Dots (.........)
Points


4.0
excellent

Review

by JohnnyoftheWell CONTRIBUTOR (78 Reviews)
April 26th, 2019 | 22 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: . . . . . . . . . (2016-2019)

Once upon a time the World suddenly wondered whether there was any scope for a particular brand of shoegaze aloofness to crossover into cleverly pitched pop branding. It confined this query specifically to Japan because in this story the World is sufficiently honest with itself to know that Loveless is just as excessively focused on treble as the Western stereotype of J-pop, and it also knows that the Japanese shoegaze scene over the last twenty years has arguably been the most developed in the world. In any case, this sudden fixation led a pronounced crisis of identity and, as time skipped by and the respective peaks of My Bloody Valentine, Luminous Orange, Supercar and Kinoko Teikoku failed to spark off quite what it was after, the World was on the point of abandoning all hope and returning to its mother’s basement to submerge itself in smelly noise rock forever. Fortunately, it (and its inhabitants) were spared this fate in the years 2016-2019, when the answer was found in the following three bands:

1. A Japanese idol group
2. An artsy anonymous collective fond of noise and electro experiments
3. An innovative shoegaze unit with a delicious flair for dream-pop bliss

The first plot twist in this tale and chief point of confusion and/or appeal is that all three of these artists are one and the same. They go by the name of . . . . . . . . .. That’s nine dots and one full stop; they are the dots, the full stop was all mine. This is not supposed to be pronounced out loud and somewhere on a J-pop blog right now someone is laughing at you because you might have conceivably tried to this. As such, we will refer to them as Dots. The second plot twist is that Dots are already history. They played their final performance March 25th 2019 and have since disbanded, terminating a three year run that brought the world a 70+ minute debut single, two full-length albums and an EP. This seems like a fairly abrupt story, but we shall soon learn in detail why the World was so impressed by Dots…

There’s a general consensus that with their releases, accompanying performances, and publicity campaign under their belt, Dots had proved their point successfully enough to call it a day. This is exactly the sunny-side-up stance you would the recently bereaved idol community to take, but what exactly Dots’ point was and why they went about it in the way they did is all part of the mystery. This isn’t as nebulous as it seems, since their career doesn’t exactly resist interpretations; it’s easy to trace inferences of anti-idol subversion, explorations of the potential for enigmatic branding or simply an effort to inject a booster of noise and innovation into Japan’s dream-pop-addicted shoegaze scene. Dots certainly had a hand in all these things, but the mystery and allure of their legacy comes from the way they left their mission statements undrafted and gave their audience absolute freedom to get as confused as they so pleased. At the end of the day, they let their music and platform speak for themselves, because, y’know, art. Their first album doesn’t have a title (and no, it isn’t another Untitled Album; it literally has no title - think Sigur Ros’ ( ) album) and their enormous single Tokyo essentially consists of several songs later featured on the album glued together with field recordings followed by approximately 50 minutes of noise, so it’s pretty clear these girls meant business as far as the whole subversive pop schtick was concerned.

Anyhow, it feels strange to introduce an album as fresh as Points (released April 5th) with such a retrospective tone, but the substance and execution of its tracks smack so much of Dots’ wider personality that it’s inviable to take it in isolation; the weight of its group’s departure drags it into the past. Fortunately, the album also displays a good deal of growth from their past efforts and stands as the group’s most fully realised release both conceptually and musically. This is best framed in relation to their previous, untitled album, which was enjoyable and catchy to an extent but very forward in its pop elements, sporting sparkling synths and radio-friendly jangles as though the noise that dominated Tokyo had been a forgotten dream. It had a certain charm and some good hooks but for the most part played out as thinly disguised indie pop with a slightly aimless helping of noise on top.

Not so on Points; this album’s melodic fabric is still richly pop, but the arrangements and production are far more atmospherically realised while many of its precursor’s minor issues (occasionally grating vocals, lack of dynamic variation, general sense of homogeneity) are nowhere to be found here. Looking at it as a sum of its parts, the group’s flair for the unexpected is immediately obvious: Points is comprised of two power pop bangers, an extended techno jam, a violent glitch track, and a dream-pop earworm, with a melodic slice of noisey shoegaze at either end to round things off. The sequencing is appropriately jarring; the first three tracks are a seamless run but the continuity between the following four is minimal, making a first listen a disorienting experience full of surprises. Surprise is very much at the heart of what Dots were about and Points feels appropriately, if disarmingly structured as a result.

Fortunately the standard of music holds up so well across the board that it feels like an album full of standouts rather than a disjointed mess. In fact, the only moment that consistently drags for me comes somewhere midway through the relentless electronic chaos of YOLO no taki, but this is always as fleeting moment that dissipates as the song staggers into a mangled parody of fairground pomp that plays out like a deconstruction of any of Sennou’s whackier tracks. YOLO eventually burns itself out and, in a grin-worthy twist, is followed by the its polar opposite, クリー*ソーダのゆううつ (which translates to ‘Gravely Depressing Cream Soda’, although I prefer to think of it as ‘Ultra Depressing Cream Soda’ because it plays out like a slower counterpart to Soutaisei Riron’s irresistibly catchy Ultra Soda). Cream Soda is more or less distortion-free and the closest thing here to a conventional pop song, laying down vocal hook after sugary vocal hook; it feels like a wryly placed palette cleanser after YOLO’s anarchic glitch and its many layers of sweetness and reverb resonate all the more appealingly for it.

