My first primer to write will be about, of course, the circles I know best, Zytokine and Cytokine. To get started, what’s with the different names anyways, aren’t they the same thing? Well, it starts all the way back from 2005 before Zytokine existed. Cytokine was a circle consisting of Linjin （隣人） in charge of music production, and his older brother, Unagi （蒲焼鰻）, in charge of illustrative works. Linjin released about 21 albums under this label, until he and his brother decided that participating in events with different activities was a bit tough, and thus tried splitting up, giving birth to Zytokine, a circle dedicated to music alone.
Cytokine’s music began with Linjin arranging instrumental music all alone, somewhat reminiscent of Masayoshi Minoshima’s beginning. His name means “neighbor,” because he was just in the next room over from his brother. His instrumental tracks were mostly techno, dabbling in rock occasionally, but things began to change up in the album “hatch the new Flow,” where Linjin began using vocaloids for a while. Things really started changing in “bifurcation” though, where aki began to participate as a vocalist, and soon enough, we would see a variety of different vocalists participating in his albums. Linjin’s music nowadays is mostly characterized by his “Linjin pop” and techno.
Not only does Linjin arrange all the music and write all the lyrics, but he also participates in a number of other circles as a guest very frequently, most notably Sound Holic and Syrufit, appearing in nearly every album of theirs it seems, as well as the occasional appearance in Alstroemeria, Amateras Records, Shibayan, and others. That’s a lot of work yo, and yet, Linjin still manages to produce new albums for each major touhou event (The Comikets and Reitaisai) as well as Kouroumu occasionally.
I’m not the most familiar with Cytokine era music, so I’ll mostly be talking about Zytokine here. Standard vocalists you can expect to see each album are itori, aki, Nachi Sakaue, and Nana Takahashi (Also in a unit with Linjin known as “cold kiss”), each who sound very unique and distinguishable in their own way. Since Zytokine separated from Cytokine, Linjin has released 12 albums.
To help get you started on your Zytokine way, if you want to decide whether or not their stuff is for you, I’ve put together a decent sized playlist containing 5 itori tracks 5 aki tracks, 6 from Nana Takahashi, 2 from Nachi, 1 of 3L, 1 of Misawa, and 1 of Mei Ayakura for a decent balance. Not all of them are necessarily from Zytokine albums, but they’re all by Linjin, and as such, are Zytokine in essence.
Now, it’s tough to rank the albums from top to bottom, because every single album has at least one noteworthy track in it, but I tried my best.
All these albums I would place at the top of my recommendation list, I don’t know what else to say.
・>>>> is a little special in that every single song is an arrange of Hata no Kokoro’s theme, but despite that, Linjin still manages to make every song different in its own way, and all the lyrics are, of course, related to masks and personas. My personal pick of the lot include Chasing Rainbows, which I love too much, Raising False Hopes, Persona, and Poker Face.
・I, SCREAM is a Double Dealing Character arrange album, with possibly the widest array of style between songs out of all the albums.
・THE LEAP // NEXTRA is the sister album of THE LEAP // SHOWDOWN, though it’s definitely the better of the two, with hits such as CONFINED INNOCENT, BEAUTIFUL DREAMER, and the LOST CHILD – Camellia Remix.
Though not as overall enjoyable as the top tier albums, these ones still have a variety of great hits.
・XXX is a remix album, with the KICKING TRICK – Nhato Remix being the best thing since sliced bread. The not Alone – Dr. ARM beast Remix, DESIRE DREAM – FELT Remix, flower – panomamix, Dancing Dollz – Rock ReArrange, and GOLD – K’s “Dive into the Dream” Remixes are also nice things to come out of this album.
・I’d never call myself a fan of silver†, but the Ten Desires – Syrufit Remix is one of my favourite songs of all time. There are a few other nice songs as well, such as not Alone and Calling Opus, the opposite side of Missing Opus.
・Maybe I’m underrating gold*, I feel this is above the other albums but I wouldn’t put it in with the top tier. Missing Opus is the best U.N. Owen Was Her? arrange around, GOLD being another beloved song.
・Double Key has my heart up until lockbox, where the second half of the album significantly drops in my opinion. Everything before that is great.
Low tier albums are where I just plainly didn’t enjoy most of the songs to the average level. They still do have some great tracks, but the rest are.. not my thing.
・POP ICON contains the precursor to the Ten Desires – Syrufit Remix so who am I not to like it? The you’re the fire – reconstructed mix is another nice one. At the beginning of the album, you’re faced with DESIRE DRIVE, which prepares you for the iconic final track of the album, DESIRE DREAM, a classic.
・MOTHER NATURE here I really didn’t find much enjoyment in, except for 3 exceptional tracks: DEATHANDREBIRTH, with a Camellia remix coming up in the next album, Stranger in the dusk, and the I, SCREAM Heavy Rock ReArrange. The rest all feels somewhat unmemorable and generic to me, but that’s just my opinion.
Top 6 Songs (No particular order)
I could put down much more than 6.