Welcome to her world.
Akiko Shikata is kind of a UFO in the Japanese musical landscape. At first she started as a music composer by creating an independent label called Vagrancy
, but quickly picked up to singing, developping a style that draws from Japanese traditional music, Celtic music, Middle-Estern music, classical music, rock, religious chanting, and whatever the hell she feels like.
And even occasionally in regular Japanese Pop Music
. She also released a lot of purely instrumental tracks and albums that she composed and, often, performs. But what makes her most well known is her contribution to a lot of video game and Visual Novel
musics, most famously Ar tonelico
and Umineko no Naku Koro ni
Another particularity is her voice; or more accurately, her voices
. Not only does she have a remarkable voice range, she is known for using multiple parallel voice tracks
, creating one-woman choruses that reinforce the immersion. Her lyrics − or those of people who write for her − often revolve around the beauty and power of nature, the celebration of life, and mystical tales.
Her currently released studio albums are:
- Navigatoria (2005)
- Raka (2006)
- Harmonia (2009)
- Turaida (2013)
Plus numerous instrumental albums and mini-albums, the very first being Midori no mori de nemuru tori
Tropes found in Akiko Shikata's music:
- Album Intro Track: There is usually one featuring an Ethereal Choir. In Harmonia short sung poems serve as introduction and interludes.
- Con Lang: Occasionally in songs for anime or video games. Most memorably in Utau Oka ~ Salavec Rhaplanca (a song related to Ar tonelico), partially sung in Hymnos.
- Concept Album: The theme of the album Harmonia, according to Shikata herself (this interview, in Japanese), is the cycle of "earth, water, fire and wind". Each song evokes a part of the wild nature, from the desert to the sea, to the sky or forest or volcanoes, and the final diptych of "Harmonia" songs is supposed to bring them together in a joyful conclusion.
- Dark Reprise: Umineko no naku koro ni ~ Rengoku starts very much like the original VN opening, but after the first chorus it gets more chaotic and epic, with the structure getting more complex and electric guitars kicking in, which adds an apocalyptic touch to it. Also, it's sung entirely in Italian this time around (the lyrics are by Wataru Hano though).
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In Midori no Mori… (2001) and Haikyō to Rakuen (2003), Shikata's voice was noticeably more high-pitched, and more generally her early releases up to Navigatoria had usually lighter and more etheral instrumentations. Navigatoria also had a few experimental songs (most notably Hollow) that don't quite sound like anything she has done since then. While the bases of her current style were already present, it's her second album Raka that solidified them.
- Ethereal Choir: Used as a peaceful pendant to the Ominous Latin Chanting, sometimes in the same song.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: She takes a rather sensual and whispery voice in La Corolle (on Navigatoria). Unfortunately, her "French" is thoroughly unintelligible, but her French fans still appreciate the effort.
- Evil Laugh: She pulls off an epic one in Kin'iro no Chōsō (on the Umineko no Naku Koro ni album). It's scary.
- Flowery Elizabethan English: The lyrics of "Hollow" in Navigatoria notably use quotes from Sheakspeare. Yep, the only time she sings in English, it's old English.
- Gratuitous Italian: Or Greek, or German, or Latin, or French, or Berber… she isn't picky about the language she sings in; although she seems to have a particular fondness for Italian (she uses only Japanese and Italian in Turaida). However it's not like she's fluent in any of those languages and she still has a heavy Japanese accent, making the lyrics hard to understand even for native speakers…
- Non-Appearing Title: Frequent, random examples including Haresugita Sora no Shita de, Kaze to Rashinban or Ricordando il Passato, among others.
- Ominous Foreign Language Chanting: She absolutely loves this trope, useful for raising the tension in epic songs.
- Recurring Riff: If you listen closely, most of the interludes in Harmonia actually use the same melody (but with a different tempo and tone); and that melody is mirrored in the penultimate song of the album.
- Singing Voice Dissonance: Can be heard here. Yes, the person speaking and the person singing are the same.
- Woman in White: When the album covers don't feature her posing in a white dress, they often feature a white-dressed female character, with some sort of natural background. Probably serves as a symbol of purity in this case.