Looprider is the latest band/musical project of former Kulu Kulu Garden guitarist Ryotaro Aoki, who longtime readers may recognise as an occasional contributor to this blog and a frequent collaborator with various Call And Response Records projects. Writing about the musical output of someone you know very well is always a challenge, because of the difficulty in stepping back and hearing the music with fresh ears. On the other hand, it can also make it easier to see where a musician is coming from and put a song into context.
In Aoki’s case, a few key reference points it’s always worth bearing in mind with his music are Black Sabbath, My Bloody Valentine, Judy And Mary, Smashing Pumpkins and Melt Banana. More broadly, we can boil that down to a love of shoegaze and US alt-rock, an appreciation for pop, and an understanding of the value of dance beats, all underscored by a sense that whatever he does should rock.
Farewell is a contrary title for a debut, but as a distillation of the above ideas and influences that nevertheless stands apart from them all musically, it’s as good an introduction as you could hope for. The place it ends up lends it most obviously to comparisons with Futurama/Highvision-era Supercar, with the insistent underlying beat and the interplay between the dreampop-esque male and female vocals (the latter courtesy of Merpeoples’ Charlotte) recalling the 2000 single (and this song’s near namesake) Fairway. Farewell is rhythmically more intricate though, with drummer Sean McGee (of post-rock/prog band Henrytennis) working an almost Madchester-like shuffle around the strict 4/4 dance beat that remains the song’s rhythmical core — an organic mask that only slips briefly when the rhythm breaks down around the 3:30 mark and shows a glimpse of its cyborg soul.
Despite the dance thump that underpins the rhythm, Farewell is still a song that holds tightly to its rock influences, leaning heavily on Yujiro Imada’s bass, Aoki audibly throwing shapes on his guitar, and unashamed to tear into a desperately unfashionable hair metal guitar solo at the midway point. There is apparently more to come from these sessions, which can only be welcome in a Japanese indie scene that’s crying out for a propulsive, melodic and unpretentiously rocking band like this.