Top 20 Releases of 2014: No.9 – Hangaku – Hangaku

Sneaking in right at the beginning of the year but still retaining its ability to thrill twelve months later, synth-junk duo Hangaku’s ferocious collision of quirky, new wave-influenced pop and outright sonic terror is in all the best possible ways a welcome throwback to the fucked-up sounds of early 80s postpunk pioneers like Phew and more recently the minor flurry of early-2000s noiseniks like Afrirampo. It’s all wilfully trashy, cheap and throwaway, with the drums and percussion deployed more to confuse and disorientate than out of any real function of keeping a rhythm that is only very vaguely defined to begin with. B vs A no Shihei perhaps best exemplifies this anarchic attitude, with the drums acting as a sort of clattering punctuation to a structure that the duo seem to define whimsically in the moment.

Uma to Crawl and Suna no Ana use the drums more conventionally, although with no greater precision, and commit their acts of sonic violence through the synths which hover on the edge between arty discord and bubblegum pop irritation in their shrieking insistence. Kamonohashi is perhaps the most fully-realised track on this mini-album, containing its most obviously pop moments as well as its most disturbing Suicide-on-a-merry-go-round drone’n’moan backdrop, the rush of electricity that pulses through what might be its chorus, and the sudden detour it takes into mindless nonsense chanting just before the end. It’s a song, and an album, that refuses to meet you even halfway, but it’s packed with trashy treasure nonetheless, and having a hell of a party on its own without you.

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