don’t follow Kalafina closely (or any band for that matter since I tend to like a bunch of different songs) but I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve heard from them. Magia is a hauntingly beautiful song!

  6. Interesting so this is what you were doing. Excellent analysis of the voices and I couldn’t agree more. I would just like to add something I read from an article of Kajiura. She said that Wakana is the most scolded or punished when in the studio but that she loves her voice. She also makes comments of Keiko and Hikaru but I can’t remember exactly what she said. Let me find the link

  7. Y.N. says:

    Aside from the very detailed description of the members’ singing which I love, before reading this article I had no idea Kajiura-san was discredited or deemed a “one trick pony” by a large part of the anison fandom; I’d rather say she is quite varied, but inside her own recognizable style which she rarely steps out of. (sorry if I’m speaking a bit off topic).
    In other words, I’m a huge Kajiura fangirl.
    Wakana’s voice would mostly be my favourite out of the three, precisely because of the technical accuracy of voice and a really pleasant colour. I really wonder why she gets scolded, I really hope eltmanypieces find the link.

    • And here it is: http://carlenne.livejournal.com/82398.html (Some webpages already have the translation)
      The perception I made is different. But check when Kajiura talks about Wakana it is quite something similar to what I said😉

    • I find that listening to Kajiura for a long stretch of time gets old really quickly and you start to see things blend in after awhile (and gets real bland). She is, I think, capable of much more, but most of the people who hire her generally want the same things that she’s known for😛

      • Alex says:

        What do you mean by “long stretch of time”? One album? Hours?

        I would be very interested to hear Kajiura try something new, but I’m happy with Kalafina for the time being.

        but most of the people who hire her generally want the same things that she’s known for

        That’s a good point. Looking at the last few anime she’s composed for (excluding SAO), we have Fate/Zero, Madoka and KnK. All rather gloomy affairs, which is probably why they went to Kajiura.

        • No more than 2 hours.

          And in terms of less gloomy fare, look to My-HiME/My Otome as excellent examples of soundtracks where some pieces are much lighter than some of her more recent work. If only we’d see more of that.

        • In the case of KnK it was perfectly needed the gloomy setting. But if you compare for example Madoka against KnK you can see the difference that she tries something different. I think her masterpiece is still KnK, the tracks are just perfect

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for commenting! I’m not sure if “a large part of the anison fandom” is right, I think a lot of people do like Kajiura’s music. I was trying to say that “her music sounding similar” was a common criticism, instead of saying that she was commonly criticised. If that makes sense😉. I’ve only listened to Kalafina, FictionJunction, the Kara no Kyoukai and Madoka OSTs and a few other tracks here and there, so maybe there is more variety? I don’t know.

      Ahhhhh Wakana’s voice. I think “scolded” was the wrong word though.

    • phooey says:

      I think Wakana gets scolded the most because she’s the ‘black sheep’ in the Kajiura family. The other singers have also said (in an affectionate way) that she’s the ‘troublemaker’ one in the group.😄

  8. rikuo06 says:

    >> Kalafina’s musical style is rather distinctive. This is due to the fact that their composer is Yuki Kajiura, who often garners criticism for all her music sounding similar.

    In their defense, I feel like it also works the other way around. When a composer like Kajiura masters a style so well that said style becomes instantly recognizable and distinctively associated with her, she becomes an easy target for the “her songs all sound the same” kind of criticism. ALI PROJECT is another group that I see often getting hit with this. It is also the primary thing detractors bring up when comparing her to other composers like Yoko Kanno. Does Kanno experiment with different musical styles far more than Kajiura? Yes. Is that experimentation and versatility pretty cool? Yes. Does that make Kajiura’s music worth any less? Heck no!

    • Yoko Kanno always gets accused of plagiarism. I think some of those accusations are more plausible than others.

      I’m just addicted to Ali Project’s typical sound, but not all of their albums have their typical sound.

      Now I have to go listen to the mp3s and find the titles of the Ali Project songs that stand out for me.

    • Alex says:

      Great comment. That brings up the question, how much is variety worth? When I listen to Kalafina, I don’t find their (i.e Kajiura’s) distinctive style to be bad. That style is one of the things that identifies Kalafina as Kalafina. For Kalafina, at least, I think Kajiura’s style should be retained. Of course, this is because I enjoy said style. If I wasn’t as keen, then listening to Kalafina would be “more of the same”, without hope of finding something I’d like. So I can see where they’re coming from.

