Released in May, Core was one of the first Japanese albums made specifically under the conditions of (and often in direct reference to) the coronavirus pandemic. Lyrically, the album opener Doku to Kusuri spins round amid the claustrophobia, uncertainty and panic of the early days of being in an uncharted zone of invisible infection, while images of panic and disorder recur throughout the album as vocalist Kim unfolds his cinematic fragments of narrative and abstract sloganeering.
The impact of the pandemic is more obvious, though, in the music itself, recorded at home with electronic beats and sequencers replacing the live drums that traditionally ride the grooves and delay loops of Uhnellys’ music. As I mentioned when commenting about this album for Undrcurrents in June, the album takes an interesting turn about halfway through, exploring darker, more experimental and more psychedelic territory on tracks like Hope with its overlapping vocals and the synth drone-centred Enter the Forest feat. Nozomi Nobody. Five months after it was initially released, a lot of the sense of impending panic that coloured the pandemic’s early days in Tokyo has retreated into a sort of low key but constant knot in the stomach, but there’s a tightly wound sense of discomfort and uncertainty running through Core that taps into something deeper than simply the scenery of its moment.