Finally, Alstroemeria Records. You’ll also see me shorten the name to Alstro or ALR from time to time.
While they are the circle responsible for the most well-known rendition of Bad Apple, they are also one of the oldest and most prolific Touhou music circles. The first Alstro album dates back to 2004, and while I do like to listen to that one, today’s subject is, at least to me, of greater importance.
Before we move on to the actual review, I want to point out that I am unlikely to review Bad Apple!!, for the simple reason that I don’t think I have anything worthwhile to say about it. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Bad Apple!! and its continued relevance is legendary, as demonstrated by the 2023 edition of r/place having featured a frame-by-frame recreation of the famous animation. But the point is, you already know Bad Apple!!. I view my humble role here as someone to help you discover music, and this particular track definitely isn’t new and doesn’t need my help.
With that being said, let’s move forward.
Trois Noir, the album on which today’s songs (yes, plural, I’ll detail a little later) came out, was released at Comiket 75. The event capped off an incredibly busy year for Touhou music, following other events like Comiket 74, Touhou Kouroumu 4, M3-2008 Spring and Fall editions, or the 5th Reitaisai.
At Comiket 75 alone, about 180 Touhou music albums came out, including things I’d consider all-time classics, like C-CLAYS’s 神凪 -KAN-NAGI-, Demetori’s excellent Offering to The Sukhavati, Sound Holic’s 紅 -KURENAI-, dBu Music and their Subterranean Animism album, Demon Tale Sonata, or Iron Attack’s Thunder Concerto.
Other personal C75 favorites of mine include Cis-Trance’s 踊る東方ドリフト-’turbo- and, of course, Rolling Contact’s Little Thin Light.
If you can find… pretty much any of them, or all of them, I’ll just go ahead and say you should check these out.
Trois Noir was one of the bigger releases, if for no other reason than it was one of three albums in a collaboration between Alstroemeria Records, ALiCE’S EMOTiON, and Sound Online.
ALR released Trois Noir, AE gave us Trois Rouge, and Sound Online gave us Trois Bleu, all three released simultaneously and promoted together. Each album featured 10 tracks: 8 from the artists that were part of, or often worked with, the corresponding releasing circle, and two remixes, one from each of the other two circles.
For instance, Trois Noir has a remix of For Lovers not Fighters by Tsukasa of Sound Online, and a remix of Bad Apple!! by REDALiCE of, well, ALiCE’S EMOTiON.
While this sort of collaboration wasn’t anything new, this one is, to my knowledge, the first between these three specific circles. It also wouldn’t be the last; all three circles later came back in 2010 for the Third Ensemble albums, once again with the French color names: Third Ensemble: Noir for ALR, Third Ensemble: Rouge for AE, and Third Ensemble: Bleu for SO.
Honestly, I wish these collab projects happened more often. The Trois albums were my introductions to each circle, and in turn, Trois Noir was my first Alstro album. What a way to be introduced to each sound.
The first two tracks on Trois Noir are, respectively, an instrumental called Showdown and a vocal track, For Lovers not Fighters. While they are distinct tracks on the album, Showdown is designed to seamlessly transition into For Lovers as though they were one track, and due to the former’s length (just 1 minute 13 seconds), it’s not unreasonable to say it’s just the intro to For Lovers. Kind of like The Hellion is the introduction to Electric Eye, if you’ve ever listened to Judas Priest.
Showdown is purely instrumental and an original composition by Masayoshi Minoshima, Alstroemeria’s illustrious leader. Like many other tracks in Alstro albums, this isn’t a remix of any specific Touhou song, simply a purely original creation. This one is an energetic, electro-house track at 130 BPM with vocal and guitar samples that progressively builds itself up in intensity. The sole reason for this track is to get you pumped up for the main event.