However, these two songs are the least representative of the album’s general sound. While Dots’ chief talent lies in their pop sensibilities, they seem most at ease when they cloak these in the mesmerising soundscapes of distortion and reverb that shoegaze is so famous for. いくつかの夜、いくつかのさよなら (How Many Nights, How Many Goodbyes) is the best example of this and has every mark of a model of the style: the sugary melodies, the dense fuzz, the simplicity of structure, and (above all) the initial semblance of banality that gradually melts away into a delicately melancholic atmosphere. While this song is a strong representation of the style, the opener しづかの海 (‘Quiet Sea’) one-ups it by adopting all the same techniques but breaking things up with an excellent bridge, which ditches the wall of sound in favour of a firm bass stomp and a well placed spoken word feature. However, as much as Points can easily be categorised on the basis of where it’s songs fall on a loose within a loose tripolarity of noise, shoegaze and dream-pop, the album’s character lies in what every track here has in common: a strong knack for accessible pop hooks and catchy melodies. These things run through every track here; even the most scrambled sections of YOLO come across as quaintly provocative and entertaining rather than actively off-putting, and the album is quite digestible as a result. You don’t have to be a fan as such of shoegaze, Dots’ self-fashioning experiments or, indeed, J-pop to get into Points.

However, while it’s certainly solid enough on its own merits, it would be lazy to look at Points without forming a judgement about the way it closes the book on Dots. Not only is the album significant as a symbolic (and literal) conclusion for the group, but their gimmickry and ethos runs so ostensibly through the songwriting that some form of wider analysis and assessment of both is necessary to appreciate it. Would it have been a better or worse album without the stylisation and arguable pretentiousness in question? No-one’s in a hurry to contest that Dots made great noisey pop music, but was all the mystery and postulation really necessary for creating or consuming these songs?

I was initially reticent to answer this because I enjoy Points a good deal and recognise that it would never have existed if it weren’t for Dots’ wider love for postulation, but this line of reasoning provides an answer of sorts: the album’s strength validates the group’s platform. What Dots did with the idol label was interesting in many ways, but would not have been nearly as effective if it were not supported by substantial music. This music was in part the vehicle for a wider gesture drawn from projecting a mysterious brand into the overtly public idol sphere, but since the appeal of this brand came from the contradiction between its aloofness and publicity it, like other public enigmas of its kind, was never a sustainable project. In this way, Dots created the conditions for their own eventual obsolescence, but in embracing these conditions by terminating their career in a timely fashion and leaving a worthwhile album behind as a postscript, they showed a strong awareness of the superficial qualities of their various gimmicks.

This awareness, together with the agency it afforded the band over their style, adds a level of artfulness and intent to the group’s quirks, which for me is what elevates Points both in its ethos and on an epimusical level. Dots weren’t just a gimmick group, they owned being a gimmick group on this album; they drew on strong songwriting chops and toyed with their audience through a series of what some might understandably see as cheap tricks but were ultimately an important part of Dots’ craft as vindicated by their self-awareness and wider talents. Every one of Points’ unexpected twists or curveball choices is both supported by and supports this premise with conviction. And so, if Dots are to be criticised for postulating, they should also be commended for following through on and seeing off their postulation in a highly appropriate manner. This vindicates their platform and its shadow over Points for me and allows their artful contrarianism add a worthwhile edge to the album, and at the end of the day shoegaze has so many unremarkable artists playing tame, tepid dream pop that it’s refreshing to see someone take a few risks and play around with conventions.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
April 26th 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn, that ended up longer than I expected...

This one of the better things I've heard this year, get on it y'all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pgXiL1Nvgo

Digging: Ichiko Aoba - QP

LiquidVelvet
April 27th 2019


632 Comments


i've literally never struggled so hard to find a way to actually get an album onto my hard drive lmao

J() Alexander
April 27th 2019


6601 Comments


....................................................................

Digging: Svitlana Nianio and Alexander Yurchenko - ????? ??? ???????

ajcollins15
April 27th 2019


41 Comments


whats the best way to listen to this or is it youtube?


JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Youtube for the time being, but if you can't find a file and don't wanna go through LiquidVelvet's pain, hit up my shoutbox :]

AnimalsAsSummit
April 27th 2019


3895 Comments


well if its Japanese with a name like that i'm going to assume this is godly

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Don't assume, check it out ;]

mofongotron
April 27th 2019


24 Comments


I need to find this.

Uzumaki
April 27th 2019


903 Comments


How would one even begin to google search this band?

Digging: Otoboke Beaver - Itekoma Hits

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'Dots' is usually the way to go but if you type out all 9 points, good things will probably come your way

I posted a yt link above though!

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2019


15834 Comments


This sounds very much like my cup of tea. And what a review man.

Digging: Full of Hell - Weeping Choir

Asdfp277
April 28th 2019


20388 Comments


i remember this band being ok but i can't with the band's name

Digging: Ghost Park - ??? (Mononoke)

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
April 28th 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This group was pretty ok but they definitely stepped it up here (and yeah Dewi, this is right up your street!!)

TenebraeInvictus
April 29th 2019


79 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the review, probably wouldn't have found it any other way. Big fan of track 4.

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
April 29th 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ah yeah track 4 is a real trip, glad you dug this!

PJ312
April 30th 2019


2 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

my favorite is track 7.



little bit of info; track 7 is included in shoegaze compilation album created by cruyff in the bedroom, Total Feedback 2018. even this song is composed by cruyff in the bedroom. you can buy on HMV or Shoutbox me for free digital copies

Asdfp277
May 1st 2019


20388 Comments


on a passive listen, i don't care for this at all

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you shoeglazed it :[

@PJ312 nice stuff, didn't realise Cruyff had a hand in the writing creds. Who else is on the comp?

Asdfp277
May 1st 2019


20388 Comments


also does this really have a song with "yolo" in it or did i get pranked?

JohnnyoftheWell
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2019


14211 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haha yeah track 5 has Yolo in the title and it's so chaotic and cut up that y not



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