QUELL “Above the best” (Review)

QUELL go back to familiar territory for this release. “Above the best” had all the ingredients to be another top song from the talented quartet, However, a couple of unexpected issues in the vocal department left a lot to be desired, dragging the song down.

Title: Above the best
Label: Tsukipro/Movic
Release date: 23/03/2018
Genre: Electronic Pop / Deep house

Tracklist:

1 - Above the best

Track analysis:

1 – Above the best

After the ethereal EDM tune “Because you are” and the slow paced, heartwarming acoustic song “Small World“, QUELL change gears once again back to their experimental electronic sound. “Above the best” embraces a mid-tempo instrumental that relies heavily on dirty synths and atmospheric synth pads to give off an ethereal, delicate vibe despite it being, in essence, an electro-pop song – the complete opposite of delicate. The verses are minimalistic, resorting almost exclusively to atmospheric synth pads as accompaniment to the vocals; however, the chorus brings to the table all the synth instrumentalization necessary to add a punch to this tune, adding dirty and sweeping synths, heavily gated guitar riffs, a noticeable bass line and simple hi-hat drum samples into the mix. This is the kind of instrumental that sort of induces the listener in a trance.

QUELL ace most of the song but there are some sections that sounded too rough or too unpolished for our taste. For this song, everyone is enveloped in a heavy synth lead – and that is quite noticeable especially in the chorus. While the intro and the verses have some of the best vocal work this group has presented so far, with Koutaro Nishiyama showing some improvements, we were flabbergasted with what we found in the chorus. If you’ve listened to this song, you know that the key is rather high in the chorus. QUELL have tackled higher notes in the past so this should be a walk in the park for them, well, at least that’s what we thought. While Shunsuke Takeuchi tackled those high notes with no issues, we found it strange that Sho Nogami sounded like he was screaming his way through those high notes instead of tackling them comfortably in its required key. It is a tricky section but he’s gone higher in the past so this shouldn’t be an issue for him, yet it ended up being one. His solo parts were shaky as well, with his tone faltering/wobbling way too much in the bridge while tackling comfortable vibrato-ed sections and some mid-tones. Knowing how Nogami is usually a solid singer, this performance of his felt completely wrong. Nakamura also had some hiccups on those high notes, adding more that that feeling of “screaming high notes” instead of just “singing” them. The highlight in the vocal department belongs to Shunsuke Takeuchi. His smooth falsetto and R&B ad-libs in the bridge added some spark to the group’s performance. And his all rounded performance kept the energy flowing. Nishiyama managed to hold his own well, with a rather solid performance that stood out positively, of course, benefiting from Nogami and Nakamura‘s mishaps in the chorus.

All in all, “Above the best” stays true to QUELL‘s trademark “ethereal” electronica, exuding a dreamy vibe with an instrumental that feels like it was tailored to put the listener in a trance as opposed to made for the dancefloor. Unfortunately, this release falls short due to the vocal performances, an issue we never thought we’d find them facing. Aside from Takeuchi and Nishiyama, the vocals felt rushed and far from polished, something we weren’t expecting from a group that is known for solid performances with a lot of control. “Above the best” had a lot of potential, however the final product – especially the vocal performances – left a lot to be desired.

Final rating:

This song is only available for those that purchase the 4th volume of TSUKIPRO THE ANIMATION.

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