It’s about time I started talking about 天音 (Amane), also known as Amane Oikawa or DJ Amane. Those who know me REALLY well know this absolute mad lad machine of a DJ and composer is my favorite Touhou music artist. I’ve been aware of his works ever since I became a Touhou fan all the way in 2008, and I followed everything he’s done that had to do with Touhou, across the three circles he ran and the many others he collaborated with.
From Angelic Quasar to L.I.C. to Rolling Contact, there is very little of his Touhou discography I haven’t listened to and what I didn’t is simply because I don’t have 100% of the albums. He also runs Amazing Records, his current non-Touhou label/circle, was once part of Tribullets, another non-Touhou label, and occasionally does live DJ sets in various places in Japan.
Like I said, this man is an unstoppable music machine. He seems to exist only to produce music — and really good music, at that — and has hundreds of albums to his name. Of the Touhou works that I do own, I have nearly 100 albums, totaling well over 1,200 tracks… and counting, because he keeps making plenty every year. It’s so much that Amane is responsible for a full 1/5 of my entire Touhou music collection.
With all that in mind, choosing ONE song to start talking about Amane’s Touhou works is pretty difficult. In fact, before we speak about today’s song, I really have to explain the sheer range I could choose from.
But after giving it some thought, there was only one choice. I had to go digging into the old albums again to find today’s song, which is part of what I’m going to refer to as “early Amane.”
Angelic Quasar, Amane’s original circle, was founded in 2005, and the first Touhou album he released is 疾奏幼女曲 (shissou youjokyoku, which broadly translates to “the girls’ fast music”). Unfortunately, I don’t have this album (it is close to impossible to find), but I do know it came out in October, meaning that as of the time of posting, it is two months shy of 18 years old.
Nearly 18 years. Over 100 albums. Well over a thousand tracks to choose from. Do you know how hard it is to choose just one to start with? (lol)
It’s inevitable for an artist that worked for as long and has been as prolific as Amane to undergo changes in style, production, and even music genres. It’d be more surprising if he didn’t switch his style up.
As I listened to his works in order, I realized a couple of different ‘eras’ that vaguely correspond to changes in style and improvements in production quality. From the beginning to about 2010, the early era seemed dominated by two things; producing music in FL Studio (I even recognized some stock Sytrus pads in a few tracks… yes, there was a point in time where I tried music production,) and having effectively two gears: slow, atmospheric beats with a world music/ethnic beat influence, and fast, energetic EDM, mainly trance and happy hardcore. Already, you can probably tell this is indicative of a genuine interest in different forms of music. This is, by any definition, an unusual range for Touhou artists of the era.
Starting in about 2009-2010, a few years into Rolling Contact, Amane began branching out into different genres, progressively abandoning the world music-inspired stuff in favor of increasingly more diverse electronic sounds. This is what I refer to as the transition era.
While his original sound is intact in the triple releases, Downpour Field, Thunderstorm Field, and Misty Field, all released at the same time in 2010 for Reitaisai 7, later releases begin a trend that Amane would continue: creating numbered album “series” with a particular theme.
The first of these series is the Dream Blossom albums, the first one releasing in 2009. He began experimenting and producing works in all kinds of increasingly diverse electronic genres. Just to give a few examples: Buchiage Trance (which eventually spawned its own series of albums, ぶちあげアップデート！ (Buchiage Update!), various flavors of hardcore (especially with the Hardcore Barrage albums), and progressive trance (again, that spawned its own albums with the Progressive Starbow albums).
The transition era ends with two albums in 2012 that seemed to return to his roots, namely 東方俗楽譚 -其の参- (Touhou World Music Chronicle No. 3) and a 2-CD compilation album that served as a best-of of his previous works (玉響宴奴 ; Tamayura Endo). If you can track down a copy of the latter, I recommend it; it’s a great introduction to early Amane in general.
After that, starting in 2013, Amane’s sound shifted toward a much more modern sound, more overtly inspired by pop and dance titles. While it was obvious the man had always been talented, production quality increased very sharply; it seems like he graduated from FL Studio to something else, but I wouldn’t be able to tell what. Nowhere is it more apparent than in HEAVEN’s SOUND 04 and Hardcore Barrage 04, the first two albums Amane dropped in 2013. Not only is the production quality higher, but it seems like Amane’s sound got cleaner overall… almost more listenable than it already was. That trend would only continue going forward, with ever-more expanding experiments across the electronic music spectrum.
To say that Amane is a multi-talented artist is an understatement. While trance and hardcore remain his mainstays, he’s since experimented with glitch hop (Toho Glitch and Toho Glitch 2), dubstep (specific tracks in the Progressive Starbow albums), has continued improving his hardstyle sounds (Out of the Box 1-3) and his house vibes (later Electro Cute and HEAVEN’s SOUND albums), ventured into incredibly unexpected stuff like ragga and riddim (Yabba Ragga Toho 1-4) and even disco sounds (トーホーディスコナイトフィーバー ; Touhou Disco Night Fever).
In short, Amane’s range is mind-blowing. You really have to explore all of his works to appreciate the full extent of what I mean, but hopefully, you get the gist of it with this brief history.
Most importantly, Amane is always fun to listen to. Whenever I’m on shuffle and 天音 appears on my music players, I know I’m in for some kind of good time, even if the actual genre and vibe vary greatly.
Once upon a time, when I was briefly active on a certain bird site, I briefly interacted with him and what little I got (language barrier, and all) gave me the impression the man himself is just very fun to be around. I don’t really have screenshots or anything, you’ll have to take my word for it, but this was possibly one of the only fun moments I’ve ever had on that particular social media website.
First of all, this is one of my favorite Touhou album covers. This is possibly one of the prettiest pieces of Yukari Yakumo art out there.
You’d never think a song that starts this chill and atmospheric actually has a BPM in the ~175 range, but this track, awaited sprin… is so far, does. Right from the deliciously Engrish title, you can guess the misspelled word is “spring” and it’s about Perfect Cherry Blossom. And it is; specifically, the excellent staff roll theme, Sakura Sakura ~ Japanize Dream.
The introduction is a chill, echo-y piano rendition of the first few notes of Sakura, Sakura, which lasts about 20 seconds before its first transition kicks in and lets in a hint of the track’s true nature. At 0:24, the background is filled with ethereal choir pads and rapid hi-hats, while the piano continues playing. Then, at 0:46, the piano gets to the second verse, and the hi-hats are joined by a 175 BPM drum’n’bass filling, giving a bit of meat and energetic structure to an otherwise still atmospheric song.
When the piano momentarily leaves at 1:07, it is briefly replaced by a backup synth until 1:31, where the track transitions and drops everything but the choir for a bit. Then, it builds itself back up again, slowly but surely, until backing beats and the hi-hats return at 1:53. It’s pretty clear the song is meant to be atmospheric, despite the speed and relative presence of the backing.
At 2:15, the piano returns, almost timidly, as if Amane didn’t want to disturb the atmosphere he’d just rebuilt. After another transition at 2:38, the intensity picks up again with the full return of the DnB loop, bringing us back for a brief moment to the song’s full speed, only to be broken up again at 3:00. All instruments drop, and a feminine voice asks, Do you wanna love me?
Oh, I already am. (lol)
No sooner than 3:03, everything returns; DnB loop, choir, hats, and the piano, beginning the second verse of Sakura, Sakura once again just as it did earlier. This time, the track sustains its full intensity for a little longer, only beginning to drop instruments one by one at 3:49, until only the piano remains at 4:11 for the outro, concluding just as it started.
To be honest, it hadn’t hit me how meaningful this track (and, to a degree, the entirety of the Dark matteR album) was until I actually began thinking about it. I’ve listened to Amane’s works for so long and so often, it became routine for many years. This track is firmly planted into the realm of comfort music. You know, like comfort food, but music instead? The sort of thing you can throw on and listen to actively or absent-mindedly, equally enjoyable on its own or as background music.
Yet, the more actively I listen to awaited sprin, the more I realize how far back it throws me and how long I’ve been doing that, and just how important Amane’s works have been to me, as a Touhou fan. I recall countless days and nights with this album or another Angelic Quasar album playing in my ears, listening to this track or others like it. So many nights in my room as a teenager, many early mornings spent waiting for the bus staring at the sky, many more mornings and afternoons at school with this still playing through cheap earbuds…
Angelic Quasar and Amane’s early works in general are part of this short list of circles (alongside Alice’s Emotion, dBu Music, Demetori, ION, Levo Lution, MyonMyon, UI-70 and, of course, Alstroemeria Records) that have been there with me since the beginning as a Touhou fan, all the way back in 2008-2009.
This was a period of my life I would consider… rather tumultuous. I was a teenager who’d just experienced their parents’ divorce, had to move hundreds of miles away, and was adapting to a new life as best as I could. Touhou came into my life in the middle of all this, and shortly along the way, so did this album. New fandom, new interests, new friends, new relationships (some romantic, some less-than), and in the background of it all, new music.
Today, it’s still there. Still faithfully part of my playlists, still being played regularly.
Tracks like awaited sprin were once part of the soundtrack of a new life, kind of like listening to the musical score to a movie before you realize how important the movie was about to become.
Now, 15 years separate me from those times. I was exactly 15 at the time, and now I am twice that, looking back with fondness, shameless nostalgia, and a dash of maturity.
And I still love this track as much as I did back then.
Song title: awaited sprin… is so far
Artist: 天音 (Amane)
Album: Dark matteR (Track 7)
Circle: Angelic Quasar
Release date: 2007/11/14 (Touhou Kouroumu 3)
Genre: Atmospheric Drum’n’Bass
Touhou originals remixed:
- さくらさくら ～ Japanize Dream… ; Sakura Sakura ~ Japanize Dream (Perfect Cherry Blossom, Staff roll theme)