Review Summary: Dream on and don't wake up.
Night has long been a time for the imagination to run free.
By “imagination,” I mostly mean fear though. Ghost stories are spookier at night, walking alone in the dark is far creepier than doing so during the day, and everyone’s had at least one night in their life where they end up tossing and turning the hours away fixated on their existence's every little action, word, and “what if”. However, sometimes night is depicted as serene, a simple natural phenomenon when we can look up at the stars and remember those same fears that occasionally plague us amount to next to nothing in the grand scheme of the universe. The stillness of night can feel soothing if things are going well or allow a sense of unease to set in if they aren’t. Other people may argue that to them the stillness of night reflects a lack of worldly connection entirely; it’s a time for dreaming and ceding the body to a realm not bound by physical limits or consequence, a void of lost time between when one retires for the evening and arises the following day. In all these respects, Kinoko Teikoku’s first full-length Eureka is an album of the night and all its connotations, one where the stresses of life meet with cosmic escapism and dreamy contemplation with fittingly stellar results.
The first track, “Yotaka” (“Nightjar”), opens with a beautifully hypnotic reverberated guitar melody and steady drumming. Vocalist Chiaki Satou immediately starts with the nocturnal imagery, chanting the names of Sirius, Vega, Altair, and Tycho while racing lines out of her mouth at such a hurried pace the rest of the band nearly sounds dreary in comparison. Her style on this track is a unique vocal moment on Eureka, but otherwise “Yotaka” in a nutshell displays Kinoko Teikoku’s shoegaze formula perfectly. It showcases their finesse at building an evocative soundscape with tight chemistry between all four members, eventually building into a bombastic post-rock climax, guitars plowing through the speakers as Satou’s delivery reaches its emotional pinnacle. The final verse of “Yotaka” supposedly roughly translates to “Our song of star-travel rings out to no end, and along with innumerable sadness, all goes to the night.” With Eureka’s theme firmly set, the band lets the rest of the song run its entrancing course and end with a calculated withdrawal.
While the band revisits this post-rock approach to great effect on later songs like the title track and the record’s penultimate monolith, the lullaby-ish “Musician”, this shoegazey post-rock formula isn’t adhered to through every nook and cranny of Eureka. “Haru to Shura” (“Spring and Carnage”) is an angsty whirlwind that clocks in at just under 3 minutes as opposed to the 9 of “Musician”, and its indie rock and emo leanings which continue into “Kokudou Slope” (“Highway Slope”) help pick up the pace after a slow though nonetheless pretty and powerful duo of opening tracks. Mid-disc offering “Fuuka Suru Kyou***su” ("Deteriorating Classroom") is a short straight-up pop earworm with dancy shuffling percussion work and shimmery guitar noodling, a track that almost sounds too cute to be as drenched in lyrical longing as it is. In a rare moment of mood whiplash, the album’s centerpiece which precedes it, “Eureka,” is possibly the record’s most harrowing moment. A sole guitar starts the song off like a lonely siren only to explode into a wailing frenzy of psychedelic feedback and groovy rhythm work. Satou’s vocals on this track are ghostly and detached, doubly ominous as she urges the listener to “dream on to the future,” “cast aside all notions of having a place to return to,” and stay asleep. If Eureka is indeed an album prime for nighttime listening, its title track is musically a jolting nightmare, a neat dichotomy once you consider its seductive lyrical message. Though several moments throughout Eureka in some way or another feel fitting for the piercing monocular gaze which graces its album cover, the intense stare feels most at home here. The song’s grand climax consists of two final cries of “To the future!” before the siren guitar returns as the rest of the instruments slowly recede to the deteriorating background. The rallying cry you’re not sure you should act on leads back into “Fuuka Suru Kyou***su” and its narrator’s wish for their own memories to deteriorate.
Several moments on Eureka seem narratively torn like this between the willingness to face life’s challenges and the desire to float away. The advice to “stay in the mistaken night” and “not sense emotions” in one of the record’s more concise post-rockers “Heikou Sekai” (“Parallel World”) is delivered with a cool lull and sparkly glimmer, while the similar suggestions in “Eureka” convey a more untrustworthy and menacing feel. The gang shouts of “It’s all a bunch of ***!” in “Haru to Shura” are a bitter response to the mere possibility of having to face frustration, instead choosing to stay up and play guitar until 3 AM. Throughout Eureka’s 40-something minute runtime, the anxiety of having to confront trials and the ease of avoiding them are in constant tension and appear constantly on Satou’s mind. Like stress keeping someone up long after the sun goes down or someone gaining peace while asleep because they’re momentarily able to avoid the responsibilities and situations that scare them, night offers two opposing responses to life’s struggles. What Eureka’s final verdict is I’m not entirely sure; I don’t speak Japanese and fan lyric translations all seem to stop just shy of the record’s otherwise satisfying conclusion, but if “A***a ni wa Subete ga Owaru to ***e” (“As Tomorrow Everything Ends”) and its cheery chorus are any indication, there might be some light after the long night after all. What exactly the “it” that will be ending is on that closer remains unclear, but the music conveys this much; dawn can come after the dark if you stop avoiding what troubles you.
Though maybe the lack of action in the dark is still more preferable. Whatever the case, on those sleepless nights, Eureka pulls all the right strings and has me exclaiming along in unison to its titular interjection even though the sensation I’m discovering remains as intangible as the night itself.