[sic] Magazine

Ent – Welcome Stranger

Ent is the project of Tokyo’s Atsuhi Horie. Having dabbled in a group set up but feeling unfulfilled it’s perhaps only natural to gravitate toward a solo venture and the electronica world is often the most accessible way to gain 100% control over your own direction and sound. (His sound, crudely, being The Postal Service meets The Album Leaf) Now the thing is, I was never a big fan of the seven-track album length. I suppose it goes back to the days of vinyl and ‘sides’. I mean, three tracks on a side!!? Only The Blue Nile or Talk Talk could get away with that. Welcome Stranger offers seven original tracks, plus three remixes (how the electro fraternity LOVE to re-imagine each others work – bless em) A total of ten then, but made up of seven plus three and old habits die hard with me. Seven main tracks? They’ll need to be good.

Ent isn’t quite in the league of Talk Talk. Not yet anyway. At least he has an idea of his best work. The three tracks he allowed to be re-worked are 24 carat stunners. Yet, sorry to say, three of the remaining four are virtually the exact opposite. The sequence of ‘Will’, ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ and ‘Girl’ are chugging, tedious plodders. Repetitive workouts at best. At worst, the best argument I’ve seen in ages FOR downloading.

That’s the nasty bit over with. Pity though. If Ent had culled those three we’d be talking about a 9/10 EP here. Who knows? Maybe a 10/10. Let me tell you why. Two words:

Pop music.

Don’t you just love it – delirious, chiming, life-affirming pop? Ent only goes and NAILS it with ‘Silver Moment’. Just go, do a quick search and listen.

Go on.

(I can wait longer than you)

Brilliant isn’t it? Like a 21st Century Lightning Seeds or dare I say, Maps at his finest. ‘Silver Moment’ is one of those tracks that merits an album purchase alone. It doesn’t get any better than that. Except…. it does. I omitted to mention album opener ‘No Tone’; which is beyond glorious. Little flurries of whirs and clicks against picks of acoustic guitar put me in mind of Lemon Jelly, Epic45 and …Trumpton (70’s kids TV show, not a cult [sic] Mag band) All nostalgic and whimsical….at first, before he coos “Can you sleep alone?” against a peal of effect-laden electric guitars.

I should really mention that the three remixes are all successful and definitely add something different and worthwhile. Near The Parentheses really stamps the n5 sound onto’ No Tone’ The jewel in Welcome Stranger’s crown though, (and I can scarcely believe it isn’t ‘Silver Moment’) after careful consideration, is ‘Farewell Dear Stranger’. Clever song this. Compositionally it flickers between New Order (the chorus is very ‘Run’) and Prefab Sprout (the middle eight is pure McAloon) albeit in an electro setting. Lyrically it’s like a message aimed directly at me, as though he knows I’ve done him wrong.

“I’m alright now at this very moment
I just need you to remember me”

We will Atsuhi. Providing you remember something in return. You are onto something young man. Watch your quality control and you just might crack it wide open.