Tom Smith on the band behind the theme to Psycho-Pass
Meet Ling tosite sigure. Their name may be confusing to pronounce (for anyone interested, it’s more like ‘rin tosh-teh shi-goo-reh’), but that didn’t hold back Japan’s music-loving community from rushing to their local CD-shops and grabbing a copy of the band’s latest album i’mperfect, out now also in the UK thanks to JPU Records.
The album, likened to ‘watching the end of the universe from inside a collapsing star’ (Sputnik Music), is a cosmic exploration of the post-rock universe. What exactly does that mean? Pretentious labelling aside, imagine the creative energies of Muse, At the Drive-In, Billy Talent and The Fall of Troy fused together to create something entirely new. If you still have no idea what’s going on, sit back and turn your speakers up for their latest single ‘abnormalize’, better known to the anime world as the opening to Japan’s hit anime PSYCHO PASS:
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‘abnormalize’ was anything but normal. Just check out those YouTube viewing figures – well into the one-and-a-half-million range at the time of writing. To put that into perspective, that’s ten times more views than half of the videos on their official channel, and more than a million on top of the rest. Some of those views can partly be attributed to Twitter; upon the single’s release, #abnormalize, #sigure and the group’s name in kanji (#凛として時雨) became the top trending topics on the social network in Japan. Though, there is little point disputing that a lot of the views will be due to the connection with PSYCHO PASS. The Japanese do love their anime.
It’s not just the Japanese either. You lot love your anime too! When i’mperfect was picked up for UK release, Sigure’s youtube channel simultaneously became viewable to the world, boosting ‘abnormalize’ and its exposure internationally – especially between anime addicts in the west who had been sneakily watching the show before it had been officially localised for any other market.
One hit wonder Sigure ain’t. Before i’mperfect (which made its official chart debut at #4), Ling tosite sigure achieved number one success with their first major full-length album still A sigure virgin? despite very little media attention. Instead, the trio’s fresh, challenging sound and reputation built through years of playing in Japan’s indie scene was enough to throw the charts into disarray. The country’ alternative scene had spoken, and Ling tosite sigure was their newly crowned guitar kings.
Now approaching 2.5 million hits on YouTube, ‘Abnormalize’ is by far one of Ling Tosite Sigure’s biggest hits to date – and one of their most challenging. Sci-fi and tech blog io9 were one such source having problems getting their earlobes around its unique sound. Included in their recent article ‘12 most obnoxious anime themes of all time’, io9 summed the track up as ‘true madness’ and sounding like the musicians were just playing ‘random notes’.
Meanwhile, English music websites such as Allmusic.com and Sputnik Music praised the album that ‘Abnormalize’ is taken from (entitled I’mperfect) for being ‘light years ahead of the competition’ and a bit like ‘watching the end of the universe from inside a collapsing star’. Take a listen to the video above and see which camp you fall into – but do give it a chance, if there’s one thing about Ling Tosite Sigure’s music, it’s that it has the ability to grow on you over time.
In fact, Ling Tosite Sigure’s success has been a long time coming. They had self-released four albums before they could convince a major record label that their unusual tempo changes, androgynous vocals and complex guitar work could appeal to a wider audience. And appeal it did – their first album with Sony made the top five of the Oricon weekly album chart, leading to nationwide tours with a finale at the massive Saitama Super Arena, before they jetted off to Brighton for an appearance at The Great Escape festival.
Sigure fever had finally kicked in and Japan’s alternative kids couldn’t get enough. Follow up album Still A Sigure Virgin was released and secured the band with their first number one album. Opening track ‘I Was Music’ was a chaotic mixture of post-hardcore, shoegaze and pop wrapped up in one contradictary cocktail of noise, while album closer ‘Illusion Is Mine’ showed the band’s more relaxed, thoughtful and delicate side.