Spiritual successor to one of the least-beloved albums in I’ve history, master groove circle 2 was released in December 2009 to absolutely no fanfare whatsoever. To say that its release was dreaded would be a disservice to the crushing apathy the album was faced with; it would probably be closer to the truth to say that most failed to even notice the album existed.
So, months later, it finally gets a review. Was the album worth the complete lack of any fuss? Is it as horrible as volume 1 was? Read on to find out!
Various – master groove circle 2 (2009, Geneon Universal)
- Mami Kawada – PSI-missing [DJ Shiva Joerg remix]
- KOTOKO – BLAZE [G.M.S remix]
- Kaori Utatsuki – Spyglass [SORMA No.1 remix]
- Eiko Shimamiya – 奈落の花 [Eat Static remix] (Naraku no Hana)
- KOTOKO – Collective [Ben Watkins：JUNO REACTOR remix]
- C.G mix – DETECT [MAZDA a.k.a. SHINE6 remix]
- MELL – SCOPE [Ken Morioka remix]
- MELL – KILL [G･M･S remix]
- Mami Kawada – jellyfish [MAZDA a.k.a. SHINE6 remix]
- MELL – Way beyond there [SORMA No.1 remix]
- KOTOKO – Lament [NS⇒GIFT remix]
- Kaori Utatsuki – Shining stars bless☆ [soyuz project remix]
- Love Planet Five – 天壌を翔る者たち [MASA remix] (Tenjou wo Kakeru Monotachi)
- Eiko Shimamiya – ULYSSES [Eric Mouquet from Deep Forest remix]
- HARD STUFF – MIRAGE
The first master groove circle wasn’t so much a train wreck of missed potential, terrible music and questionable marketing decisions quite as much as it was the worst thing of any sort ever released by Geneon Entertainment. Which is saying a lot, considering the average quality level of most Geneon anime plateaus somewhere around the realm of ‘unwatchable’ and most of KOTOKO’s singles released between 2007 and 2009 seem designed less as music and more as cynical experiments in seeing how unremarkable anime theme songs can get before people stop buying the limited-edition DVD singles in bulk. The answer, apparently, is “about as bad as U make Ai dream”, but in Geneon’s sort-of-defense, that particular travesty wasn’t actually for a project that anybody gave half a shit about.
So, naturally, Geneon’s execs took a look at this monumentous failure, did a few lines of blow off its shiny tin surface, and decided that, since it was so much fun setting money on fire with a big expensive project absolutely nobody wanted the first time, they were going to do the same thing again and not change a single goddamn detail. Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.
And here it is, stripped of its attractive tin packaging, and even the limited novelty factor the original’s utterly inexplicable remixer lineup afforded it, by simple merit of the fact that it’s the same people ruining your favourite I’ve songs on this new album as it was the last time around. Oh, sure, there are *some* new faces (Japanese DJ MASA is new to the I’ve umbrella, as is the bizarrely-named NS⇒GIFT), but replacing Joy Basu with someone whose name looks like it belongs as a command in an Ar Tonelico game isn’t going to make a festering turd any more appealing. The story is the same, but a few of the actors were too hung over to show up to reprise their parts. No big deal, more songs for SINE6 (now hiding under the alias MAZDA, possibly to distract from his own lethal shittiness by reminding people of a perfectly non-loathsome auto manufacturer) to ruin that way.
And oh, ruin them he does. Well, him and every other remixer in the bunch; for an I’ve fan, the effect of hearing these remixes of beloved songs is often not at all dissimilar from that of a Spongebob Squarepants fan witnessing a Spengbab parody of their favourite anthropomorphic sea sponge: what we’re hearing (or, in the Spongebob fan’s case, seeing) is still superficially recognizable as something we know and love, but it’s been twisted and perverted into something we don’t want to associate with our memories of the song/sponge. That the abysmal remix of Eiko Shimamiya’s standout Naraku no Hana teases the listener with lazily-cribbed excerpts of the original almost entirely unmolested before devolving into a terrible and ironically undanceable ‘dance’ mix lends credence to my previously-asserted theory that the master groove circle remixers actively hate the material they’re given to work with. Why else would the BLAZE remix make sure the original’s vocals ruin what might have been a fairly decent trance song? Why else would Ben Watkins of Juno Reactor make a remix of Collective that makes his lazily slapped-together Real Onigokko mix from the last time around sound sort of interesting by comparison?
And, perhaps most importantly, why is the C.G mix song the best one on the album? SINE6 doesn’t by any means redeem himself with his surprisingly funky take on a deep cut off C.G mix’s somewhat-lamentable debut album, but its campy butt-rock guitars and distorted vocals sound a lot more like what a master groove circle album should sound like – if, indeed, a master groove circle album should have any reason to exist. But, just as the overpowering bassline sort of renders the DETECT remix devoid of replay value, the fact remains that, regardless of any good songs, master groove circle 2 just plain should not exist.
And, as with the first time around, the blame can’t even be solidly placed on outlying factors (Geneon’s management and their taste for expensive white powders, Ben Watkins’s lack of willingness to give a shit about absolutely anything, Eat Static’s inability to make music), as Kazuya Takase and Tomoyuki Nakazawa, head honchos at the eternally dumb-sounding FUCTORY RECORDS label, provide their first original composition under their shared HARD STUFF moniker in years as disc 2’s fittingly anticlimactic closer. MIRAGE, the new song, is the sort of thing you might think was fairly alright if it appeared in the background of, let’s say, a car commercial, but its cluttered nature and Takase and Nakazawa’s combined inability to find a good break even when throwing 5 new ones at the wall every 15 seconds suggest that perhaps the pair should stick to electro R&B or whatever it was that SPYGLASS was precisely. Trance might have been their thing at one point, but for both of them that point in time was over a decade ago. Just like nobody’s really all that sorry that we don’t hear MELL digging up her old persona and recording as Orihime anymore, HARD STUFF was probably a project best left collecting dust in a closet somewhere in Sapporo along with WORM WORLD and any number of embarrassing Takase aliases he’d probably like us all to forget about.
Of course, don’t by any means get the impression that MIRAGE is the worst song on the album. It may be thoroughly mediocre in every way, but to give the uncoveted ‘worst’ honour to anything but MASA’s take on Love Planet Five’s girl group-tastic Tenjou wo Kakeru Monotachi would be to ignore a stunning achievement in sparkling incompetence. Taking the original’s 5-girl vocal and condensing it to a chopped-up “ah” and a heavily-vocoded fragment of the first verse, then playing the mutilated remnants of the song over a beat that sounds like a Sega Genesis’s sound chip malfunctioning, it’s almost as if the former SINE6 paid MASA off to make him look like a better DJ simply by proxy. And it worked, the MAZDA take on DETECT really is the best mix on the album. But, I don’t think I even need to point out that I’m damning his contribution with faint praise in no small way there.
In short, master groove circle 2 is a must-not-buy and something barely even worth checking out as a curiosity, but you probably knew that already. And, knowing Geneon, they’re probably already trying to talk Ben Watkins back into the studio for MGC3. Here’s hoping they’re not, but nobody was counting on them making the same mistake twice to begin with.