Kanon’s Sanctuary

by Celsius005 on April 5, 2007 · 5 comments · AddThis

Kanon
Image from [Sanctuary] booklet
Title: Sanctuary
Artist: Kanon
Release date: 2006.12.06
Peak Position: #262
Product Code: SICL-153
Label: Sony Music Japan International

It’s been about a year and a half since Kanon’s [Primary Flowers], the first full Sony album which failed to chart. Since this fundamental display in 2005, Kanon completed work on a mini-album and three singles, all of which contains elements that eventually made their way into her most recent album to date [Sanctuary]. The second full album was released at the end of 2006 in December when preparations were in motion for her big scene at MIDEM 2007. Did this second album attempt make up for the dismal performance shown to us through [Primary Flowers]? Well, let’s just say it depends on how you look at it.

Four months after Kanon’s debut album, Sony released a mini-album [Destiny]. This album contains six tracks and was officially declared an extension to [Primary Flowers], no doubt a last-ditch attempt to compensate for poor sales and promotion. Unfortunately this wasn’t enough to significantly boost sales for the album, let alone was it able to make it to the charts itself. The genre of this album is generally crossover – following Kanon’s usual contemporary classical style – and had few new additions decorated with some revamped versions of early songs such as “Gloria” in English and “SHINE”. The latter was left in the hands of TOMISIRO and the result was the remixed rendition denoted the ‘tranquilizer mix.’

Spring of the following year entailed two singles. Kanon’s 3rd Sony single [kokoro] featured a refreshingly breezy song for listeners with the return of “KISEKI Song of Love” as a B-side. The self-accompanied piano version was a beautiful reminder of her first single, but to the dismay of casual listeners this was a disappointment seeing that Kanon could have at least created a new song for a B-side instead of recycling an already exhausted melody. An increase in output became the imperative, and it was about a month later when her 4th single [My Destiny/Serenade] was released. This double A-side marked the turning point of Kanon’s career mostly due to its improved success, reaching a peak rank of #145 on ORICON. “My Destiny” is actually a song first introduced in her previous mini-album [Destiny] that apparently showed enough potential to make into a separate single but, of course, went hand-in-hand with its partner “Serenade”. It is to my awareness that this release and everything following it sound considerably more ‘Pop’ than ‘New Age,’ which may explain the sudden improvement in sales figures since music of crossover or classical genres don’t seem to do so well in Japan. Also worthy of note is that all of Kanon’s releases after [My Destiny/Serenade] have successfully made it the the tail end of the charts at the very least.

The end of 2006 drew closer and Kanon released another single [Brand New Breeze] which is really a breakthrough piece of hers. It’s her most successful CD yet ranking at a peak of #105 on ORICON, not to mention the rare promotion it received. “Brand New Breeze” is currently the opening theme to the anime Kiniro no Corda ~primo passo~. Having this tie-in apparently reeled in new fans and thusly was a major contributor to its success. This single’s title track and B-side both made their way into Kanon’s most recent album [Sanctuary], which was released just a little more than two weeks later.

[Sanctuary] had considerably low sales and ranked at a high of #262, a definite improvement from her debut album. Elements are present from all of her 2006 releases, and several beautiful tracks were added, all of which are very much springtime-sounding despite the fact the album was released in the biting cold of December. Perhaps the timing of this CD stems from Kanon’s appearance at MIDEM 2007, a worldwide fair held in France where she would represent Japan as a musical ambassador. With all the frequent lives she’s already involved with in Japan, it was important to make releases as timely as possible to leave room for additional concerts and, of course, for much larger-scale events such as MIDEM. Also instead of holding a live concert for her album as she did for [Primary Flowers], Kanon held various live performances with the additive elements and promoted [Sanctuary] over the radio through [Kanon Special "Sanctuary"], aired on December 28th.

Although most all of the songs in this album contain orchestral components indigenous to her New Age music, the overall feel is more pop with hints of crossover.

 

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01. Brand New Breeze

Right off the bat the album opens with Kanon’s acclaimed song “Brand New Breeze”. It begins with reserved strings and leads into singing from Kanon. In this song she seems hold her voice back if but a little, and the effect is breezy, clear vocals that mirror the flowing quality of the strings that accompany the singing. It’s based on Salut d’ amour, a piece from the late 19th century written by English Romantic composer Edward Elgar.

What stands really strong for me is the sheer balance of the vocals with the orchestra and piano. The drums are electronically enhanced to retain the serene atmosphere provided by everything else in the song, and they do their part to keep forward momentum to keep the song from dragging. However what I find really pleasant about “Brand New Breeze” are the backing vocals during the chorus. They’re so pleasant to the ears you can never get tired of listening to them. Better yet, this line remains in the final measures of the piece so you get the full impact of it until the song reaches its very end. This is definitely one of the most pleasing endings a song could ever have.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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02. The Power

The B-side to Kanon’s November single [Brand New Breeze] is absolutely marvelous. To be honest I’m surprised the single didn’t wind up as a double A-side since it’s just as good as the title track, possibly even better. “The Power” is a completely original work by Kanon with lyrics written by her as well. It’s times like this when I wonder why she doesn’t compose her own songs from scratch more often since they usually ending up being her best, in my opinion.

The instrumentation is pretty much identical to that of the previous track’s but with the subtraction of the drum set’s electronic notation. As a result the song is so raw and so powerfully moving you almost can’t help but to smile. The chorus mixes English with Japanese so anyone can get an idea of what the song is about with desperately needing a translation, which may actually be the least of your concern as the uplifting melody will surely blow you away without another thought. There’s no question that Kanon’s vocals are perfect in this song.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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03. Blue

Now here’s a song I never get tired of hearing. Even though it’s almost as long as “Brand New Breeze” it seems to pass by rather quickly, almost too quickly. “Blue” is based on George Gershwin’s first classical piece, Rhapsody in Blue, written in 1924. This is the first song in [Sanctuary] that hasn’t made an appearance anywhere else in her earlier compilations. Upon my first listen I knew that this album would be something really special, and it only took listening to this song for the first time to get this impression.

My amazement began in the first few seconds of the song’s opening. Kanon has an incredibly trained ear if she can project her voice to match pitch with all those insane accidentals. There’s something very haunting about the choral work throughout this piece but somehow it remains on light tone. Not only is the sound melodically haunting but the lyrics as well. Kanon utilizes her fluency in English to write amazing lyrics that fit so well with the song’s blue atmosphere. Hearing her heavenly vocals in English gives the song an extra touch of melancholy that is too good to miss out on.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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04. kokoro

The album version of “kokoro” is reminiscent of her 3rd single with themes based on Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.8 <Pathetique>. The tempo of this ballad is very steady and flowing while the vocals show the same erogenous quality presented by [Primary Flowers]. The synth-drum pulsing in the background gives off an interesting ‘epic’ aura about it, making this a very moving ballad with a whole lot of motion and direction. Listening to this song, you can clearly hear the difference between her vocal talent now and what was present in her debut album. Of course there’s no denying her soaring voice proved its worth through beautiful songs such as “Wings to Fly” and “SHINE”, but even the slightest refinement will make itself known, it just takes concentration or a trained ear to hear the difference. The album mix of “kokoro” is one such track in [Sanctuary] that shows vast improvement after a year’s time of practice.

One noticeable sign of refinement is the increased rate at which she nails all of the notes, especially at the end where she also adds a nice vibrato. She doesn’t sound so tentative as she did in “Believe”, rather she sounds very confident and controlling. No hesitation brings out the best in a voice and this song truly shows that. The instrumentation is once again that of the first two tracks with the addition of woodblock-like electronic tones that give off a very stellar air.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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05. subete

So far in this album we’ve come across a flawless chain of soothing melodies for the springtime, and this next one is of no exception to this pattern. The orchestral score of this song is truly a masterpiece, and the cello just adds to its greatness. The use of bongos and shakers is pure genius that turned this song into the most refreshing composition in this entire album. The image of romantic scenery by the shorefront comes to mind when listening to this piece. Closing your eyes you can sense the activity going on around you, and consequently the mind is calmed.

Without a doubt this is my favorite from this album. The first four tracks give you a feel for the beautiful arrangements that make up the tracklist, but here comes a song that is very ‘fun’ and rhythmically exciting. It may take a few listens to appreciate this aspect but once you feel it, the feeling stays with you. I am also very pleasantly surprised to know that this song is another original from Kanon without any stems from classical roots. Her song-writing talents are excellent, she just needs to do it more often I think. My only complaint about this song is that it goes by too quickly for me despite it being very close to hitting the 4:30 minute mark. I suppose time passes quickly as you’re enjoying something, this song being one of those purely heartfelt joys for me.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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06. tsuki

The title translates to “Moon” and it’s a ballad based on Claude Debussy’s Clair de lune, one of four movements from his grand work the Suite Bergamasque. This song is purely reminiscent of the Impressionist music Debussy was famous for. The strings add a subtle effect to the classical blend, but most prominent is the majestic harp that plays in accompaniment to Kanon’s voice. Really it is these two lines of the score – the harp and Kanon’s vocals – that make the song as good as it is only because they make a very strong foundation in which the decorations can be added to, decorations such as flute and the low strings. Her singing is topnotch as she effortlessly runs through the lines, but I find the accompaniment lacking a substantial bass line to be a bit empty when equalized with her vocals. It’s a very good piece but it sounds to me as if there’s something missing.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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07. A Parting Blessing

