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TTMR 004: LAVO - Sacred Music For The Pleasant Goddess


Written by SU_Tempest
Saturday, 29-Jul-23 02:06:14 UTC

First, an introduction; and why it’s Number 004

Hi! I’m Tempest, you may know me as your friendly snake-shaped moderator on the GR Discord. Did you know I’m also a professional writer and an enormous nerd for Touhou music?

Jokes aside, I really am honored to write this first review for Gensokyo Radio. With Lunar’s approval, it has been arranged that I would continue writing what I’d already been doing on my personal blog on Cohost, and simply crosspost Tempest’s Touhou Music Ramblings (TTMR) on Gensokyo Radio as well as on my blog.

So, welcome to Tempest’s Touhou Music Ramblings, where I showcase a Touhou music song and share my thoughts on the track itself, the artist, the circumstances around it, and the general vibes and feelings.

This is the reason why this review is numbered 004; you did not miss the first three, they were simply posted elsewhere. If you’re interested in them, they’re here:

TTMR 001: Jerico’s Law - MAYOIGA
TTMR 002: ION - 竹取飛翔 -Trance Mix-
TTMR 003: ぱらどっと - Ultimate taste

And now, the review proper

Sacred Music For The Pleasant Goddess is the name of both this album and its first track. This interesting seven-track album falls into the category of what I would refer to as hidden gems.

I admit that before I started writing this, I had a hard time deciding what would be the next subject for this edition of TTMR. When I narrowed it down to the six songs I’d jotted down on my notepad, it was no help; how can I choose?

Eventually, I let a die make the decision for me; it would not be Shibayan, Amateras Records, Unlucky Morpheus, Syrufit, or Golden City Factory. Alstroemeria wasn’t even on my list - I plan to talk about them, but later. Today, it will be LAVO. A tiny, unknown circle. And it is precisely why it deserves to be talked about.

Who LAVO are and why small circles matter

In the world of Touhou music, we don’t say bands; we say circles. This term comes from doujinshi culture; a circle is simply people that creates things they’re interested in. We have to use the word circle instead of band or group because many circles are one-person projects.

Team Shanghai Alice, after all, is a one-person circle.

When it comes to Touhou music alone, there are perhaps thousands of different circles. Even if a large number of these are small projects rarely involving more than one person, this is still multiple thousands of people just producing their own doujin music based on the Touhou soundtracks.

LAVO is one such small project. This circle was founded by two people: Noi (ノイ) and Takech. According to their now-archived blog (thank GOODNESS for the Wayback Machine), Noi was the circle leader, the planner, and the sole musician. Takech (probably a nickname for Takeshi) took care of every other task, including “artwork” and “web”, which probably means they managed the circle’s online presence and very probably designed the circle’s official logo.

The official LAVO logo

Although the music was the work of one person, LAVO was a two-person effort. Not counting album artists, as they are commissioned 99% of the time (and almost always on Pixiv), people not involved with music production in a Touhou music circle are often forgotten, if not totally unknown. That this particular blog has been at least partially preserved is extremely fascinating.

LAVO was founded in 2009 and produced two albums. Their first one was SACRED MUSIC FOR THE PLEASANT GODDESS, the first track of which is the subject of this post, released at Touhou Kouroumu 5 on October 11, 2009. The other was SKYSCRAPER, released at Reitaisai 7 on March 3, 2010.

After that point, they were never heard from again in the Touhou scene. Just like ION, which I discussed about in TTMR 002, they came, they made a little music, and they went on with their lives.

Some music truly is sacred. Let’s analyze the song!

I don’t think Noi or Takech ever expected that they’d touch the heart of this one random Touhou fan in France, much less that I’d write about them some 14 years after the release of their first album. To be quite frank, nobody ever imagines that any seriously.

Yet, here we are. I can’t ignore the impact the same-titled track had on me. Sacred Music (the track) is an arrange of one of the best Mountain of Faith songs, Tomorrow Will Be Special, Yesterday Was Not. It starts very serene and peaceful, not with a beat, a bass line, pads, or even any instrument.

You instead get about 20 seconds of nature sounds, immediately pulling you into the Moriya Shrine and its surroundings, before the backing melody very progressively enters. As it becomes louder, the nature sounds give way to the song. 0:42 introduces the piano backing, quickly followed by supporting hats, until the 141 BPM beatline shows up at 0:55.

Here we go. The song is kicking into gear, it’s dance night at the Moriya Shrine, we are on a relatively fast-paced house sort of flavor. Surely the main melody is about to sound nice and electronic, and we’ll get, just another remix, right?

And then it surprised me. The main melody that kicks in at 1:09 is a flute. The flute plays the very recognizable main melody of Tomorrow Will Be Special, with few, if any effects to enhance it or make it feel louder.

