Review Summary: Japanese instrumental quartet Mirror deliver a bright, invigorating blend of shimmering melodies and satisfying musicianship to light up the post rock scene.
English language music is popular in Japan, and perhaps because most of the population can't understand the lyrics, Japan's indie bands have developed a denser, more melodic approach to the genre than many of their lyric-focused western counterparts. Perhaps as a natural result, many Japanese bands have decided to completely eschew vocals in favor of an all-instrumental approach. While some of these artists, like Mono, stick to a more conventional mode of post-rock, other groups such as Toe, Mudy on the Sakuban, Te', and Lite have opted for a radically different approach.
Mirror falls somewhere in between cerebral Japanese post-rock descended from the likes of Tortoise and Pele, and more melodic artists such as American Football. Amidst a sea of other instrumental bands on the Japanese scene, Mirror stands out for effectively creating captivating instrumental music with lots of hooks and multi-layered musicianship. 2007's album on,then,in was a solid first effort that occasionally meandered under the constraints of contemporary instrumental music, but any such limitations are blown away by the captivating EP Recollection.
The first track wastes no time in grabbing the listener's attention, with stark drumming and clangy, shimmering guitars that bounce around as though they've just sprung out of bed like hyperactive boys on a Saturday morning. The four and a half minute title track shows Mirror exhibiting as much dynamic range as other post-rock acts do in ten or fifteen minutes, calming down from its initial burst of energy to develop a range of nuanced, melodic movements. Although patience may be a virtue with post rock, Mirror isn't willing to take any risks; they want to grab the listener for a quick, exciting ride, and it works excessively well. Any band should aspire to create music with immediate appeal but also added depth, and considering the challenges of adapting this approach to post rock, Mirror executes it beautifully.
The real highlight of the EP is the second track, Weathercock. Sing-songy guitars give way to a radiant chorus filled with some of the sweetest hooks you're ever likely to hear from an instrumental band, the only downside being the possibility that this track could have been even more spectacular with a vocalist providing an extra boost. The rhythm section don't slouch either; drummer Daisuke Fukuyama proves he's quite capable of reaching the same levels as Toe's Takashi Kashikura.
The second half of the EP slows down a few notches to deliver another duo of solid songs, with Tin Toy's two guitars intertwining perfectly in a nuanced, relaxed jam that never comes across as pointless noodling. Opener's uplifting melodies give the short enough brightness and hope to almost make up for the scores of dreary, minimalist post rock bands hogging all the press these days. If Mirror can build on this EP to release an entire album of such solid music, they deserve a bright future among the frequently dreary instrumental rock scene. You probably won't find a more thoroughly delightful seventeen-minute record in 2010 than this.