Review Summary: Toe-tapping noisetimes
Otori are a Japanese noise-rock quartet who take a measured approach to dissonant music and pull it off in a surprisingly palatable manner. Everything starts with guitarist Tetsuya Hino, by far the most dynamic performer on show here. He uses an overdriven tone that is certainly bright but unexcessive as far as gain is concerned; his contribution is built on an angular performance style and a knack for discordant riffage that is never less than innovative at any point on the album. On the other hand, vocalist Kobara Sae adopts an appropriately one-tone mode that finds a remarkable balance between the classic deadpan post-punk mutter and the iconic punk yell; throughout most of the album she comes across as though she’s three-quarters shouting but is holding her final quarter in reserve out for the hell of it. Her style is undramatic and will probably throw several first time listeners (especially given that the whole album is in Japanese), but on the whole is a highly suitable fit for this sound.
Although superficially noise-rock, there’s not as much chaos as one might expect here. Tetsuya’s selectively grating guitar lines may be the immediate focus, but strip them away and you’re left with a solid post-punk rhythm section and a deadpan vocal performance that isn’t quite animate enough to be punk but would certainly make for a toe-tapping no-wave gig. In this way they album title is very apt; there’s certainly noise on offer here, but it’s packaged and produced in a fashion sufficiently digestible to be pitched as your
noise, whosoever you may be. The aesthetic isn’t far off from Romeo Void’s iconic single Never Say Never
, with less dated production and (sadly) no saxophone; it’s a catchy shade of grittiness with enough discontent to nod towards punk but enough cool distance to stay hip.
As with all things hip, it’s rarely overcomplicated. Take Suru Communication
, perhaps the most accessible track here, which essentially consists of a walking staccato bassline over which and Kobara and Tetsuya trade off their respective deadpan two-line mantras and guitar squawks. It’s very simple stuff, but the band make it their own and nail down a mean groove that persists throughout the album’s twenty-six minutes. These songs are very much variations on a theme; aside from instrumental XXX
and the almost brutal repetition of fourth track 当たり障りたい (which takes listless abrasion to the same level as, say, The Fall), there is little that will surprise a listener prepared to wrap their ears around Otori's bread and butter.
I Wanna Be Your Noise
is hardly a stylistic landmark for any of the sounds that border on it, but it is a solid find for anyone partial to those sounds; any fans of similar Japanese artists such as Midori, 385 or Bokutachi no Iru Tokoro will find a lot to enjoy here. Otori demonstrated a balance and confidence both deeply encouraging for a band at the start of their career, and so the album stands as a strong foundation for any more wayward ideas they may see fit to test out further down their road. Their sophomore release, Digitalised Human Nature
is apparently out as of a month ago (I cannot for the life of me find a place to hear it); it will be exciting to hear how they have seen to progress from a start point as robust as this.