I don’t know what it is, and maybe someone better versed in the words of music theory can let me know in the comments below, but there is a sound that Japanese bands produce that is almost uniquely theirs. A group of chords, a note sequence, a particular pentatonic scale… I’m not sure what, but more often that not I find I can instinctively identify an artist coming out of Japan even without knowing their name or their history.
Never is this more obvious than with piano-tinted mathy fare. That warm melancholy, soft chords and happy vibrance that Japanese bands do so well. Maybe it’s just years of listening to Mouse On The Keys and the Tony Takatani soundtrack (penned by Ryuichi Sakomoto)…but for certain, whilst Kyoto’s Jizue do share some similarities with those acts they are firmly their own beast as well. They have a groove and an ass-wriggling energy to them that borders on cheesy but pulls back at the right moments for a touch of beautiful melody and class, all without being jarring or obtrusive. Every part of their latest album, Shiori, is wonderfully and satisfyingly put together, from the song structures themselves to the clean production that allows every note and hit to stand out when it needs to.
Tracks with guest vocalist are nothing new obviously, especially in our circle of musical taste (Toe’s work with guest vocalist on their last album and EP set a pretty high benchmark). Jizue have two tracks on Shiori that utilise guest vocals, one that is a fairly standard Japanese coffee-core pop means upbeat jazz offering where as the second, a collaboration between the band and rapper Shing02 is bloody excellent. It could have been rubbish, but instead its maybe the album’s highlight, a full album between the two unlikely collaborators would be birthday sex come early. And, on the topic of stand out tracks, the chaos clashing of piano and guitar that starts ‘March Of Monkey’ is typical of sections of this album that lend themselves to multiple repeat listens. It’s always a pleasure to discover albums that do so. Go listen.