Girl’s Rock – DIE/NING

I’ve intended to get back to this series. I had a bit of a deviation with my “The Women of Visual Kei” series which was fun. However, it’s always nice to get back to the roots and bring back some staple series including this one. So, let’s jump back into a good ol’ Japanese Girl’s Rock Profile.

DIE/NING some of you might remember being featured in my 2019 end of the year lists, except they were originally known as Dorodoro. In early 2020 they changed their name to DIE/NING rebooting the project. They’re not quite an idol unit, not quite a band, blending both Western and Japanese styles of sound and imagery that leans heavily into alt-idol visuals, but sludge metal instrumentals. Currently, they are a duo. Member 吐-haku-, who not only handles vocals, but composition and production of their tunes. She is joined by 詐欺-sagi-, who handles guitar-work, but is also indicted to handle Mesopotamia, and… fraud as well as Sakurai? A very unique set of duties. They released a pre-debut single “madness love song.” and then their debut mini album, 食材 (Shokuzai) released February 22nd 2020.

They’re very new as band, with a limited discography but I wanted to give them a small boost so hopefully they keep releasing more tunes! It’s rare to see two women handle all the production elements of sound which is amazing! So let’s take a look at this small but mighty discography.

“madness love song.” starts with a very gothic but punchy opening. The composition is really powerful, but scales back for a hallmark guitar and vocal combination you’ll come to know the duo by. There’s something off-puttingly danceable to the whole track, from the synthesizer lines to the ever constant guitar progression floating around. Surprisingly, the mixing on this track is perfection. Haku uses a lot of non-standard vocal techniques; notably her whispered lines, and vibratos I typically only associate with someone being on the verge of tears, in a really airy delivery. I had anticipated that her vocals would get muddled within the song, but they are handled incredibly well. It shows a lot of promise for a pre-released single, and the imagery of “madness love song.” rings incredibly true with this tune.

We now get to move into Shokuzai, the seven track debut album. Kicking it off is the rather inconspicuous “WELCOME TO THE DIE / NING”. It starts with some opening notes from a shamisen, or koto, a very traditional Japanese instrument, that clearly was played with intentional of missed notes. This is then switched over for a frantic drum beat that carries the whole song. There’s a bit of speaker feedback left in, before some gritty guitar-work being added on allowing the instrumentation of the band being in the forefront. In the latter half of the song, a very loose rhythm guitar comes into play, but fades away just as quickly. It’s a nice little sampling of the band’s composition and skill sets, one that certainly sets the table, so to speak, of what’s to come.

“Ijyousha” starts with Haku’s lighter vocals coming into play fairly quickly, with Sagi’s guitar keeping a steady accompaniment the entire meal. I have to admit, that in this particular song it’s less of Haku singing, and more of a cadence until we hit the refrain of the song which is much more rhythm to it. The track is very easy to bop your head along with, especially when we get the more echoed drum and guitar breakdown. If I trained my ear just a little more, and had the lyrics in front of me, this song would easily become the biggest earworm of the album. I think this song would be absolutely killer to hear live as well, even with the abrupt ending.

“STRONG BERO” is the third song on the album, and the first of three tracks to be marked as explicit. What exactly is explicit is buried somewhere in the lyrical content, but I can’t pin-point it myself. Haku has some absolutely rapid fire delivery in this song. She doesn’t song, nor rap. Instead there’s something akin to repeating a tongue twister as fast as she can before switching into the more airy haunting vocals. Sagi’s guitar in this piece really in the backbone, as it maintains the energy of the song, without letting it swing into the uncontrolled destruction that a semi-automatic delivery could stray into. The energy of the song is oddly restrained in terms of instrumentation, but Haku’s delivery really gives it the frantic ready to burst feeling.

“Genkai-otaku no gachi-koi sou-jyou”, is actually the album version of “madness love song.” . I didn’t find any explanation in my research for why the name change. Nor to my knowledge did the song change too much from single to album. There’s a few small changes with Haku’s vocals and effects within the song, especially in the latter half, but unless you listen to them back to back, you most likely won’t notice this. However, my original comments for “madness love song.” still stand for this re-named version.

“Table manner ~kyakkahen~” the fifth track on the album, and second to be marked explicit is pretty interesting. It opens with with of all things in percussion, bongos, making it much more animalistic in nature. Haku’s vocals once again contrast so tantalizing well with the more feral sounding tune. It’s a very call and response heavy track, from Haku to Sagi’s guitar, and then Haku to the audience. Especially around the two minute mark, Haku has some really interesting intonation to her calls. They feel like they recorded her calls into an answering machine, and then mixed it into the track. It’s really unique and helps hold the track together, since it comes off a bit piece-y with the time changes. As a whole though, I found it easily the most memorable track of the album.

“Yu-utu” is the first track where both Sagi’s guitar, and Haku’s vocals immediately start the song off. It’s also easily the most clean track on the album, and surprisingly what I would consider the ballad of the album. Haku’s vocals are significantly and intentionally more breathy in this track, where you can hear her distinctly. It’s a very interesting choice, but really does push the more dramatic and emotional tones of the piece. There’s also a lot of layered distortion on her vocals, which gives it a really emotional and stark contrast between the prior tracks on the album. The instrumentation was a little more par for the course here, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing for this particular track.

We have finally reached the final track, and the one that started it all; “Dorodoro”. It’s also the final track on this album marked as explicit where I can’t tell why, but I can guess. There’s still something about the sludge-like guitar and bass combo that has forever imprinted itself on my ears. Haku’s vocals really sound like a female spirit from a horror movie taunting the listener. It’s distorted and intentionally off-putting that really encompasses the true nature of DIE/NING so well. Ending on a soft cough, really does make you re-think your entire listening experience.

DIE/NING could have easily been a huge miss, but the group packs a huge punch. They really nailed the mixing down to a fine art especially on songs like “genkai-otaku” and “dorodoro”. The combination of Haku’s unique vocals, high and haunting in most cases, while not compromising Sagi’s trudging but skilled guitar work, is something to give a listen to at least once. This duo, in terms of the group, is still incredibly fresh but offers a very unique sound that you should check out via their YouTube or Spotify.

I’ll be keeping my eye on for future releases, and I’ll try to keep you guys posted about them. Be sure to let me know your thoughts about them below, I’d love to hear them. As always, I’ll see you guys next post!

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