      Sometimes when listening to Kajiura’s music, I can guess what notes are coming next. Is this a bad thing? Not really sure.

      I don’t have a good answer to this problem of distinctive style vs. experimentation. It would be an interesting topic for a blog post (not by me though🙂 ).

  9. Oh~ I loved this post~~ you should do more – like with HIMEKA/ELISA/anyone else becuase it is your blog lol

    I particularly loved you explaining their flaws and strengths. If you watched their latest concert – “Consolation” – you hear Wakana breathing the whole fucking time haha~ But I find it amusing/annoying all the time~ As for Hikaru, she’s really improved in my opinion~ Since I found out about them – “Storia” and “Aria” are my first songs from them – I think Hikaru has really outdone herself. Keiko is perfect…so she has that going for her haha~

    • Alex says:

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed it! I would like to do more of these in the future.

      Keiko is perfect…so she has that going for her haha~

      I imagine being perfect would be rather useful😛

  10. yunaamakura says:

    I’m no music expert, but Kajiura being a one trick pony has made me get more than frustrated with her. She has been relying on her Kajiurago songs way too much, her instrumental tracks are, most of the time, pretty bland and she doesn’t try to distinguish a soundtrack from another one. And what’s worse, her newer songs don’t even add to the atmosphere of the works she has been working on. Lots of SFX tracks that add nothing to the scenes, solo-instrument tracks that sound the same and are way too boring, etc.

    As for Kalafina, my favorite member is definitely Hikaru. She definitely messes up, but her voice in Aria still blows me away.

    • Alex says:

      Ah yes, ARIA is amazing.

      Heh, I’m kinda regretting adding the link to that comment now. I haven’t listened to enough Kajiura soundtracks to make a proper judgement :-((((. I imagine it would be pretty frustrating when an OST for one anime sounds really similar to another anime’s though.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  12. SaberManiac says:

    Keiko has more flaws than that, though. Harmonies sound infintely better in their live DVDs when it’s pitch-corrected because Keiko’s flat almost all the time when she’s on low harmony. She’s half of a semitone off in every single line she delivers, and because she’s on low harmony, people don’t generally notice it, and she sounds mostly on-key when she’s on lead or has solo lines, which I suppose she can hear herself better. She really has to learn to control her volume and intensity, however. Sometimes, when she’s sharing lines with Hikaru (as Hikaru’s voice is sharper, thus more easily heard), she shouts her lines, especially during the lives I went to.

    Hikaru’s surprisingly the opposite. When solo or on lead she has quite a few pitch errors, but when she’s on harmony (especially high harmonies like in Hikari no Senritsu) she’s not flat and very on-key.

    Wakana just has stamina and breathing trouble, though she’s definitely improving in that area. She took so many breaths during the consolation live because it was the last day of tour, and their second day of performing live in a row.

    They’re still pretty good unedited, though. I went to multiple concerts and they do generally sing quite well (save for several errors or the obvious times you can tell all three are really tired). If you want a video example, the best is their many unedited lives of Kimi no Gin no Niwa which show that all three are quite the talented singers.

    • Alex says:

      The bit I wrote about lives was kinda weak and I should have put more effort into it, so thanks for giving some detail.

      They pitch-correct in the live DVDs? Really? :((((( I don’t really know much about live DVD editing, do you know that is what they do, or are you saying that based on a comparison with your own live experience? (Not trying to say you’re lying, but I’m not sure at all about if that’s a usual thing to do with musical groups’ live releases and stuff like that.)

      So you’re saying Keiko’s low harmonies are flat when she sings live? I would’ve thought she’d be more likely to be sharp if she was singing low. Your volume point is good though, I’ve noticed that her dynamics jump around and she needs to lessen the intensity at times.

      I basically agree with what you say on Hikaru and Wakana. Wakana’s breathing issues are funny, because she can hold her breath for long notes or whole phrases, so I’m wondering if it’s some bad habit she hasn’t picked up on or is finding hard to break.

      Thanks very much for commenting🙂

      • SaberManiac says:

        Well, yeah. They’re obviously pitch-corrected (when I go to live concerts, Hikaru’s off-keys can get really annoying). Hikaru on lead is flat (mostly when using her low tone), Keiko on harmony is obnoxiously flat and Wakana is thankfully on key for 98% of the time except for her stamina issues.

