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Olivia Inspi' Reira (Trapnest) *
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  • After experimenting with industrial, goth rock, and Bj”rk-styled semi-ambient music in the first half of the 2000s, Olivia Lufkin professed to have found her own niche on Inspi' Reira. The record is essentially a streamlined version of her earlier sound, but that's a good thing, because the album is brief, moving, and to the point. There's the normal J-rock foundation: plenty of sentimentality, a powerful cinematic feel (the whole of Inspi' Reira was written for the Nana anime series), and traces of '80s music to be found within. Still, to quote the Tarantino classic, "It's just there; it's a little different." In this case, two things matter: the contemporary Western rock influence that exceeds the one found in a typical female J-rock record, and the natural grace of songwriting and performance. Inspi' Reira shows a wide range of influences, from Jimmy Eat World and Evanescence to more sophisticated stuff like Filter and meaner things -- see the Helmet crunch in "Tell Me." "Wish" even shows signs of being toned down during the mixing, but still, someplace, someday, with the right person behind the sound control desk, this song may yet blow the roof off a building. There are slower songs as well on Inspi' Reira, at close to a one-to-one ratio, but those are the closest things to Tori Amos that Japanese music ever produced, and, besides, as the songs have plenty of guitar drive, they are winners too. Granted, the whole of Inspi' Reira is a winner because of the chill-down-the-spine inspiration found within each track; Olivia packs no fuller, stays clear of hackneyed melodies, and realizes that even simple songs should have momentum and development. And then there's her voice. Even in the land of strong female singers Olivia can vie for the top spot, and if she's not touted as one of the best, it's because of the seemingly effortless way in which she inhabits the high octaves; it sounds as if anyone can do it, but in fact, almost no one can. So, sure, it's J-pop in the end, but if one were to hear just one album of the style, it would be hard to do better than Inspi' Reira -- and for fans of this kind of music to not hear this record would be plain embarrassing. ~ Alexey Eremenko
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