Abikyokan: The Fear EP

CD/Download, 2012

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.

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5 Comments

Filed under Albums, Reviews

5 responses to “Abikyokan: The Fear EP

  1. Pingback: Review of The Fear EP « abikyokan

  2. Pingback: Emperor Tomato Catch Up « ABIKYOGRA

  3. Ian…. Aren’t the drums of Abikyokan a bit shite? Full stop? Isn’t the live musicianship a bit fake? Jake and the others are great but I question Grant? He may have good ideas but can he actually express them without the means of a digital hand / cover up? OK. You may vouch for them I gather (as you have known each other since 1987) but, although the songs are good (in a way), there is a lot of Alan Wilder (90) and Andy Fletcher (10) going on in this group for sure… Oh yeh. I have been in Japan now for 7 years of today and am past that ‘celebrity gaijin’ status. Hope you are too although I see a lot of narcism still going on…

    Anyway,,, Here is my musical cheese… No way as hip right? Who fucking cares anyway. I know its a good song. Fucking Myles. Sod you all.

    Love you

    xx Andy

    • I don’t really know what you mean by the live musicianship being a bit “fake”, but I doubt you’d find many who’d disagree with you that Abikyokan’s live performances can often be a bit ramshackle. Whether that’s a bad thing or just part of their charm is another question. I quite like the way that they always seem to be reaching for something they can’t quite attain and then they fall sometimes clumsily short but perhaps splayed in an interesting shape. There’s a constant musical curiosity and unwillingness to stay in one place for long which means nothing they do will ever be really slick but which ensures that even the things that don’t work are usually interesting and unusual. And what you call a “digital hand / cover up” seems to me to be just one of many legitimate tools a musician can use when putting together music in the studio. Definitely when a band’s live musicianship is really off, it can be a bit distracting, but given my experiences dealing with bands like Mir and Puffyshoes (and indeed some of the bands I’ve played in), I don’t think Abikyokan are uniquely shambolic.

      Oh, and I think pretty much all writers are terrible narcissists, so guilty as charged on that.

      Also, yes, that is a good song. I like. Hip? I’m not sure I’m in a good position to judge, being the terminally unfashionable, blathering drunk that I am. Good though.

  4. Pingback: Top 20 Releases of 2012: No.10 – Abikyokan – The Fear EP | Clear And Refreshing

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