Review Summary: Minimalist math rock5 of 5 thought this review was well written
Japandi has always been a hit-or-miss band for the little circle of math-rock-listening friends I have around me. Some are into the genre solely to hear the upfront, in your face, light-speed instrumental masturbation of genre greats such as Tera Melos and Six Gallery. For those kinds of people, Japandi will likely be a disappointment. While quite a few bands in the math scene run on blistering fast and loud instrumental work, Japandi takes the opposite approach. They ditch the effects-layered sonic assault approach and instead opt for a brand of heavily stripped down math rock that breaks many stereotypes of the genre.
Decorative Duck was the first release I heard from these guys, and the experience was rather jolting at first; where are the sounds? The flamboyantly oscillating arpeggiations? The pop sensibility that I craved? Upon first listen, it was clear that Japandi doesn’t play that game. The number of loud instrumental interludes I can count on one hand. Their most prominent strong point is the simplicity of their sound. As a character in a Louis Sachar novel aptly put it, (and I’ll paraphrase) “music needs blank spaces.” There are actually many minuscule blank spaces throughout each song where the instruments stop playing entirely, only to resume half a second later.
But make no mistake, if you pick this album up, you’re not being cheated out of your hard-earned or perhaps stolen money; you’re not just buying blank spaces. Guitarists George Pritzker and Jeff Striker weave together playful, delicate, and intricate melodies along with bassist (and sometimes guitarist) Andy Seymour, as Marc Deriso provides a mellow backbone with subdued but creative drumming. Production and songwriting are bare-bones; nothing self-indulgent or unnecessarily convoluted is done, but that’s perfect because that’s exactly what Japandi strives to accomplish.
As the name of the EP may suggest, Decorative Duck is but simple ornamentation on the expansive genre of math rock. By no means does it redefine the genre or showcase prodigal levels of instrumental proficiency, but to dismiss it based on that is superficial and premature. The complexity, the dynamism, the sophistication, it’s all there, but Japandi chooses to present it all in a significantly less obvious way. Listeners must delve deeper into the music to appreciate it fully. The result, while initially seeming lackluster, actually turns out to be quite refreshing, a welcome respite in a scene where sounds are fired off like assault weapons.
Japandi’s serene and simple presentation provides a return to roots of sorts, and serves as a reminder to us all that there is more to math rock than just boisterous instrumental debauchery.
Personal standout track: “The Rite of Springsteen”