Despite having been around for what seems like forever, Japanese postpunk trio Convex Level only really came onto this blog’s radar due to their touring relationship with Clear And Refreshing favourites Extruders. And from these two tracks which the band are giving away for free, taken from the band’s current donotcl album, it’s easy to see to appeal Convex Level would hold for a band as deeply immersed in minimalist postpunk dynamics and sweet, but understated melody as Extruders.
State of Things is a more pretty conventional new wave/80s rock tune with that chugging mid-paced beat and “Ah-ahh” backing harmonies that a lot of songs of that era seemed to have but you can’t really put your finger on a single one that memorably did so. It’s still very well put together though, with the harmonies and key changes dropping in at the moments of maximum effectiveness to either disconcert or give a heartstopping endorphin surge — not to mention a proper guitar solo slap bang in the middle of the song. Played a bit faster it could have been as good as Martha & The Muffins’ Paint By Number Heart, but as it is, it’s still solid. Of the two tracks, Ashy Sleep is the killer though, alternating between a taut new wave-reggae bass/drum interaction that underlies the verses a the driving, powerpop chorus. There’s something terribly reminiscent of Roxanne by The Police to it, and although it’s hard to know how flattering the band would consider that comparison, be assured, I definitely mean it in the most favourable sense.
It’s also worth noting about both these songs just how nicely produced they are. Between the flat, soft-edged tedium of mainstream pop production and the equally flat, scuzzy amateurishness of most indie recording, Convex Level (who absolutely not coincidentally share an engineer with Extruders) seem to have found a niche that captures the mixture of glacial and intimate that characterised so much of the best music of the late 70s and early 80s.