Posts Tagged ‘Japan Suicide’

Christopher Nosnibor

No bones: Santa Sangre was one of the standout albums to land with me last year. The perfect amalgamation of dark-edged 80s synth-pop which took its cues from Depeche Mode and A-Ha, and gritty guitar-driven post-punk, it felt contemporary while also joyously retro. Having found myself in the late 80s (circa ‘87/’88), when the goth of the early/mid 80s was finally cracking the top 40, and could be heard on R1 on a Sunday night and even on Top of the Pops. At a time when pop was altogether darker anyway (I recall, aged 8, seeing Killing Joke perform Love Like Blood’ on TOTP and being rapt), I find myself right at home with this.

For the recording of their third album, the Italian quartet made the journey to Leeds, the heartland of the 80s post-punk / goth scene and equally a hotbed for its postmillennial revival, to work with Matt Peel, perhaps best known for producing Kaiser Chiefs and Eagulls, at The Nave Studios. And all of this shows, and the band have very much continued to embrace their influences to deliver an album that’s both taut and atmospheric.

KI perhaps lacks the immediacy of its predecessor, but that’s no bad thing. This means that instead of kicking in with lasers set to stun at the opening, ‘Dance for You’ makes for a fairly low-key entrance, a thrumming sequenced synth bass and Curesque sweeps overlaid in misty layers, the vocals low in the mix and twisting together wistfulness and melancholic desperation.

It isn’t until the second song, ‘Empire’, that Ki really hits its stride and immediately expands the band’s sonic palette: a yawning shoegaze blur that’s part Ride, part Curve, but filtered through a Jesus and Mary Chain mess of treble noise and driven by a thudding four-square bass, it’s a mid-pace squall of density – and it’s this that really kicks through the driving ‘Fury’, which combines drifting, fractal guitars with a pulsating bass, driving drum track and darkly desperate vocal. It’s the Sister’s circa 84, it’s early Mission, it’s brilliantly crafted, capturing the spirit of the retro zeitgeist.

‘Kanagawa-oki Nai-ura’ broods like all the brooding over droning organs and glacial synths underpinned by a murky funeral rhythm section, replete with dolorous bass before a crunching guitar glides in and

‘Mishima’ slips into dream-pop territory, again taking obvious cues from The Cure – which is no criticism. Is it wrong to chuck in references to early Interpol and Editors? I’ll say no: this is music cut from the same post-millennial post-punk cloth. It’s no longer about uniqueness, but how well influences are assimilated, and here, Japan Suicide show enough capacity for crafting a tune that their stylistic appropriations are more than acceptable.

‘One Day the Black Will Swallow the Red’, which lifts its lyrics from a piece of writing by artist Mark Rothko , with its thumping beat and chunky bass underpinning a wash of hazy guitars, and moody but driving ‘The Devil They Know’ make for a strong finale to a solid album that has ‘grower’ written all over it.

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Japan Suicidie - KI - copertina WEB

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Unknown Pleasures Records – 14th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the band’s name and that of the label they’re signed to, it’s only fitting that they’re exponents of bleak synth-driven post-punk. Sure enough, as the Italian five-piece’s biography notes, Stefano Bellerba (vocals, guitar), Leonardo Mori (synth), Matteo Luciani (bass), Saverio Paiella (guitar), and Daniele Cruccolini (drums) formed in 2010, and united over their love of Joy Division, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode. The bio adds that ‘their music is also strongly influenced by Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Japan, The Damned, Interpol, Suicide, CSI, CCCP, and Massimo Volume.’

One of my favourite poems of all time is Philip Larkin’s ‘This be the Verse’, and the fact they put it to music for single release in the summer of 2017 -and made a decent job of it – got me on-side ahead of the new album.

The album in question, Santa Sangre is a lot more guitar-orientated and edgier: while the synths are still very much in the mix, the sound is dominated by brittle, metallic-edged guitars drenched in reverb and flanged hard. It’s the sound of 1982-1985. I’d be hesitant to use the term ‘gothic’ or any variant, despite the snaking atmospherics of tracks like ‘Rejoice’, with its strolling bassline and vocals all but lost in an ocean of echo, which allude to the likes of The Danse Society and acts of similar vintage.

I make no apologies for being an old goth (although I’m not nearly old enough to be a proper old goth, having been born in 1975 and only discovered alternative music in any form in 1986/7). Similarly, I make no apologies for not being a purist, or for my knowledge of second-wave and beyond bands being limited. There’s so much else out there in the musical sphere. Yet, at the tail end of the year, feeling weary and wintery and withdrawn, I find myself here – as I did late last year, and the year before – with a crop of albums which betray gothier leanings which leap out as among the strongest and most compelling releases I’ve received all year.

Lead single, ‘Circle’ was a blast of buzzing bass and squalling guitars, with elements of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers, pitched with chilly synths and vocals with a grippingly desperate edge. It’s placed up front in the track listing, and serves the purpose of demanding the attention with its urgency and serrated edges.

Snaking basslines, choppy guitars and tribal drumming abound, but there’s a pop edge to a number of the songs: ‘Blown Away’ melds fractal guitars to an insistent flanged bassline that’s as pure Cure as the synths which eddy at a respectful distance in the background. There’s a certain bounce – and even catchiness – to the richly-layered shoegaze-goth of ‘For Every Flaw’.

When they do lugubrious, it’s as sparse and bleak as anything on Faith, and when they do slow-build, they really go for delayed gratification, forging a dense atmosphere along the way.

Santa Sangre is taut, tense and crackles with dark energy.

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Japan Suicide - Santa Sangre (cover)

Japan Suicide are a dynamic post-punk alternative rock band from Italy. ‘Circle’ is the first single from their forthcoming album Santa Sangre, due in February. We’re digging very much indeed.

Enjoy!