Japan Has a Skyline

Temporary Residence

There are just certain bands that slowly evolve over time, creating this seamless musical narrative that is almost impossible to extrapolate the subtle changes that occurs between albums and songs. Lungfish of course is the most obvious of these bands. They are often accused of writing the same song over and over again, but the changes over time are enormous between Necklace of Heads and Ferrel Hymns. The Post Rock genre is filled with bands of this nature. It seems on the surface that Explosions in the Sky sounded the same when they started as they do now. But clearly, careful examination of the sounds presented shows evolution. Much the way changes in animals and the surface of planets happens slowly, almost without notice. Japanese rock band Envy has such a sonic template that matures with that kind of care and preservation.

Recitation finds Envy four years later since their insane Insomniac Doze which was an album filled with epic movements. In that time they have released two mind bending splits with emo darlings Thursday and the sonic death drone of Jesu in that time.  The music from both those splits was pretty outstanding and played chronologically, made for a pretty solid set of music. Recitation however, finds the band once again in the throes of change.

Any fan of Envy will find themselves in pretty familiar territory. There are crushing explosions of hardcore/metal inspired breakdowns to be sure, and the cool, crisp clean guitar playing that defines the band. You will get the beautiful and the aggressive sides of Envy. But this is an Envy that feels pretty constrained. Each of their divergent movements are not built slowly, but instead the changes come rapidly and more drastically. “Last Hours of Eternity” which follows soft album opener ” Guidance” displays that typical Envy build that ends with a brilliant drum decadence, it’s haunting, the way we love Envy. But some songs just feel constricted, like “Piece of the Moon I Weave” or “Light and Solitude” where the changes come without warning and seem to end with the same type of violence. It’s very difficult to find out where Envy is going or where they want to be with Recitation.

The part of Envy that I love most, and this is very ignorant of me, is the vocals. Sung purely in Japanese, it becomes this new and unfamiliar layer. For the untrained, unlearned ear, the vocals become a true instrumental. It’s a bit shitty to put it this way, seeing as they make perfect sense to anyone who knows the language, but without that confusion, it is a unique layer of music added to fabric already weaved by the instruments.

You aren’t going to hear any band that sounds like Envy. They have their contemporaries sure, but none of them sound nearly as distinct and intense as Envy. None of them have the vocals Envy has employed over a nearly 20 year career. None of them are going to have the international recognition and devoted fan base. Recitation may not be Envy’s greatest work to date, nor its most exploratory or experimental. But it’s in a language that can be understood and enjoyed by any fan. Considering too that it’s more compact than any other release prior, it’s possible it will bring in more fans. If you are a long time supporter, definitely through your favorite track from this record on mix cd’s for your friends. It’s totally gonna change their day.


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