Quruli: Liberty & Gravity

It was around the time of their eighth album, 2005’s Nikki, that I gave up hope for Quruli. Shigeru Kishida had decided to try to make the band into this generation’s Happy End, leaving behind the experimentation and playfulness that had made The World is Mine such a glorious generational masterpiece in favour of earnest, wistful, sentimentally-tinted folk rock songs that just didn’t really seem to go anywhere. It was the perfect music for a generation whose greatest ambition appeared to be gently jogging on the spot and I hated it.

Which is why Liberty & Gravity feels like such a breath of fresh air. The folk influences remain but they take their place in a more eclectic mix. It’s still whimsical, but it’s also musically ambitious, playful and fun, rich in little musical nooks to explore without ever letting its complexity get the better of it.

The video is by award winning director Jun Tamukai (Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s Ponponpon), who is someone whose work I find unaccountably annoying – I think it’s got something to do with the choreography’s combination of ostentatious goofiness and self-consciously mannered presentation – but which people otherwise seem to insist on finding adorable so feel free to ignore grumpy old me on that point. Another gripe I have is with the way the YouTube clip’s accompanying text refers to the song’s parent album as the band’s eleventh, when it is in fact their thirteenth. This may seen like an insufferably nitpicky point, but it’s symptomatic of something I find quite poisonous in the Japanese music world: the way all indie releases are traditionally airbrushed from a band’s official history once they sign for a major label. So let’s just take a little moment here to say fuck you Victor Entertainment. Done that? Good.

Naturally none of that should be allowed to detract from the song itself, which is bright, catchy and brash enough that it even gets away with having a rap section. It’s also great to see that even this deep into their career, Quruli still retain the capacity to surprise, charm and delight. If only they showed it more often.

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3 Comments

Filed under Reviews, Track

3 responses to “Quruli: Liberty & Gravity

  1. Jim

    Coincidentally, I’ve been trying to catch up on this band lately, and have spent some time listening to the live session that’s been posted on YouTube as “The Recording.” I really like the first part of it — and the young lady they have playing the drums really caught my ear. The word that comes first to mind is “crisp” — quickly to the beat, with tasty fills and a wonderfully varied use of the cymbals, she even makes the old smack-the-bell-repeatedly move sound musical. In fact, that’s the key: she plays the drumkit as though it’s a musical instrument and her job is to play a song. The Platonic opposte of the RickRubin “drop a tombstone just behind every beat as though each breath of the tune was a separate death” homogenizing anti-song approach.
    Who is she? Does she play elsewhere?

    And oh yes — has anyone told Kishida that the verse of “Niji” sounds exactly as though he’s going to break into “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”? I like it.

    And doesn’t “Liberty & Gravity” sound just a tiny bit like Moldova’s own Zdob si Zdub? or is that just the horns?

    P.S. just in case this “comment” isn’t long enough: at the anniversary show, did Hyacca play any new material?

    • My knowledge of Moldovan music is limited (a couple of Russian bands aside, anything west of Okinawa and east of Belgrade is off my radar) so I couldn’t say. The girl in Quruli seems to have played in some stuff in Kyoto. According to Wikipedia she’s played with a chap called Yoshida Shonen — looks like happy-sounding folk/classical stuff.

      Hyacca played a couple of new songs, and I’m pretty sure they have enough to make at least an EP, but try mentioning it to them and they act like kids being told to do homework. I don’t expect anything to emerge any time soon (if at all). In the meantime, we’ll have to make do with the new Otori and Mornings albums, both out end of this month.

  2. Jim

    aaarrrggh …. you get a new favorite band and then they leave you hanging (obviously not having read enough issues of Shonen Jump: work, work, sweat, suffer, blah blah blah) …… ah well, I’m sure the wait will be worth it.
    Thanks for the musicological note. I know nothing about Moldova myself, but Zdob si Zdub’s “So Happy” was a very charming Eurovision entry a few years back. Aside from the fact that they do, oddly, wear kiltlike items from time to time, it was the horn figures that this song reminded me of, but there’s not a really close resemblance.

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