Review Summary: Journal will work its way into your heart, whether you're a post-rock devotee or jazz enthusiast
If 2012’s Novel
told us anything, it was that if Jizue wasn’t anchored to the floor with its customary post-rock structuring, the band would be one of the most wayward jazz-fusion groups of today. Standout gem “Unnecessary pain” exemplified this best, poking and prodding the band’s jazz elements until they ebbed into a somewhat formulaic configuration-- the whole song is everywhere, sure, but still possesses very defined choruses and verses. The rest of the album showcased similarly stable schemes, mild-mannered songwriting considered by some as “rainy day music”-- not too far off the mark. This style of post-rock works because of its components’ qualities-- a clearly defined and reliable sonic palette, electrified through the eccentricities of jazz music.
And upon Journal
's rather secretive release, I can't help but wonder why Jizue is so criminally unknown. First off is that one cadence within the heart of “Rosso,” a staircase of melody that only spirals up. The emphasized root note climbs steadily, just one half-step at a time-- frankly, it’s predictable to a tee-- but it works so damned well for Jizue. Maybe it’s because the band only concerns itself with the important things, because it knows that the pulse with which it’s working has no need to be surprising. The sequence of notes, one after another, climbing up the rungs of music theory one step at a time, is refreshing because it’s intuitive. Just like Journal
as a whole, the instant captures a keen instinctiveness Jizue has always had at its disposal, just waiting to be fleshed out at the right time. And that’s where the group brings us in 2013, less than a year after its last major release. Which, by the way, is more than admirable for the group-- I think we have a tendency to expect musicians to fine-tune, tinkering away at their craft until they hear utter excellence. And while this makes sense, it’s important to remember some artists are best off trusting their impulses. Logic implies Journal
derived from jam sessions over anything else, maybe even partially during Novel
’s conception. But maybe that’s why the album breathes so naturally, because it was forged exclusively from Jizue’s subconscious.
Let’s give credit where credit’s due, for the rest of Journal
proposes thoughts nobody really knew Jizue has been having. Much of the album toys with the unexpected, like electronic hisses and even vocals. Oh, yes-- there’s a track with singing here, and it’s just the change in pace it was destined to be. “Life” is reminiscent of early Sigur Ros, the way that Jonsi’s voice meshes with the hair-raising ambiance in the background-- only after Jizue has established the song, though. For an instant, Jizue fumbles at its newfound passivity while it plays the role of backdrop. But once the band comes back into the picture, once things get back to normal, it’s the mental image we all had upon hearing about the singer-- vocals enchanting and eclipsing Jizue’s creation, which blossoms and embellishes as it sees fit.
This is the brand of experimentation that suits the Japanese post-rock group well, and the rest of the record fares even better. Just listen to “Clock,” the most convolutedly simple tune Jizue has ever penned. Drummer Shin Kokawa plays the most straightforward beat for the song’s duration, interlocking with bassist Go Yamada’s equally intelligible rhythm. When the two mesh with the piano and guitar, it’s dynamite, but the kind of subtle explosion Jizue has never quite captured on record until now. But aside from the new breed of leisure Journal introduces, there’s also a feeling of alarm that songs like “Dance” conjure up, the song being a jazz-gone-salsa jam that can’t help but accomplish what its title implies. The degree of instrumental proficiency Jizue has at its disposal is astounding-- for them to be able to play the clearly designated “Clock”, only to move onto “Dance” and its ballistic swagger, shows the band’s versatility. Indeed, this is a far cry from the mostly sombre Novel
, because Journal
exemplifies each of the moods Jizue has wanted to convey throughout its career, from the highest of highs to the rock-bottom. And if it seems like I’ve been focusing a lot on this album’s most vivid points, it’s because I have-- Journal
speaks the most through the crests it composes. But in between, the album’s breaths of air are as exhilarating, just in that subdued way Jizue has perfected by now. By the time “Lamp” closes the curtains, it’s hard to think of anything the group should have done differently-- and the song knows it too, thoughtful but satisfied. For even though Jizue had every opportunity to miss the target on Journal
, the group has ended up with the biggest bulls-eye of its career.