“A Parting Blessing” is [Sanctuary]’s only interlude, the mature counterpart of [Primary Flowers]‘ “Vocalise”. I use the word ‘mature’ here because choral work such as this is often associated with choir pieces suited for an older audience’s tastes and usually not those of one unfamiliar with classical. Unlike “Vocalise”, this interlude has no instrumentation but goes by with only the use of layer upon layer of Kanon’s vocals, all of which combine to form some very angelic chords. “Scarborough Fair” is a song very much like this that can be heard in Kanon’s older album [Hymn of Grace]. Being a traditional song it’s not particularly exciting, but it’s very beautiful nonetheless.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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08. My Destiny

“My Destiny” is from the double A-side single [My Destiny/Serenade] but goes even further back, originating from her mini-album [Destiny]. The song is a bit more mellow than anything else we’ve listened to in the album thus far; therefore, toning down the vibrant array of colors to leave only the soft, mellow ones is a process worth mentioning. Acoustic guitar is audible in the instrumentation to help develop a more nighttime atmosphere suitable for the esoteric melody.

Do you remember “Theme from Vocalise”, the interlude from [Primary Flowers]? It wasn’t much except a display of vocal exercise then, but it returns here as a full-fledged song. “My Destiny” is also based on the same Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov to my complete excitement. If you listen to both you can hear the same melody, believe it or not. It isn’t apparent at first time’s listen, but it’s something you can easily pick out once you actually try to distinguish the similarities. Once again I can say that Kanon’s vocals show refinement in this song just as they do in “kokoro”. It’s all so flawless right to the very end, where strings and piano close the song in tender fashion.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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09. Good Old Days

This song is just so natural and dark, I love it. This is another original work by Kanon and it’s obvious since it strays so far away from the classical genre and is considerably more traditional and folk. Acoustic guitar, piano, and strings blend together to create a song fit for a night spent alone as mentioned in the lyrics. It is indeed a melancholic moment to remind yourself that you’re alone after a loved one leaves you, and this song expressively shows us the feelings felt. “Good Old Days” is written and sung in English so it’s guaranteed the message conveyed by Kanon will be understood by listeners. It’s surprising that the song doesn’t exactly rub off as a depressing one despite what’s going on it, rather it is one of sadness embellished in nostalgic reminiscence. It’s both dark and sweet at the same time.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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10. Serenade

“Serenade” comes from the double A-side [My Destiny/Serenade] and has its own album arrangement specially made for [Sanctuary]. This song is based on Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for String Orchestra, retaining both the orchestral composition of the originator and the parallel album instrumentation of the previous tracks.

This song is nearly parallel to “My Destiny” but is fitted with its own positives, one of which includes the repeating piano line heard a ways into it. Piano is the main accompaniment here and provides very solid backup for Kanon’s singing. Most noteworthy in this piece is the intro leading into the music – A touching statement by Kanon that has the impression of words sincerely heartfelt, so emotional and so moving. The quality at which she sings the remainder of the song mirrors the impact of these words and we are left astounded by the degree of emotion from start to finish.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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11. If Ye Love Me

This next track sounds like an extension to the interlude “A Parting Blessing”. It’s based on John14 vv15-18, a church piece written by English composer Thomas Tallis. Tallis was well-known for his contributions in church music so it is expected that his song titles share biblical roots. “If Ye Love Me” sounds like a song that would’ve belonged in [Hymn of Grace], sharing a spot next to “The water is wide” mostly because of its soaring vocal lines and typically choral composition. Though it’s not exactly an interlude in the album, it behaves very much like one for listeners, offering heavenly vocals from Kanon that are more than just pleasing to the ears. Whether you fancy the heavy church style of this song or not, the climax will leave you inspired even if just a little. I’ve been exposed to plenty of similar works in the past since they turn up often in classical networks, so I was able to warm up to the song fairly easily. However, those who don’t like church music will probably end up skipping this track.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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12. As One

“As One” is the song that underlies the previous track. This one shares church elements as well but is more exciting, especially with the introduction of actual backup singers instead of implementing layers to fill the background with Kanon’s voice alone. The effect is a rich, individually inspiring blare of singers performing for seemingly patriotic revel, something like sports or the Olympics. To one’s expectations, as if Kanon made it for such a purpose, this song was used as the ending theme to NHK’s Golf 3rd Open event.

Just listen to this song and you can hear the effort and power behind Kanon’s voice. She’s been rather reserved in her singing throughout this whole album, almost as if everything is supposed to build up to this one track at the end of the album where the climax still remains. Similar nuances are apparent in her debut album where “SHINE”, a majestic track parallel to “As One”, was placed second to last. This intention is made very obvious and leaves us with something to remember. Expressive lyrics by Kanon add to this overwhelming display.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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13. Life

After the explosive energy of “As One” the excitement is taken down a few levels to something more serene and tranquil. Being another original Kanon work, you can expect a quiet but tearful ending to match her descriptive composition style. To start out I can say I find this ending very appropriate as opposed to the one in [Primary Flowers], which was a cover of a Billy Joel song. Though sweet and innocent “Lullabye” is, I’m not particularly fond of covers so naturally I favor the sweet silence of “Life”.

