The Sleepy Strange
Japancakes are an instrumental group from Athens, Georgia that feature such instruments as guitar, bass, keyboards, cello, drums, and pedal steel, all very fine and interesting instruments. This album was well-recorded, and is quite pleasant to listen to. The group is fond of minutely varied repetition; always a good thing. The critics seem to love them, and they've garnered comparisons to kraut-rock bands and Tortoise. Sounds like a winner.
The only problem is that the music is, for the most part, boring as shit. Perhaps it is unfair to say so, but this band does not rock. After listening to the blandly competent pedal steel (which seems to function as the lead instrument) soar above the annoying keyboard pads for the nth time, I am in need of some serious rock and fucking roll. Unfortunately, I'll have to look elsewhere. This band needs a date with Mark E. Smith, or to play accompanied by video footage of car crashes, or something, anything, to shake it out of its satisfied pleasantness. Get drunk, use a distortion pedal, smash your guitar, forget how to play, sing an aria, but for Gods sake, do something that sounds more compelling than packing peanuts twirling around in circles ever so happily. (CP)
(Kindercore Records -- P.O. Box 461, Athens, GA 30603; http://www.kindercore.com/)
The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up
It's Winter Here
The advantage of blowing a deadline, part 1: On first listen, all I can think of is other bands who remind me of the JYPU, but are better (cf Slint and Bardo Pond for two immediately obvious, though not completely accurate, touchstones). But they aren't bad. And I keep listening, off and on. And the other day I'm trying to find a parking spot in the mall to catch a movie (Brother, which turned out to be quite good though not the milestone of Kitano's filmmaking), and there's all these cars doing stupid things, and I remember how much I don't like malls, and the JYPU are playing, and I just key in all of a sudden to the unique emotional source of their sound, and it all makes sense. Whereas, say, Slint is about frustration that burns into anger, the JYPU are about frustration that melts inward into disappointment. And it just hits me, but a suburban Codeine, more informed by the last five years of post-rock, may be the best way to describe JYPU's sound. Which is, in case you are wondering, a good thing. (DD)
(Absolutely Kosher Records -- 1412 10th Street, Berkeley, CA. 94710-1512; http://www.absolutelykosher.com/; The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up -- http://www.jypu.net/)