Artist: anata wa sukkari tsukarete shimai
Title: the lost charles underscore
Label: Bearsuit Records
Catalog #: BS023
Keywords: Alt-pop, Noise Rock, Electronic, Experimental
International trio anata wa sukkari tsukarete shimai (awsts) has cranked out a whacky, enjoyable album with the lost charles underscore, their first full-length after two EPs and a split mini-album with Japan’s yu-chi. Released through Edinburgh, Scotland’s Bearsuit Records, this debut long-player finds the group with a Japanese moniker sans its only Japanese member, the mysteriously named _, keeping the proceedings a strictly UK affair between Bradford, England’s electronic producer Gnomefoam and Glasgow, Scotland’s Bunny, the frontman of experiment pop act Bunny & The Electric Horsemen. One of the first things that came to my mind while listening to these twelve tracks is the joyful quirkiness of the Krautrock act Gong. Their album Camembert Electrique is odd for the sake of it: a chemically-induced, frolicking creature that also manages to be incredibly catchy, with melodies and hooks that stick with you, reaching out through the strange, latching onto your brain. So much experimental music, though highly enjoyable, is just so eccentric that it flows on by without lingering, as the tide erases any mark from the sand; Gong hung around, though, long after I picked up the needle from that secondhand vinyl, and so does the lost charles underscore. This is not to say awsts merely drags Krautrock into the twenty-first century, though the first several tracks have that blown-out psychedelic vibe – they have achieved that balance between crazy and memorable. This album is different, to say the least, but still gives you something to chew on after it is over.
Despite many great high points, anata wa sukkari tsukarete shimai’s the lost charles underscore is not without its faults. The LP has two distinct parts and feels more like two EPs that have been mashed together, one stronger than the other. Opening with the brief “are you ready?” (yes, awsts completely refuse any capitalization), the first six tracks are tasty morsels of freaky psychedelic rock. Full of fuzzy guitars bathing in glorious wah, odd synth tones percolating throughout, strangely processed vocals, big rock beats, and deliciously deviating song structures, these tracks are anything a fan of bands like Gong could ask for. If I have a fancy, tracks like “drink it up” and “doll” certainly tickle it, and “i can make footprints with my eyes” unfurls from an atmospheric, droning start into a driving piece of gonzo pop majesty, bringing to mind some odd meeting of The Residents’ early works, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Methodrone album, and lots of drugs. Track number four, “thread wire,” might seem out of place at first with this batch of material due to the repeated synth phrase at the work’s core, but the structure and lyrical pace make it feel right at home. This first awsts course comes to an end with the near eight-minute “backyard”: a melting pot groove of odd sounds laid atop one another before melting away into blissful guitar washes and repetitive electronic drums. The many electronic elements of this song, as well as in “thread wire,” not only help propel the music along, but introduce the next six tracks on the lost charles underscore, which likely draw on Gnomefoam’s experience as an electronica producer.
The last half of anata wa sukkari tsukarete shimai’s the lost charles underscore is heavily electronic. From the hip-hop influenced “papalazed” to the bouncy “mr tock” and the glitchy “invalid bed,” almost all the psych rock trappings of the first half are gone. The guitar that was so prominent in the first half appears in a more subdued way on “eyelashes” and “invalid bed,” and the processed singing is mostly replaced with processed spoken word, most noticeably on “the cost of a spiritlifter” and “of / trying to teach someone how to whistle,” before it breaks out in a big electro rock chord progression. That passage, only about a minute and a half long at the end of that track, is my favorite flavor in this album’s second course, because it harkens back to the wonderful first. This is not to say the second half of the lost charles underscore is bad, I just loved the first half so much. The sheer joyous oddity of the earlier songs is lost on the latter, except for moments here and there (like “eyelashes” brief opening reference to “drink it up”), because the prominent drum machine keeps things in check and on pace. There are plenty of nice, pretty melodic elements too, which are great, and which I would appreciate more if I had not been primed from the beginning for the curious. As I mentioned before, it sounds more like awsts has recorded two EPs instead of a full LP. I wholly like and recommend both parts, but if you are anything like me, you will find you cannot help but contrast them.