Musikal Makinations – Rick Rack’s First Mini Album Review

Posted on Jan 11 2015


Happy New Year greetings, denizens of The Fan! Hope all of you had fun and safe holiday celebrations!

In thinking about some resolutions for the upcoming year, one, in particular, struck my mind. Musikal Makinations needs to cover some more indie bands!

So, in the spirit of keeping up with this resolution, and the fact that it’s been quite some time since an indie band album was reviewed, let’s start out the new year right!

Several months ago, in my never ending search for guitar and bass covers, I stumbled upon this video from October 31, 2011:

A YouTuber named tyrashanon performed a wonderful guitar cover of the Radwimps song, Osha Kasha Ma. In the description she says she’s 13 years old, is a junior high school student, and has been playing the guitar for 2 years. So at this point, she’s played guitar for as long as I’ve currently been playing the bass. Call me intrigued and interested about what else she’s worked on!

Trusty YouTube search to the rescue!

I can’t say I’m a fan of Orianthi, but this cover of Addicted to Love by tyrashanon (real name is Serina) was simply amazing. Serina was channeling some Stevie Ray Vaughn with the outfit she’s wearing as well as the smooth guitar play. To top it off, she uploaded this video on February 7, 2012, as a memory for her 14th birthday! 14. I wonder what the heck I was doing at 14. Certainly not this and certainly not with nearly any talent like this! I was even more intrigued!

And, thanks to the wonders of YouTube suggestions, I was able to look up even more!

Among her many other guitar covers, this gem she uploaded on June 14, 2013 struck me the most as she is singing. Yes, singing! What an awesome voice to complement her great guitar play!!!

I had to find out more about Serina, and, once again, YouTube did not fail to deliver. I noticed a few videos for Rick Rack in the suggestions list.

(video credit: kazuo yy)

“Wait, Serina is in a band?” I thought. Indeed she is, along with two other members that make up Rick Rack!!

And thus, my curiosity completely activated, I decided to track down all the information I could, including their 1st mini album, for this months review!

band group pic_500x307

Rick Rack – Left to Right: You – Ba/Vo, Serina – Gt/Vo, Natsuki – Drums

As is the case with most indie bands, information on Rick Rack was difficult to find beyond their website, which thankfully did have quite a bit of information to offer (including a link to the
distributor of their mini album, which I’ll get to later).

serina - 2014.9.10 OSAKA MUSE_500x333

Serina – Rick Rack Live at OSAKA MUSE 9/10/14

Rick Rack is a three-piece band from Nara-shi, Japan, that formed in August 2013. It features Serina on guitar and lead vocals; You on bass and vocals; and Natsuki (who would officially join the band in October 2013) on drums.

you2 - 2014.9.10 OSAKA MUSE_500x749

You – Rick Rack Live at OSAKA MUSE 9/10/14

The girls’ average age is 17 (according to their website profile). I’m pretty sure Serina is 16, but will turn 17 in February judging from the date of her 14th birthday video upload in 2012 on her
Youtube page.

natsuki - 2014.9.10 OSAKA MUSE_500x333

Natsuki – Rick Rack Live at OSAKA MUSE 9/10/14

According to their website profile, they are active mainly in Osaka and Nara, which makes sense since they are still students. It would be interesting to find out how they juggle the time for their studies and music. I’m sure it’s a challenge all young up and coming bands deal with.

group - 2014.11.5 OSAKA MUSE_500x333

Rick Rack Live at OSAKA MUSE 11/5/14

Tidbits about Rick Rack:

  • August 15, 2013 Rick Rack won the Music Revolution Grand Prix at their district tournament.
  • March 27, 2014 “Teen White Paper” Grand Prix win at Kansai’s largest teen contest.
  • October 31, 2014 “Flash Riot 2014” finals contestants.
  • Serina is multi-talented beyond her guitar and singing. She also plays drums, bass, keyboard, and shamisen.
  • Serina wrote the lyrics and music, and also created the album art for their 1st mini album!

I think that’s a good enough introduction to Rick Rack. Let’s get to the review shall we?

