Callme – “To Shine”

If you strip nature to its barest composition, reduce all of its glorious curves and angles to perpendicular black, and simplify hues to primary colors, you would probably produce something that looks like Piet Mondrian’s work. No doubt the Dutch painter’s work crossed through your visual stream once or twice. His compositions and style from the 1920’s became shorthand for modernism in the 1960’s, and now serve as an easy callback to retro futurism.w

My thoughts on Piet Mondrian actually hold some bearing with the idol group Callme! You see, the group’s debut release on March 3, “To Shine” employs serious amounts of Mondrian inspired art and artifacts. But, my manners! We should probably start with Callme themselves. Who is this trio?

Callme started as a subunit of the idol group Dorothy Little Happy. The three members, Akimoto Ruuna, Tominaga Mimori, and Hayasaka Koumi began performing as Callme at @JAM the field vol. 7 at TSUTAYA O-EAST in February this year. They conceptualized Callme as a “self produced” idol unit with the members tackling composition, songwriting, and choreography. Having whet their appetites, Ruuna, Mimori, and Koumi recently decided to graduate from Dorothy Little Happy. If you are keeping track, Dorothy Little Happy undergoes idol mitosis, with the three members of Callme leaving the mother ship and Takahashi Mari and Shirato Kana remaining as a duo version of DLH, on July 12.

“To Shine” impressed me as a debut single. The group delivers a strong identity of jazzy melodies backed by a natural sounding dance beat (e.g. not electronic). “To Shine” layers its sound with a dominant piano track that sounded catchy enough to serve as the song’s intro. Keyboards and backing vocals provide some electronic melodic layers to the arrangement, but “To Shine” at its heart is drums, piano, and voice. I think Tominaga Mimori provided an exciting debut for the group, and an impressive debut for herself as a composer.

But, why Mondrian? I know someone out there just said, “Because it looks cool!” (you know what I think about that). The dresses they wear are near identical copies to Yves Saint Laurent’s “Mondrian” day dress from 1965. I am left to wonder if Callme are referencing Mondrian directly, or Mondrian through 1960’s fashion. Perhaps the girls take Mondrian’s method of abstraction and apply it to idols/themselves. Callme remove many of the layers. Consider that practically all idol acts utilize a team of composers, arrangers, musicians, choreographers, and stylists. By doing away with much of the team, Callme brings themselves closer their fans. Is there a better way to symbolize this than with an artist that famously dealt away with superfluous details to the point of abstraction?

If you pull back even further, you see Callme and “To Shine” use layers as a theme. Musically, the arrangement relies on layers of melody over the dance beat. The group themselves became the layers of production by taking over much of the behind-the-scenes work. The PV’s set cleverly tricks the eye into perceiving a flat background, when in fact the colored rectangles that make up set exist on layered planes staggered up the stage. Ruuna, Mimori, and Koumi exploit this illusion by inserting themselves between the rectangles. There. I said it.

Most idol groups exist on top of an elaborate deception. The layers of production behind them appear flat and nonexistent. An invisible hand dupes the viewer into believing the topmost visual layer exists independent of the background. “Focus on the pretty girls, not the background dealings and ugly machinery”.

Unlike other idol groups Callme are part of the set of layers.

You can buy Callme’s “To Shine” at CD Japan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s