Bedroom recordings no longer have to mean lo-fi noodlings as Japanese String Movement prove with this first collection of expansive prog and lush but melancholy shoegaze.
Recorded over the course of three weeks in May 2017 the debut EP from Derby’s Japanese String Movement is testament not just to the possibilities of bedroom recording in the modern age but also the creative prolificacy of those on the city’s music scene right now.
As Japanese String Movement Liam Mclaughlin, also of Dactylion, has produced a stunning and at times surprising six-track self-titled EP of expansive Prog soundscapes, atmospheric piano, and introspective spiralling shoegaze songs. As speedily recorded side projects go this is among the finest.
First track Opening Remarks is a gentle instrumental lead in to the EP, before with Tallest Peak there is the hazy vocals of and distorted guitar, the electro-hum of synth as melancholy lyrics jostle with a poppier melody. Sitting somewhere between early-’00s emo and lo-fi shoegaze the break out into an expansive guitar solo adds an unexpected, yet somehow fitting, touch of pure rock to the mix.
Be Along has a softer side, a folk-picking to the discordant picking and the low but ghostly howl of synth in the background. Despite being a solo project the layered vocals give more of a choral feel but as the tempo and the certainty of melody pick up becomes reminiscent of some of the best indiefolk around – think Sam Forrest – while nodding toward the choral pop of The Staves.
The beats take a more electro-feel as Heading South kicks in, the synth moving to the fore while the vocals become more lo-fi and further down in the mix. That mix of melancholy lyric and more hopeful melody play again, a flickering balance of light and shade. There is an assertiveness to the tracks as while introspective and somewhat anxious in parts these tracks are no less definite in their experimental flourishes, nor apologetic when that big rock guitar solo appears again as it does here. This is a track which takes it from bedroom recording to mountain-top hair metal licks and back again without jarring, bringing expansive Prog to lo-fi indie rock.
The vocal quivers on Pine Rivers Shire before the chorus rises, a wave washing over you before rushing away from the shore once more and leaving you with the ’70s folk picking of the verse and echoing voice, and once more warm stoner guitar riffs weave through the song, a polished line gliding above the haze.
Closing the debut EP is A List Of Lighthouses In Grenada, a slow build from a simple and repeating piano refrain, the rock guitar swooping in complementing rather than vying for attention. Ending on an instrumental – just as the EP opened with one – puts the focus firmly on the music and less on the person behind it. Scratch and hiss, electro interference, keeps it all lo-fi, the mood ominous, brooding as it all comes to an end.
The EP arrived with little fanfare and for something recorded relatively quickly it’s a rounded work. Unassuming but unapologetic art-rock meandering through lo-fi indie, expansive Prog, and delicate electro this is a collection which covers much ground while remaining cohesive and less self-indulgent than some solo projects can lean toward. This self-titled EP is certainly interesting for an emerging artist on the local scene.
Mostly home-recorded there was some help from Dubrek on the EP. The self-titled EP from Japanese String Movement is available on Bandcamp now.
Find Japanese String Movement:
- on Bandcamp.
Read a review of Dactylion‘s first track on Storge here.