When the flute stops, it gives way to a completely regular-sounding piano at 1:36, playing the second ‘verse’ of Tomorrow Will Be Special, but with a much more freestyle and spirited feel. You’d think Kanako is on that piano, almost exaggerating the original melody all by herself.

While these are very simple instruments and it’s still very recognizably Tomorrow Will Be Special, the more I listened to it, the more I realized how… soulful, for lack of a better term, this arrange truly is. Just like good home cooking, it’s not remarkable because of its exotic ingredients, it is remarkable because it’s made with a huge dollop of love.

And that’s what surprised me. This choice of simple instruments over an otherwise fairly typical house-y backing that definitely wasn’t out of place for 2009. It shouldn’t feel special… but it is. It really is. What an amazing choice for a first track; it drew me into the rest of the album, and eventually into getting the second LAVO album, SKYSCRAPER.

To be honest, I’m not sure what genre I’d place this song. My best guess is Piano House, despite the BPM being a tad higher than usual for house music.

As the song progresses, the flute and piano trade places on the center stage while the backing piano, hats, drums, and beats continue doing their thing. A brief interlude at 3:19 reintroduces the sounds of nature for a brief moment, as if taking a moment to breathe, before letting the flute come back and drive the song through the second half.
The freestyle piano it dueled with during the first half is gone; maybe Kanako is the one playing the flute, defeating Suwako on the freestyle piano…

As the song enters the final quarter at 5:00, you can hear the sound of frogs croaking and ribbiting, reminding you that this song really is about the Moriya Shrine, about entering the domain that was once exclusively Suwako’s, and ultimately, about just how peaceful the domain of the gods — or in this case, the goddesses — can be. The song begins winding down at 5:52, until it fades out at 6:16 just as it faded in.

This one song is 1/14 of an entire artist’s discography and I feel WEIRD about that

As the first track of the album, Sacred Music sets you up perfectly for the rest of the album, giving you a taste of what to expect; familiar-sounding, electro-house beats and backing over more traditional instruments, especially pianos. Tracks 4 (Daydream Nation) and 6 (Shoot Speed/Kill Light[Ver 3.51]) both have long piano-only intros, and Track 5 (Underpsyco) starts with mild African drums and a piano melody.

I’m left with the impression that Noi may have been classically trained in this particular instrument; but, and as with many things in doujin culture, appearances can be deceiving, and there are many self-taught artists with that kind of talent.

At the same time… I can’t help but feel strange about knowing these tracks, alongside those in SKYSCRAPER, are all I’ll hear of LAVO’s very specific sound. Sacred Music, the track, is 1/14 of their discography. The SACRED MUSIC album is half of it; SKYSCRAPER also has 7 tracks.

If you want to experience the rest of the SACRED MUSIC FOR THE PLEASANT GODDESS album yourself, you’ll be pleased to hear that according to another archived blog post, Noi has apparently uploaded the whole album to NicoNico.. Feel free to listen to everything, completely guilt-free!

Where are Noi and Takech now?

The latest version of their blog on the Wayback Machine goes to 2014, but the latest post was made in August 2010, five months after the release of SKYSCRAPER. Absolutely nothing after this. So what does it say?

As best as I can understand it, it’s a perfectly normal blog post. Noi lamented not being selected for Summer Comiket (presumably Comiket 78) but preparing to work hard on the upcoming Winter Comiket (C79). Per Noi’s words, they were debating whether to make it mainly or maybe entirely an Eiyashou album - an all-Imperishable Night arrange album.

I couldn’t understand the rest 100%, but it seemed like Noi was very good at playing Touhou, achieving a one-credit clear of Undefined Fantastic Object, not feeling like playing Fairy Wars due to the number of Spell Cards and the lack of a Spell Card Practice mode, and finding Byakuren cute.

And that’s the parting note for this blog. Noi finds Byakuren cute. And so do I. And that’s it. No more blog posts after this for well over a decade.

With that said, while Noi’s Niconico account appears to be active, it does seem like they’ve moved on from Touhou. As for Takech, I have no idea.

My gosh, it will never not feel weird to feel as though this is the last I will ever read about that artist. The chance of them finding this and reading it is not 0%, but it’s probably still astronomically low. They will probably never know how much LAVO and SACRED MUSIC (the album) has touched me.

But as a self-styled Touhou music custodian, it is my duty to talk about smaller, lesser-known artists like LAVO anyway. I can’t keep that to myself. If I can show even one other person why they are, in fact, special, then I can live with that.

Song details

Song title: Sacred Music For The Pleasant Goddess
Artist: ノイ (Noi)
Circle: LAVO
Release date: 2009/10/11 (Touhou Kouroumu 5)
Genre: Piano House
Type: Instrumental

Touhou originals remixed:

  • 明日ハレの日、ケの昨日 ; Tomorrow Will Be Special, Yesterday Was Not (Mountain of Faith, Extra Stage theme)

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