Japancakes

The Sleepy Strange (Kindercore)

Record Reviews

Japancakes

The Sleepy Strange (Kindercore)

How thin is the line between brilliant and boring? The formula that flirted with the former on Japancakes' 1999 debut, If I Could See Dallas (as well as follow-up EP Down the Elements), comes much nearer to the latter on The Sleepy Strange. The sprawling, soaring arrangements that previously evoked everything from a honky-tonk Pink Floyd to post-rock pioneers such as Macha and Tortoise, this time lie a little too flat. To even refer to them as arrangements, though, is a bit misleading. Bandleader Eric Berg and keyboardist Todd Kelly cook up the basic skeletal structure of the songs, teach it to the rest of the band, then they record it without ever really rehearsing. The musicians are free to play whatever, so nobody really knows what the songs are going to come out like until they're done. Given the method, maybe it was asking too much to hope lightning would strike twice. Still, The Sleepy Strange is not without a couple of memorable moments. "The Waiting" and "Soft N EZ" both have the same effortless pedal-steel-driven momentum that carried "Elephants" and "Dallas" from their debut past the 10-minute pole without ever sounding repetitive. "Vinyl Fever," "Disconnect the Cables," and sizable chunks of the rest of The Sleepy Strange, on the other hand, are slow in starting and then often sit languidly without ever fully materializing from their improvised parts. However thin the line, it gets crossed on occasion here. (Wednesday, March 14, Emo's Jr., 1am)

**

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