Review Summary: A math rock tsunami of tropicalia and psychedelia.
A few days ago, I was in a very small live space in the outskirts of Osaka. The event was organized by a friend of mine, but I had little to no idea of what to expect of the bands playing that night, except for my friend's band, who were closing the event. As it's usually the case in the Kansai scene, the stage saw one amazing act after the other, from an outstanding tribute to My Bloody Valentine to bone-shaking indie rock, singer songwriters, and so on. And then, there was オオハシ(Ohashi).
This math rock trio won me over in a matter of 5 minutes into their set. With a new album fresh from the oven released by themselves, the band started off softly. Cascading guitar notes played over an intricate rhythmic pattern, bass lines intertwined, I was hypnotized... The entrancing first moments went on for a few minutes until Poke (guitar) stomped her distortion pedal sending my wig off with a smile. The whole live house shattered for some seconds of controlled chaos, which smoothly transitioned into a superb Tropicalia beat (!), with the voices of Poke and Nanami Kobayashi (bass) singing a blissful vocal harmony.
Those were just the first minutes of "機械の夕景" (Kikai no Yukei/The sunset of the machine), and it was just enough to know that this band was going to be something else.
(Nami no Hajimari/The beginning of the wave) is Ohashi's first full length if I’m not mistaken, and as the title accurately suggests, its eight tracks follow the pattern of wave forming, peaking, crashing and crawling back into the ocean. The band’s first official release despite being active for over 6 or 7 years would be interesting enough if it was just an instrumental album. Shohei Nakano's superb drumming, Poke's finger picked guitar acrobatics and Nanami's neck-bending bass lines are mesmerizing, designed to keep you in check for a full listen but, what I did not expect is the incredible vocal work of Poke and Nanami. The hooks in "θ" and "暮らす" (Kurasu/Live) are unbelievable, gently bathed in psychedelia and magically harmonized like a siren’s chant.
I remember being in awe during the two tracks quoted above when I heard them live, but upon sitting down with the album, tracks like "アナタ" (Anata/You), which wasn't played, offered a pleasant surprise. Positioned towards the end third of 波のはじまり
, the song is a calming little tune brimming with voices and playful beats. "Parallax" showcases the band's irresistible appealing power with an impossibly good chorus and "潜水" (Sensui/Dive) is a delightful closer that brings the water back home before the next wave rises, as my finger hovers the play button ready to surf on it one more time.
Japanese math rock has always seen an infinite stream of outstanding acts and impressive musicianship. Toe, Mouse on the Keys, Tricot, Ling Tosite Sigure are just some names that come to mind. Their instrumental prowess is undeniable, but I've always felt a lack of... "soul" in their music. Ohashi is the first band of this kind that manages to combine technicality with melody to produce something truly special. 波のはじまり
is undoubtedly the beginning of a wave, a tsunami named after a tropical bird that has already washed away most of other math rock releases this year for me, and there is a good chance that the splash hits you at some point.