[sic] Magazine

Japanese Gum – Hey Folks! Nevermind. We are all falling down!

When I opened the package I thought someone had sent a pukka Japanese import. There was the ubiquitous useless strip of card, you know the thing, that sits over the spine of the jewel case but falls away once the cellophane is removed. There was also one of those mini-inlay cards inside the main artwork, with Japanese lyrics. Plus the name, of course, Japanese Gum. I’d never heard of it. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it?

You should hear it. Oh man, you should definitely hear it.

Actually JG hail from Genoa, Italy. All the ‘Japanese’ stuff must be a little private gag. Ha bloody ha. I’ve already forgiven/forgotten about it though because…. Genoa. GENOA. That’s where port-royal come from. port-royal, the leading exponents of indietronica and YES this ‘Hey Folks….’ is a similar melting pot of glitch electronics and delayed guitars.

How is it? Awesome. JapGum front-load their album with their best numbers. Always a good tactic. But then they back it up with repeatedly high standards throughout. Tracks 1 to 3 go ‘good’, ‘great, ‘God-like genius’. (‘%’) Then instrumental ‘Sunless summer’ just hangs gorgeously in the air. No let up. Hey Folks… stays impossibly good for 8 of its 11 official tracks. ‘Cluster of bees’ is another highlight almost hitting the same stratospheric heights as ‘%’, swiftly followed by the female guest-vocaled ‘mistake/ghost’ which is particularly effective because the lyrics are more discernible:

“there was vacancy in her gaze
a feeling of absence
while we were there
growing so fast
dazzling and greeting us
with cheering smile
she said
How are you going to explain away that mistake”

If there is one mistake on the album it might possibly be ‘Converge’, the one and only miss-step in evidence. Guitars twinkle like something by Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd (Lovely Thunder, The Moon and the Melodies) but the pained vocal starts to reach agonising proportions. I suspect they were trying to juxtapose ‘abrasive’ with ‘beautiful’ since such clashes often work but this doesn’t quite pay off. In fact vocals here in general might not be for the purist. Most are heavily processed gasps or whispers. They sit at the back of the mix but not buried.

I think Japanese Gum have an obtuse sense of humour. For instance they named their tenth track ‘09’. The album title is also wilfully ridiculous. To be honest when music is as good as this, the artist can do whatever the f$#% they want and ‘09’ is a searing return to form after the ‘fingernails down the blackboard’ ordeal of ‘Converge’. ‘09’ is like Bitcrush or early m83.and if your music is being mentioned alongside those two, you must be doing something right. There’s a hidden bit within the final track and there are three bonus tracks. These add nothing but only by virtue of the fact that there literally is nothing more to add to this album. The bonuses would have made a fine EP. Japanese Gum are spoiling us.

Next vacation, Italy.