        Example of pitch-correction:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sac7ROjgO00 – raw footage aired a day after concert
        compared to their Consolation DVD.

        Regarding Wakana’s breathing, I think it’s moreso a habit than anything else, but when singing, it’s often harder to sing multiple notes in one single breath than holding a long note, so it’s justified. She just needs to learn how to breath through her nose or take a breath without the microphone facing her.

        • Alex says:

          Yeah… that video didn’t sound too flash, haha. Thanks for showing me the light (maybe that’s why the few studio live videos always sound kinda crap).

  13. Wes762 says:

    Love the analysis!! Though I don’t think Hikaru is the “weakest singer”- In 2008 when she joined, I would fully agree. But now, in 2014, I don’t think there is a weakest or strongest singer- really what determines which singer people think is the best or worst comes down solely to opinion.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for the comment🙂

      Re Hikaru, I shall re-evaluate my opinion of her when Kalafina releases their next album. Currently though, I think that when she’s going strong she’s as good as anyone, but her tone and control still slips sometimes. Definitely been improving though.

  14. Darkstar1612 says:

    I loved your analysis Artist: D. Anyway, I think them, despite the flaws that may have live, sing very well, at least compared to most Western artists. On youtube is presenting them in Lisani 4 that performance is not correction voice, so you can see their little mistakes. But regardless of that, I think they are great singers. The best performances of this show are Seventh heaven, Alleluia and Ongaku, in my opinion.

    A pleasure to greet and soon hope Belive analyzing🙂

    • Alex says:

      Thank you, you’re very kind😀

      Unfortunately on the music reviewing end, I’ve lost interest at the moment. I’m not really thinking of writing anything soon.

  15. Darkstar1612 says:

    I am very sorry I know, because I really loved your analysis about the songs. I hope you have not been Correction voice that has killed your interest in music.

    I just keep waiting for Belive. I will be very aware of the day back your interest in music.

    • Alex says:

      No, it wasn’t. It started with me getting very busy with schoolwork and not having enough time, but then my interest in reviewing and writing gradually lessened.

  16. Umi says:

    I like their harmony but I love Keiko the most. And I think Keiko’s voice is harmonises best with Wakana. and i prefer choose maya’s voice (ex Kalafina’s member) than Hikaru’s. Gomen…. it’s just my opinion.

  17. THH says:

    Yay, very nice analysis! Hope you get to go to a Kalafina concert!😀 I can feel the passion~~~ YESH KEIKO is the BEST!!! Ah, but they have tendencies to go flat in some lives, but generally I’ll give them 1000%!🙂🙂🙂

    • Alex says:

      Awww tenks🙂 I WOULD RLLY LOVE TO GO SOMETIME. You have been lucky enough to go to one???

      • THH says:

        Awwwww, unfortunately nope, I only knew them for 2 years, and they haven’t been my country for years already ( T ^ T ) I would love to go IF they come here still hoping and waiting~

  18. KitsuneMiyu says:

    A really wonderfully written essay! I love Kalafina so much, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on their latest album, “Far on the Water”🙂
    I’m probably not truly qualified to comment on music, even though I’ve been playing the piano and the flute intensively for over a decade, so here is simply my opinion. I completely respect yours, and I admire the way you expressed it so organizedly and in so much detail; however, I don’t agree with some of the points you stated.

    As you said, Hikaru is probably the Kalafina singer who makes the most noticeable mistakes; more often than not, when I listened to Kalafina songs and heard a wrong note, I used to think, “Ouch, Hikaru messed up here.” I would have continued to think that if I hadn’t watched the live videos. I haven’t been to a Kalafina concert, I’ve only seen the videos on YouTube, DailyMotion and Veoh. After watching those, I have to admit that Keiko has far more flaws than I previously thought. That’s because in several parts that sound off, Hikaru isn’t even singing – meaning, she’s not the one who is messing up. So, it was a great surprise to me (and even greater disappointment) to realize that it was actually Keiko who was flat-out off-key when laying down the harmonies. In lives, when Wakana is leading and Keiko harmonizing, not always but enough times to make it really painful to hear, Keiko makes huge mistakes. Combine that with Wakana’s precise control in those parts, which contrasts with Keiko’s off-key, and you’ll get a very strained and not likeable version of the song.

