April 15, 2003

japancakes 'Belmondo"

The concept behind Darla Records' on-again, off-again Bliss Out series was to present bands making music to "chill-out" with; it's a simple enough concept, and it seems as if it's as much of an outlet for bands to make music they wouldn't normally make, as well as to present a series of beautiful, intelligent music. Some bands were natural choices--American Analog Set, Windy & Carl, Piano Magic--while other bands stepped outside of their regular styles, producing excellent results.

Japancakes fall into the "natural choice" category, and the music here doesn't really disappoint. The six songs on Belmondo really seem together; with music this fine, delicate, and warm, titles really aren't necessary. Songs flow together seamlessly, and Belmondo feels more like a new-age symphonic movement with six movements. The album has a sad, overcast, funereal sound; at times, Belmondo sounds like a home-grown, countrified Sigur Ros, especially when that UTTERLY gorgeous pedal-steel guitar comes in. When the strings come in, Japancakes sound like Kronos Quartet on an ambient kick.

Belmondo is classically-trained drone rock with a hint of Southern darkness, and this combination has produced one truly blissed-out record. Japancakes' output so far has only hinted at this kind of wonderful sound, and they've proven themselves more than capable. Now that we know they can create a grand soundscape, the sounds that come next are certainly worth waiting for.

--Joseph Kyle

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