jikan ga nai ~ …plenty time

jikan ga nai plenty timeA challenge to categorise and difficult to describe, …plenty time is an all-too-brief EP of four tracks that wears its quirky humour on its sleeve, or, in this case, in the titles on its sleeve. jikan ga nai, a collaborative duo from Bearsuit Records (home of eclectic pop-rock from Scotland and Japan), is an alias that roughly translates from Japanese to ‘I have little/no time’, and the contradictory nature of these titles is reflected somewhat in the music. Seemingly arbitrary and nonsensical name aside, opener “when we lie down we take the penguin home” presents an ominous entrance through which to enter this esoteric world of synths, fuzzy bass lines, myriad guitar tones and programmed drums. As the rhythm section settles into a groove and the layers of guitar build to a constant presence from initial disjointedness, so the tone of menace yields to one of a more playful nature, albeit with a persistent undercurrent of unease.

The second track, “of course we weren’t always superstars”, adopts a similar progression, with swathes of synth creating a quite fantastical atmosphere and shimmering layers and blips that seem almost to coruscate over the groove that enters – a touch more up tempo than the last and no less infectious. This is followed by the soberly titled “legend days”, the lengthiest track at five minutes and the most (comparatively) orthodox. Hints of experimental-era Radiohead and PVT (formerly Pivot) respectively grace the track’s two distinct movements, starting with free-flowing layers of melodious synth and acoustic guitar, rendered all the more surreal with an 8-bit music-style rhythmic overdub that seems to transport to a floating video game alternate reality. After a pause, fuzzy bass and tinny drums are cast out to hook us straight back to more familiar and stable terrain, serenaded with a sublime guitar line.

The elements with which jikan ga nai create their musical world are not in themselves unusual; standard electro/post-rock instruments aside, the duo also stay tethered to 4/4 timing and do not stray from a tangible formula in terms of track development. The originality instead stems from the atmosphere evoked by these elements, creating a fantastical world that seems in equal parts inviting yet haunting, palpable yet intangible, serious yet ludicrous. A beguiling realm to be admired, yet only from afar, for who knows what lurks beneath its serene surface. And it is with its final track that the EP appears ready to reveal its secret, as “the man who tells the trains…” disgorges layers of menacing synth that grow increasingly discordant beneath a despairing guitar line crescendoing to… an abrupt end. It’s a conclusion in keeping with the ellipses in the track’s title, curtailing the time we have to attempt to comprehend the many arcana of this inscrutable and fascinating record. Turns out there wasn’t enough of it.  (Chris Redfearn)

Available here

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