r-906 this past weekend at chokaigi’s creator cross, running alongside vomas 55, released 会話記録 (diaLOG) in what he’s billing as his first concept album, an important distinction for a producer that has already so far released three original albums and has sat at the top of more than a few vocacolle rankings. the high-minded sense that qualification entails starts to become apparent pretty quickly when you take even a cursory glance at the jacket art and track listing heavy on the train motif, but is really solidified by something you don’t see very often even for a cottage doujin release: a full novelization to go alongside it. there are only two vocal tracks distributed among an album mostly of instrumentals, with the leading track, catchy, already having been released as a PV over a year ago with enough teased mystery to inspire theories around it and its featured character. only days before this album’s release, that second featured vocal track, all I can see is you (あなたしか見えないの), marked the character’s return in a new PV showing the jumps between split personalities that catchy only ever gestured at. only now, after rigorous observation, does r-906 appear prepared to present the thesis he has seemingly been dutifully researching this whole time, compressed into an abstract that might just hook your attention.

all I can see is you provides answers to the questions that were first asked by catchy a year ago, and it is the beating heart at the center of diaLOG’s journey inwards. thematically focused on dissociating identities, first personified in catchy as train platform numbers, the returning character is now shown repeating through different temperatures of cool, cute, and bombastic, each cataloged and classified with profile details up to their preferred pronouns of boku, atashi, and watashi. charts and visualizations with captions full of formal detail flip through at a similar cadence, bleeding into the world of live action, eventually short-circuiting into an arrested focus on the single personality, IV, that we can now pick out as the one that was introduced to us back in catchy. with a long zoom back, revealing a bob-cut school girl captive to the same loops being shown in an empty theater, we appear not to be peering in on someone with an informal curiosity, but an obsessive trying to parse the rapid swings of character just the same as us; the enumerated personalities, and the attempts to shake meaning from them with formal theories, can only be the observations of someone that has made it their interest to confront an uncomfortable reality. with all of her research disappearing into a black void of overwriting marker scribbles, she confronts the only thing that is still left for her to see, looming as a shadow intercepting her neatly understood reality: personality IV, deceitful and scheming, alone.

only with the album’s supplementary book, which abandons all groovy pretense of the PVs, can one hope to potentially unlock the full context of what they are seeing. a dense collection of conversations, told from each split personality’s perspective, and an assortment of monologues, documented from the observer’s (“party A”), it is your own opportunity to pore over all of the collected theory. even though it is put on with an academic pageantry, of a researcher testing and verifying hypotheses, it begins to become apparent that we will only ever be able to digest the world through the lens of someone distraught with the shifts of her middle school friend, drifting in and out of different personalities, and, as we learn more acutely, the amnesia of her own memories being overwritten by her friend’s personality jumps between platform lines. while she at first boasts of her “rationality to understand the facts in front of me”, we see that facade tested as she grows heartbroken that she can no longer see the other personalities she has come to love equally to the now domineering IV. eventually, in a scene recounted with a quiet acceptance, we see her imagined in the train station that catchy established as its setting, the platforms manifesting physically with a presence that has already fully occupied her emotionally. sorting herself from the haze of confusion, she spots IV, hugging her knees tightly and sobbing on the train that appears prepared to depart from her platform, remarking that the “catchy” side of her appears strangely absent from her demeanor. it is only then that IV jolts forward in a rush towards her, the doors closing abruptly between them without a more meaningful goodbye being uttered. as the train slowly slides away, IV looking on longingly, the station begins to collapse above head. a bright light jolts her awake, back into her bedroom, just as the alarm of the departing train begins to chime at 7 AM. there is a sobering realization, by us, that party A was also the subject of an observation all along. a sixth personality, she logs, holds on to the memories of the five others, yet it only ever appears before her in her dreams.