For Lovers not Fighters opens as an immediate transition from Showdown, building upon the background samples and beats by introducing the main melody and, at 0:29 (1:42 on the combined track), the voice of the main vocalist 美里 (Misato). It is an arrange of Memory of Forgathering Dream, the title theme of Immaterial and Missing Power.
From here on out, we’re in full vocal house territory, something that I’d describe unimaginatively as very Alstroemeria; a catchy, listenable main track that would be excellent on its own, but typically is the backing for a highly talented, usually female vocalist and lyrics designed to make you feel way more emotions you were in for.
I do not speak or write enough Japanese to give you my own personal interpretation of the lyrics, but fortunately, I don’t have to here. Kafka Fuura translated the song all the way back in 2009, and that translation is now on the Touhou Wiki.
Kafka Fuura suggested that in For Lovers not Fighters, Misato sings from the point of view of Suika, possibly singing to herself, possibly speaking to Reimu. The main theme of the song is emotions, their simultaneously beneficial powers and destructive effects. The mood is encouraging, empowering, even.
If I follow Kafka Fuura’s theory that Suika is speaking to Reimu, the oni is telling the shrine maiden not to be ashamed of her emotions or afraid of loss, “even through those days of strife;” which clearly suggests this is them speaking during or after the events of a fighting game. “Don’t be afraid of loss” could be a cheeky taunt; as if Suika is saying, “Don’t be afraid of losing to me, after all, I am an oni.”
Arguably, the most important part of the song is the main chorus, the second half of which is slightly changed in the last third of the song.
The first version:
If you can’t get rid of those feelings, just keep walking.
Don’t be afraid of loss, just stay the way you are!
If you erase those emotions, you should rest a while,
Until you make a new time, and start walking again!
The second, which only changes one sentence:
If you can’t get rid of those feelings, just keep walking.
Don’t be afraid of loss, just stay the way you are.
If those emotions are precious, you should leave them in your heart,
Until you make a new time, and start walking again.
The feelings in question aren’t specified, but it’s pretty clear they are about overwhelming or long-lasting emotions in general, which can be both good and bad.
So why is this the most important part of the song? Let’s just say writing this review came at an interesting time for me. As the first Alstroemeria Records album I’ve ever owned, it came into my possession around the same time I started making new friends and discovering new communities in the Touhou sphere; probably in 2009 or so.
Some of the relationships I made during that time evolved into long-lasting friendships. Others… have been more complicated. One in particular, with someone who I’ll refer to as L (no, not that one), has been one of twelve years, two years of no contact, and a brutal end. L has been a friend, a one-time romantic interest, a source of conflict and frustration, and an incredible lifeline who once got me out of a very difficult situation. No matter how you cut it, she has been and remained important to me, until the two years of sudden no contact, and the brutal realization that I would never be able to speak to her ever again.
I thought back to For Lovers not Fighters. Thought back to my journey as a Touhou fan, my relationship with L. And realized maybe this song had a message for me all along. Those who know me personally, know that I am a pretty damn emotional son of a gun, and it’s easy for these emotions to flare up, turn me into an enduring lover or a bastard of a fighter.
(And also, someone who writes incredibly cheesy stuff like this. Look, I live in France, the cheese is inevitable, okay?)
The hard part, for me, has been accepting the end of a friendship had happened, and that it was quick and without any explanation. If you’ve ever been cut off from someone’s life without a good reason, a fight, an argument, or even a single word… if you’ve ever had anything of the sort happen to you, unfairly and unceremoniously… listen to Misato’s words.
Just keep walking, and don’t be afraid of loss.
Song title: Showdown, For Lovers not Fighters
Composer: Masayoshi Minoshima
Vocalist: 美里 (Misato)
Album: Trois Noir (Tracks 1 and 2)
Circle: Alstroemeria Records
Release date: 2008/12/29 (Comiket 75)
Touhou originals remixed:
- Showdown is an original track
- For Lovers not Fighters: 萃夢想 ; Memory of Forgathering Dream (Immaterial and Missing Power, title theme)