The whole time Kanon sings to her own piano accompaniment to make one dramatic ending of things. Her vocals and volumes are absolutely perfect here – I don’t know a better way to conclude this album, which has been impressive all the way through. She mixes English and Japanese, the concept of life is expressed loud and clear in both languages. She really hit the mark to the age-old question ‘Why am I alive?’ Life isn’t a question of ‘why,’ rather, we must simply be thankful for having such a wonderful thing in the first place. Sometimes the answer to the most philosophical and mind-bending of questions is a simple one.

“Be happy for who you are,” she says. I love how simple these words are, but to hear them in this context makes them even more special. It’s the plain and simple truth.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Conclusion:
From every angle I think this is an improvement from [Primary Flowers]. Not only did it make it to the charts, her singing has improved, the hesitation is gone, and her music, in my opinion, is taking a step in the right direction. I still find it quite odd for the entirety of [Sanctuary] to have a feel for every season except the cold weather in which it was released during. The photoshoot appeared to be in an autumnal environment, the songs in springtime. At any rate I’m very pleased with this album since the absence of filler songs make it nearly flawless. Not to mention that Kanon looks absolutely stunning in that red dress – the colors are gorgeous.

I hope Kanon’s future releases will continue to provide a sanctuary for listeners’ ears. That heavenly voice of hers can do wonders for fans of crossover and new age, and the things that she’s just getting started with now are only going to keep getting better with every new release. With more promotion she’ll have the opportunity to make a bigger statement in the music scene, and perhaps she’ll one day receive the recognition she already has the potential of earning.

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

 

sanctuary cover

  1. Brand New Breeze
  2. The Power
  3. Blue
  4. こころ[album mix]
  5. すべて
  6. A Parting Blessing
  7. My Destiny
  8. Good Old Days
  9. Serenade[album mix]
  10. If Ye Love Me
  11. As One
  12. Life

Purchase this item: YesAsia US | YesAsia Global

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

erah AUSTRALIA December 24, 2009 at 5:35 am

…..,i love all her songs and her voice,…….
…..,I want t hear them all,……
…..,but there’s a problem,…….
…..,i cant hear it because there’s no simillar post in internet,……
….,gud bye,………

Reply

lei tsukimori AUSTRALIA October 13, 2008 at 11:30 am

I first heard Kanon’s voice on the anime La Corda D’oro’s opening theme “Brand new Breeze”, and I think its really a nice song then the second song I heard was “My Destiny’,i think its very touching and somewhat have this romantic drama in it ,eventhough i don’t understand japanese….I really like the songs Brand new breeze, The Power, My Destiny, Tsuki, Serenade,Kokoro, and also the song Blue. But I personally love the songs Tsuki and My Destiny…..Can’t help but wait eagerly at her new songs…..

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Marie Flick UNITED STATES September 3, 2007 at 12:51 am

I am in love with this C.D.! My friend e-mailed me this site and the first time I heard Kanon’s songs I just fell in love with them. I have already heard part of “Brand New Breeze” from La Corda D’oro and didn’t think much of it, but now I’ve changed my mind. My favorite songs are Brand New Breeze, Blue, My Destiny, Serenade, and As One. I can’t wait until her new album comes out.

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arellys AUSTRALIA April 28, 2007 at 6:27 pm

When I was living in Japan a few months ago, I heard a program on KANON which prompted me to buy her album. I really love her voice and most of the music, but the lyrics just get to me. I can deal with the Japanese ones (mostly because if I don’t think, I don’t really listen to them….) but the English ones are just so cliche. Especially in Serenade, near the end where she talks/whispers, it’s a little bit cringe-worthy… which is a crying shame, because she really does have a beautiful voice. I particularly liked ‘Blue’, ‘Tsuki’ and ‘A Parting Blessing’… I thought the instrumentation (minus A Parting Blessing) and harmonies were more mature and well thought out.

Thankyou for a very in-depth and well researched review! It really made me think over some of the things I brushed over before.

Reply

Rinoa April 5, 2007 at 6:23 am

Wonderful review once again. The minute descriptions and the extensive research make this review absolutely impressive. In any way this album is another beautiful masterpiece. Overall the artwork too seems to contain the same unearthly atmosphere of this album which was truly fantastic. I’m pretty fond of “Brand New Breeze”, especially the poignant ending which gave it such an ethereal atmosphere. “My Destiny” is also another personal favourite for me. I love the whole gentle romantic atmosphere.

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