Rick Rack 1st - Front Cover_a

Rick Rack 1st mini album released 3/26/14

1. Ikusen no Deai to Hitotsu no Kiseki

From the moment the Serina’s opening guitar riff begins, I felt something great was about to happen. It jumps to the next level with a wonderful unison of Serina’s guitar, You’s bass and Natsuki’s
drums, which give way to Serina’s spectacular voice. They do an excellent job of mixing the bass, drums, and guitar to accompany Serina’s vocals. The levels are great. You really get a chance to listen to Serina sing, yet still can’t help but rock along to the pace and sound that the instruments maintain. The song cycles nicely between Serina’s vocals and the chorus where You sings along with her. Their style reminds me a bit of Stereopony and Scandal mixed together. Stereopony’s musical simplicity, yet the vocal power that Scandal’s Haruna does so well. You’s mini bass solo was pretty cool. Nothing too complicated, but very well placed. Just as I thought I couldn’t smile more, Serina jumps into her guitar solo. Oh my goodness, so simple, yet so perfect! It was really well played. The diminuendo into just Serina’s vocals and Natsuki’s drums was a nice touch of “quietness” after the “storm.” The mixing of this song was done really well. If I had one complaint, it would be that the song almost had too much bass. Yes, a bass player complaining about too much bass… madness! I didn’t mind it, but some may find they need to turn down their volume to keep from shaking things off their shelves! At first I thought this was just the video, but after importing their CD, the high bass carries through, so this was intentional on their part. Not enough to knock the overall rating of the song too much, but enough to take it down from a perfect score. It’s something to keep in mind if you are sensitive to loud bass. Overall, it’s a driving, rocking, wonderful song. (9/10)

2. Yumeoi Baku

Once again, from the moment Serina starts the opening guitar riff, I felt something great was going to happen again. I had NO idea that a bass solo would soon follow. HEAVEN! So rare to find this in modern music, much less Japanese Rock/Pop. You’s bass playing techniques were highly featured in this song. The second bass “solo” is even better than the first, though it accompanies Serina’s vocals, it’s a challenging part and really adds to that portion of the song. Serina’s vocals shine, in a slightly softer manner. The song has a more toned back approach, which allows You’s rich bass tones to be appreciated. Even Serina’s guitar solo is subdued to allow all three instruments to harmonize wonderfully. In fact, this is one thing I noticed particularly about this song; How well Serina, You, and Natsuki’s instruments harmonized. I felt a much richer sound from Yumeoi Baku. Though the video does not include the entire song (in fact, I think the actual studio song is dubbed over the live video), the entire song maintains the quality shown in the video. The mixing in this song is done well. The louder bass levels still are there, which I am now thinking might be their style. Again, something to think about as you listen to the song. Overall, the song showcases the range of the girls. More pop than rock, but it’s good to have diversity in such a competitive music market. I can find no flaws in this song, so I am more than happy to give it a (10/10)

3. Umi Tenshi

Umi Tenshi is a gem. It completely moves away from the rock and faster paced music heard in the first two tracks. Upon hearing the first notes of You’s bass and Serina’s guitar, I was transported to some visual novel or high school setting with a sunset in some random anime. It really felt like this song should be playing in the background of a scene where a character was telling his or her life story, or perhaps a collaboration of efforts being performed by a group of students towards some goal. Yeah, I’m crazy, but that’s the feelings that this song evoked. Simple; Somber; Spiritual. Those are some words that came to mind. But let’s not get carried away with my emotional impressions of this song! There is one thing that listeners must take note with this song. Though I almost always listen to albums I review on my trusty Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headset, Umi Tenshi is best listened to on a regular stereo… preferably on a surround sound system. The audio mixers did something very, very interesting with You’s bass on this song. There is a pronounced reverb that is a mix of two bass tones. It might even be a pedal effect; I’m not completely sure. The first time I listened to this song on my headset I thought this was a mistake during recording… a REALLY bad mistake! However, after switching over to my surround sound speakers, it blended perfectly as the room acoustics harmonized the two tones properly. Unless you have a very good headset, you might be aggravated by the murmur reverb on the bass (even my Sennheisers were unable to properly harmonize the reverb). I have to commend Rick Rack on doing this. The song itself stands wonderfully on its own. But this reverb made it feel like they wanted us to blast this loudly on our speakers to get the true intent of the song and music. For that alone, I would give high marks on Umi Tenshi. But Serina’s guitar solos pushed the song over the top for me. The entire song was so wonderfully woven together. Definitely my favorite track on the album. (10/10)

Overall, I give Rick Rack’s debut mini album a Musikal Makinations first 10/10!! I can’t think of any band I’ve reviewed, much less a newer indie band, that has such a profound set of songs in a single release… their FIRST release at that! And no other has been so deserving. These three girls have so much going for them. They are young and talented. All they need is a boost to the next level. I’ve been following them on Twitter for the last few months. After several performances at venues like Osaka Muse, you can see they are gaining popularity and confidence. I can only hope that their successes continue and that we see more from them in the coming months and years amid the competitive indie band market in Japan. This reviewer will certainly be rooting for them. You should too!

Once again, if you made it this far, I thank you for reading and leave you with one of my favorite pictures that I found from the variety of photos from live performances on Rick Rack’s website!

you - 2014.9.10 OSAKA MUSE_500x749

You channeling rock-goddess at OSAKA MUSE 9/10/14

To find out more about Rick Rack, follow them on social media and buy their debut CD and merchandise through the following sites:

Well, that’s all for this months article! Thanks for taking the time to read it. Post your comments, suggestions, gripes, etc,. so I can fine tune my reviews!

Stay tuned for next month’s review!

Until then, stay tuned to 91.8 The Fan, where you get Everything You Want, and Nothing You Don’t!

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