April 06, 2004

Casino Versus Japan "Hitori & Kaiso 1998-2001"

On the surface, Casino Vs. Japan's newest collection, Hitori + Kaiso 1998-2001 is frustrating. It's meant to serve as a collection of songs recorded during those years, but it's not helpful in the least. There's zero information found here, except for the tracklisting. Is this a chronological collection? Is this a mix and match of tunes? Were all of these songs previously unreleased? If you're looking to know more about these songs, forget it, because you're not going to get any help.

Of course, considering the anonymous nature of Casino Vs. Japan's music, should that really come as much of a surprise? No, not really. Casino Vs Japan has always been Erik Konalski and his toys, and there's really not much to know other than that. I mean, really, what can you say about a one-man techno band that's not self-evident? Oh, yeah, their music was featured in a car commercial not too long ago. Makes sense if you think about it--instrumental electronic music is perfect for commercials. (Hope he made some good money for it.)

Disc One contains twelve songs, and while the music's very mellow, these tunes are much more beat oriented. Some of these songs have a hint or two of trance,such as "To Be Roomy" and "Search For The Sun," and all of these tunes have a gentle heartbeat pulse to them. The only drawback to disc one, though, is that the music doesn't seem to be terribly different--or better than--the music of lik-eminded electronica composers such as Flowchart or Matmos. The songs here are merely nice, but ultimately, it's a weak collection that doesn't really hold up to continuous listens.

Disc Two, though, is what makes this collection essential. Gone are the cheesy beats (though one or two songs do have them), the noodling, the ideas that fall flat. In their place, though, is atmosphere. Dark, dreary atmosphere, not unlike that of music by such artists as Robin Guthrie or the Morr label. The songs are shorter, the music is slower, deeper, and much more intricate. Songs such as "Miano: Little Miss 1565" and "Slow Dance of Dungeons" are more ambient in nature, and are quite reminiscent of Harold Budd, and "There Will Always Be Love" is Durutti Column without Vini Reilly. This disc is one big atmospheric movement, never too mellow, never too upbeat, and if you put it on after a hard day, you'll surely get some rest.

So while Hitori + Kaiso 1998-2001 might be a flawed compilation, the music itself is lovely, interesting and relaxing, which is enough to make it worthwhile. While I'm sure this might not be the best representation of Casino Versus Japan's music, it's still not too bad of a collection. Look for a more definitive statement coming soon when he releases his new album.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.attacknine.com
Artist Website: http://www.casinoversusjapan.com

No comments: