Athens' instrumental country space-rockers Japancakes took a few years off, and in the interim have presented two new albums for your new consideration; one of which you've probably heard of, and the other, probably not. Yes, Japancakes received a great deal of attention for their album Loveless, which, technically, isn't their record at all. It's a song-by-song cover of the seminal My Bloody Valentine album. Instead of overwhelming melodies and blissed-out guitars and righteously wonderful singing drowned out by white hot noise, Japancakes have rendered and reworked Kevin Shields' masterpiece into something soft and tender and sweet and relaxing--at times, their versions almost qualify as Musak. The novelty of this release has earned them some attention, but I'm not entirely satisfied with Loveless. Oh, don't get me wrong, their arrangements are definintely pretty, and it's Japancakes at their always-enganging best, but the original album is such a unique and brilliant work, after a while, I get bored with what they're doing and wish to listen to the original.
Giving Machines, their latest album, is a much more satisfying affair. Other than a cover of Cocteau Twins' wonderful "Heaven or Las Vegas," it's all original compositions, and it's fine material at that. The band certainly has not lost any of their charm, and the material here is, well, classic Japancakes. It's big, grand instrumental passages that blend quiet harmonies and atmosphers with rustic, simple instrumentation. By that, I mean pedal steel. I am reminded of pedal steel master BJ Cole and his 1990s experiments with electronica. In my mind, that sort of sums up Japancakes: an electronica-composing country band. Much like Loveless, this record is also quiet and pretty and subtle; what they do, they do well.
I'm really can't think of what to say about their music, because, really, what more could I say? Japancakes' music is special, and if you know their music, then you know just how damn good their music is. If you don't, there's really no better place to start than Giving Machines. I do recommend Loveless, but not to the new; there's so much more to this veteran band than a one-off cover album. If you're wanting more, word has it a reissue campaign will soon take place, bringing all of those classic early Japancakes records back to a store near you--so there's plenty of activity going on for those enthralled by them. (I am, can't you tell?)
Listen To: Lalita (from Giving Machines)
Listen To: When You Sleep (from Loveless)
Giving Machines and Loveless are available now on Darla Records
Labels: Darla Records, Japancakes, Loveless