    As for Hikaru, while this doesn’t excuse her off-key notes, the fact that her voice is not as ‘clean’ as Wakana and Keiko’s can be a reason for her head voice not sounding particularly pleasant; the way her tone kind of reverberates doesn’t often suit the Kajiura songs. However, even if it can be considered a weakness, I believe it to also be a forte of hers, because she is able to give more warmth and in general more emotion to what she sings. As you said, it’s obvious when she is having fun performing – her voice is very expressive. It also has great strength, thanks to it not being ‘clean’ in tone, and that is especially noticeable when there is a powerful melody while she sings, because her voice is still very distinctive and wonderfully blends and mixes with the instruments (take Magia, Ongaku or One Light). Also, when singing the harmonies, high or low, (I’m thinking of Hikari no Senritsu, Oblivious, some parts of Manten and even Alleluia and Red Moon), she is scarily perfect, easily rivalling Wakana with her unexpected precision.
    That said, there are also a lot of bad things to say about Hikaru, and you already summarized her flaws. I would add that, while I absolutely love Aria, I’ve seen some live videos in which that song was performed awfully, Hikaru being nasal, flat and lacking both strength and control when delivering her lines.

    About the Hikaru/Wakana combination, I find it really enchanting sometimes – take the middle part of Kagayaku Sora no Shijima ni wa. Before Keiko has her part, it’s just Hikaru, whose voice sounds like multiple ones, and Wakana, who delivers a mystic tone to it. It’s spellbinding ESPECIALLY because their voices contrast with each other.

    Although I complained about Keiko and Hikaru, I think both have improved a lot. Keiko’s intensity, which was quite out of control in some lives, has gradually become much more precise, and many of her parts are beautifully hypnotizing.

    Going on to Wakana, I will admit that, as strange as it sounds, her breathing troubles are in my opinion not that annoying because they often give more feeling to the song, something more… authentic to it. What I find Wakana to lack a little bit is the warmth when she sings; the fact that she is so controlled and her voice so ‘clean’, while indispensable for many beautiful songs (I’m thinking of I Have a Dream, Hikari Furu, Fairytale – she’s really awesome there), also makes her voice sound monochromatic after a while and less versatile; for example, it’s not exactly suitable for songs more on the rock side.
    You mentioned Lacrimosa as a song in which Wakana’s voice is weaker. In my opinion, I think she sounds as good as she does in Fairytale; the main difference is that there is quite a loud melody playing while she sings, and that obscures her voice, since she doesn’t have enough vocal strength for those segments, so she gets mixed with the music and sounds a little off. She sings with the same intensity in Fairytale and Hikari Furu, but since the music there is much quieter, leaving space for her voice to do all the melodious work, she can be heard better and all her preciseness stands out.

    Okay, this turned out to be much longer than I intended it to be. Please excuse my still faltering knowledge of English, and allow me to conclude with the recommendation of looking up the song Anna ni Issho Datta no ni; it was originally performed by See-Saw, but Kajiura re-arranged it for Kalafina to sing, too. While not an extraordinary song, I really like both versions :)))

    • Wes762 says:

      You mentioned Keiko being off-key in singing the harmonies, but can you give a specific example where that happens? I can’t remember anot instance where that takes place, though that’s probably because I don’t typically pay as much attention to the harmonies in lives since they’re more difficult to hear.

      • KitsuneMiyu says:

        🙂 in many live version of Storia, when Hikaru is singing lead and Wakana the high notes, Keiko is off-key. Another example which really bothers me is Heavenly Blue,; when harmonizing with Wakana and when Hikaru is silent, again Keiko is off-key.
        Although I complain about her mistakes, she has improved a lot, and in the most recent lives she’s almost always on-key and not flat at all, her voice giving rich improvement to the melody as a whole🙂

    • Alex says:

      Hi KitsuneMiyu,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment in such a thoughtful way. And trust me – from your analysis, you’re more than qualified to comment! I’m afraid I can’t respond in return though. I don’t have the time any more, and I’ve also moved away from the music blogging scene. Again, thanks very much for your thoughts🙂

      I’ll take a look at your recommendation of Anna ni Issho Datta no ni – Kalafina version! Looking forward to hearing it.

      Cheers,

      Alex

  19. KitsuneMiyu says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be doing music blogging anymore, but I completely respect your decision🙂
    Even though you won’t be writing about Kalafina, I hope you’ll find the time to listen to their works, new and old. Not for commenting/analysing, but simply because their songs are always a treat. And they always deserve to be enjoyed😉

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