I am going to feel like one of those parents trying to turn a two-year-old into a champion as I write this review, because this album is really good, but I fear I might spend most of the time nit-picking.  Straight A’s?  No A-stars?  You have FAILED ME!

Okay, it’s not going to be like that, but I personally feel that Jamie from the Japanese War Effort has a work of absolute fucking genius in him, but I am not absolutely certain that this is it.

Basically, none of the songs themselves fall short – they are all excellent in fact – but assembled together into an album it’s not quite there. Put simply, this is a bit too consistent of tempo and mood over the course of its half an hour span, and could really do with a surprise or two somewhere to make sure your attention remains hooked.

The sounds Jamie makes are absolutely stunning, however.  It’s sort of like techno music being sucked into a whirlpool of low-fi, electronic experimentalism, but that gives the wrong impression in two senses.  Firstly, underneath the sounds used to compose them, the songs themselves are well-structured pop songs, and nothing to scare the neighbours in and of themselves.  Secondly, despite that rather chaotic image conjured by that description, there is an incredible precision to this music.

The clicks and pops which litter this record are clipped and sharp, and it may be a little unusual, but it’s very deliberately and carefully constructed.  I’d go so far as to suggest that Jamie might be one of the most talented producers in Scotland, to be able to produce such well-crafted music in a bedroom studio.

The otherworldliness of the music belies the rather more domesticated nature of the lyrical content.  It’s actually, an intimate, friendly, down-home kind of record, which may not be the first thing you’d expect having read thus far.  In fact I would say that the brilliance of this album lies just there: in the ability to take so much artificial noise and technological prowess and use it to create an album of such gentle warmth.

Jamie is only just the wrong side of twenty, and has already produced Boyfriend/Girlfriend, The Japanese War Effort and Conquering Animal Sound.  He seems to be one of those guys who is just bursting with ideas and I reckon that if he ever manages to get everything pulling in the same direction at the same time he really could knock our socks off. This one may not quite be there yet, but it isn’t far off – this is a very good album indeed.

The Japanese War Effort – Lanark (Live on FreshAir.org.uk) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

The Japanese War Effort – Face Like a Lemon (Ivor Cutler – Live on FreshAir.org.uk) from Song, by Toad on Vimeo.

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From the Song, by Toad Archives. Visit Song, by Toad for more from Matthew.

Photo Credit: Tomas Hermoso