Combining twee pop, whisper-voiced, Velvetsy punk, and what they describe as “mellow noise”, She Talks Silence has for many years now been one of the most quietly impressive bands (now a solo project, since the departure of drummer Ami to focus on Prince Graves) in the Tokyo indie scene, although since 2011’s Some Small Gifts their output has been sporadic. The appearance of this more or less full-length album (nine songs in just under half an hour) has the feeling of something long overdue. Fortunately, it was well worth the wait.
Taking 2014 vinyl mini-album When It Comes as its base, most of the songs on Sorry, I Am Not date back several years (full disclosure: Long Ways first appeared on a compilation album I released in 2012) but the songwriting is so instantly recognisable that the years melt away into a thoroughly consistent whole. Compared to predecessors like 2010’s Some Small Gifts and 2010’s Noise & Novels, this new album is more rhythmically playful, opening with a clattering jungle beat straight out of 1995, although simple, kraut-ish drum machine beats like that on Holy Hands, Holy Voices and Walk Away remain the platform from which many of the most melodic moments launch themselves.
She Talks Silence could easily trade on fragile indie cuteness, but it’s the willingness to explore noise and discord that helps Sorry, I Am Not stand out as one of the year’s best. More Anti-Yourself wavers uneasily between melody and discord, Just Like War is characterised by a doom-laden claustrophobic paranoia that falls somewhere between The Birthday Party and Mezzanine-era Massive Attack, and the scuzzy There’s No is as close to a full-on punk rocker as you’re ever going to get from an artist like She Talks Silence.
The album broadly maintains a lo-fi production aesthetic, but She Talks Silence’s sonic range has clearly widened, with the closing The Moon (originally released on a split 7-inch with Towa Tei) sounding expansive and quite gorgeous. With Japanese indiepop becoming increasingly clean-cut, the fuzzed-out edges of Sorry, I Am Not mean this album couldn’t be more timely.