"So, you are Catchy?"

as the afterword admits, there is enough to parse here that readers shouldn’t decide to rush to a complete understanding of everything, and that reflects in my personal ruminating of it over the past few days. indeed, elements of the experience can at times begin to feel autobiographical, spoken clinically through an unreliable narrator, but it is difficult, or more likely impossible, to decide where those realities blur or end abruptly. it’s a complicated idea for me to let go of as I observe the korg kaoss pad featured in the PV, tracing the path of the line tracking the rise in IV’s appearances, that is likely to be the very same that r-906 purchased due to its common use by ichiro yamaguchi in live performances. ultimately, though, I choose to judge these observations for now as mix-ins to a much larger unsorted collection, a sift through the same sort of chaos that party A became captive to. mostly, I find myself overwhelmingly left awash in how thorough an examination of process it is overall. vocal synth music is foremost dominated by the digital single, which makes the approach here feel all the more alien, as even long-spanning narratives like kagerou project have chosen to provide a more steady drip and unfurling twine of info than what r-906 has chosen to hoist here on his audience largely all at once. this has of course never been more true for most music published today, where the album is only ever fated to be chopped up into single shuffled tracks during streaming, but it has always been especially true for vocal synth music stemming out of its initial boom with streaming video. music videos continue to be one of the most reliable paths for discovery in the scene, and while pop music has in more recent years balked at dedicating itself to the elaborate showpieces the medium once boasted, it is probably still the avenue seen with the most prestige among vocaloid producers today. any of the remaining prestige for the album (or for that matter, physical release) in vocaloid is, instead, owed to it remaining aligned to doujin attitudes early on its growth, nurtured primarily by fans standing up events like vomas and assisted by efforts like crypton’s doujin publishing label, KARENT.

those conditions explain some of why this release strikes me as particularly unique, or at the very least, fearless. while concept albums are not totally unheard of for vocal synth releases, they are rare to commit to when a compilation album or standard LP offers the most flexibility, either when repackaging existing singles or making them adaptable to PVs for the future. for r-906, who has staked his signature on punchy and danceable drum and bass fused from sakanaction, the desire to tell a complex narrative feels more like a pointed rejection of all expected modalities inherent to those qualities. while each instrumental track here is perfectly appreciable in isolation, the station transfers we perform half-awake flowing between them, each in conversation echoing phrases back at each other, pulsing with the cadence of crossed train tracks and swelling from what feels like our emergence out of underground tunnels, are unlikely to ever make full sense in any other arrangement — especially without a light novel assisting as an annotated station map.

with party A’s monologues still hanging heavy for me overhead, the thumping bass of track IV begins to resonate more fully through me than any of the others preceding it, a comforting catatonic trance, before I’m jolted back alert hearing its hook recited again even more strongly on track VI. in r-906’s DJ set complimenting this album’s release on the same weekend at vocanico, chokaigi’s sister event to vomas, I’m swept up instead in how his pool of usual uptempo mixes builds out a wall of sound that I can envision belonging in any number of different permutations. diaLOG, in relief to that expected adaptability of a club sound to rearrangement, feels even more calculated as a consequence.

diaLOG is now available digitally on mora and ototoy, and should return to stock on booth again at some point in the future if you want the full physical package. the novelization is available separately as a digital purchase on booth. the component assets of the all I can see is you PV, including the charts and animations, are now also available to explore on google drive. r-906 will be holding a quasi-release party live set, 観測記録, that will be streamed free to his youtube channel on may 9th.

2024-05-12 with the live set now up, it's a really good atmospheric coupling that I think delights a lot of the elements of "performance" that are seen throughout the project. watching r-906 at the front of a classroom step away from his controller to pull out a laptop and present the slide package himself is feeding my thoughts all over again that we're seeing some measure of autobiography. the pulsing and flashing text overlays along with the projections throughout the room also give it the feeling of a museum pop-up, which had me revisiting the audiovisual performances of ryoji ikeda in the same vein. quite the contrast to what we saw at vocanico!

more of an aside, but he's also providing the theme song with miku for a short film that seems to be an exploration of what it would be like if an AI mixture-of-experts council wanted to annihilate us all. not sure what all's up with that, except that crypton is out promoting it directly. perhaps the killer miku androids will be mass-market sooner than we think.