Tokyo-based pan-national wrongpop quartet Abikyokan’s new EP sees the eclectic and unpredictable group dropping, at least for now, the live drums that clomped through some of their recent recordings and reining back on the harder rocking blues, country and soul influences in favour of a return to electronic beats and focus on the synth-based 80s pop elements that they never quite really abandoned and the result is one of their most coherent and quietly charming collections in quite a while.
Jake Arntson’s stream-of-consciousness word association poetry meanders obliquely around topics that probably make a lot of sense to him but lines like: “Mickey and Mitch came with their new night friend, dressed like Rambo as a young boy,” from opening track In the Woods are affecting primarily through their evocative combination of sounds and images rather than any coherent narrative. Combined with Abikyokan’s typically murky GarageBand production style, Arntson’s vocals seem to be coming at you out like voices from the dreamlike mist of a semi-slumber.
While In the Woods hangs the melody and distant synth stabs and doodles off a bassy electronic beat, title track The Fear is built around a restrained, repetitive, descending guitar thrum with the band invoking us to not believe in fear because, ominously, “there’s nothing after,” that builds up to what seems like it might become a chorus before retreating from any such undignified descent into easy convention and returning to the understated, repressed intensity that is the song’s real spine.
God (Bigfoot) is the killer though, with its squalls of bottlenecked noise guitar and New Order-esque combination of 80s synth bleeps and clanging Peter Hook bass chimes. I don’t know what the Bigfoot Cafe is and the song leaves me none the wiser, but then not knowing what the Big Chief Chinese Restaurant was never stopped me thoroughly enjoying Guided By Voices’ Alien Lanes so it seems churlish to complain here when the garbled mystery is so much more seductive.