Often classified under the twin labels of post-rock and electronica, Oversleep Excuse are an odd fit for their assigned category, with their songs tending to be relatively pop in their structure and the band producing most of their sounds live. With that in mind, this full length album and the band’s first on a “proper” label
Opening track and lead promotional video Slowly Better (which I wrote about last month) provides better preparation for what to expect with its insistent lead piano, shuffling drums and steel drum interludes. On songs like It’s Alright you can hear a bit more of where the electronica references are coming from, although the skittering beats and Mice Parade-esque layers of sound are still by and large being created by the band live and in many cases acoustically. It perhaps says something of the extent to which electronic music has sought to recreate the warmth of acoustic sounds that genuine acoustickery like this finds itself dragged back into the electronic category. In any case, what makes Oversleep Excuse hard to categorise for labels and record shops needn’t concern those of us enjoying it, and it rewards the listener with 45 minutes of placid, summery pop, led by chiming, cascading guitar and steel drum courtesy of vocalist Matthew Guay and underpinned by Adam Gyenes’ versatile, slippery drumming.
The album shows a lot of diversity over its fourteen tracks, with the band using those core elements providing a consistent mood but employing them in intelligent and varied ways. Again, a lot of the credit here has to go to Gyenes’ drumming and Guay’s multi-instrumental talents, but Oversleep Excuse are an ensemble and a look at the liner notes (or the video for Oyu no Hana for that matter) reveals a plethora of instrument swapping (keyboard player Mami Matsuzaka is a supremely skilled drummer in her own right, while Gyenes is an excellent guitarist), while bassist Kazumoto Shoji is a quietly remarkable background presence throughout.
Given how long Oversleep Excuse have been around, it feels strange to be calling Slowly Better a debut, and all that time spent playing together both live and in the studio shows in the confidence and musical richness on display. A highlight of the year so far and coming just in time for the height of summer, its release is perfectly timed.
EDIT: Adam from Oversleep Excuse pointed out to me yesterday that it was Matsuzaka who played drums on most of the album while he himself primarily played guitar. Again, this really reinforces the extent to which the members chop and change instruments (everyone except Shoji has a go on drums at some point in the album).