Japancakes, "If I Could See Dallas" (Kindercore) Japancakes are a diverse assortment of musicians, more of a "group" than a "band" it seems, devoted to playing hypnotic, extremely repetitive music. I found a recent EP of theirs, Down the Elements, to be quite intriguing, and this disc is of approximately equal caliber. However, both don't seem to completely deliver the goods. The album starts on a rather ineffective note with "Now Wait for Last Year," which is rather stagnant and boring, before getting the ball rolling with the excellent, violin-led 6/8 jam, "Elevator Headphones." Here, as on the other good parts on the disc, repetition becomes a compositional tool to mesmerize the listener and propel the piece instead of boring them as the first did. Thankfully, most of the album's songs fall under the latter category (some overstay their welcome and fall into both, like the overlong but still excellent "Elephants"). Still, the blunders are fairly minor compared to workouts like "Vocode-Inn." As I stated earlier, be forewarned that the music is extremely repetitive! However, for those listeners who can get past that (or actually enjoy it), this is a quite good album. ~Jon Dharma Murphree~
Japancakes, "Down the Elements" (Kindercore Records) Japancakes are an American band characterized by subtle variations on extremely long, drawn-out repetitive sequences. I can't find a musician list, but the band seems to be mainly the typical guitar/bass/drums/keyboard set augmented occasionally by other instruments. The first song, "Version 1" starts with a laid-back, almost ambient groove with cello buried underneath waves of ethereal keyboard noises. For most of the song's 6 minutes, the rest of the ensemble plays basically the same thing over and over again. This is fine with me, being a fan of the similarly hypnotic German band Can, especially since they manage to take the music somewhere within this context. Next is "A.W. Sonic," rocking out much harder though equally repetitive. The main difference is that this piece features an actual melody, or at least a memorable melodic keyboard figure repeated over and over again before it's finally buried by the juggernaut roar of the ensemble at the 8-minute mark, leading to a satisfying climax. Third is "Sputnik," a more keyboard oriented and (appropriately) spacey venture, heavy on aquatic sound effects. Fortunately, it dies out around the 3-minute mark, saving it from unnecessary tedium. The final title track begins with electronic bleeps sounding suspiciously like the old video game Metroid, plus more aquatic noises. These eventually take backseat to keyboard pads, arpeggios and soft drones, which slowly begin interlocking in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of sound. I'm not sure what my final opinion on this music is, but I've tried to describe as best I can so you can decide yourself. Definitely a worthwhile thing to investigate, though. ~Jon Dharma
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