Japan’s mouse on the keys possesses an instantly recognizable sound: hard piano playing accompanied by hard drumming, with slightly subtler bass accents (also played on the keyboards). The band plays jazz for those who don’t usually like jazz, frequently laying an accessible rhythm over an avant-garde rhythm in order to reach both crowds. Their compositions, although instrumental, usually contain “choruses” – repeated passages that stick in the head and make one yearn to hear them again, and soon. This is generally not a problem, as their tracks tend to be brief. On this EP each of the four tracks rests in the 3-4 minute range.
A quick note for fans: those who purchase the EP on iTunes will only receive three of the tracks; “memory” is available only on the physical disc. As the least active of the tracks, it’s also the least essential, but completists will be aggravated if they buy one version, then realize they’ll have to buy the other. “clinamen” is similarly restrained, yet boasts a more insistent synthesized bass. Although solid, these two tracks are not Machinic Phylum‘s bread and butter; this distinction belongs to the opening selections.
“aom” and “plateau” are rapid and complex, leaking post-rock at their hinges like newly-oiled doors. “aom” contains dueling piano melodies, one content to play within the fence, the other threatening to climb over. The drums roll fast and loose, daring the other instruments to keep up. A drum solo pops up in the final minute, but only for a few seconds; with tracks this short, there’s little time for indulgences. “plateau” is even faster, going for the jugular in its opening seconds with shifting scales and battering ram percussion. A small softening (the “verse”) brings the propulsion down a notch, but again, not for long. Even the bridge is caffeinated. Only in the closing twenty seconds does the track take a breath, pitching the piano downward to enjoy a halftime nap.
There’s no word yet on whether this EP will be licensed by Denovali for international distribution; we hope it joins the rest of the keys’ discography on that distinguished roster. (Richard Allen)