Put a Lem in Your Pocket

[Cassette Vision, www.cassette-vision.com]


[Finderpop, www.finderpoplabel.com]


[Cassette Vision, www.cassette-vision.com]

While very few people outside of Japan are listening, Cassette-Vision/Finderpop label is quietly releasing some of the best soft electronic-folk records around.
Living in Fukuoka, Japan, Lem is actually one Goro Tanaka. His debut release "Put a Lem in Your Pocket" [title grabbed from a 60's porno book] is a gently rolling vision of a more peaceful, more coherent world. Clocking at just under 27 minutes, the CD is more or less a tranquil ride in the country inhabited by electronica, folk [I think the new term now is "folktronica"] and tiny elements of dub. Lots of shimmering percussion, organs, cheap effects and sampled vocals make this album their home. Bits and pieces of keyboards penetrate the atmosphere. The mood is overtly tranquil. When Lem decides to sing something, it's more along the lines of mumbling, rather than actual vocalizing. Highly melodic and unusually tender, the music allows you to just sink right into the mood, rather than concentrate on any one song. Romantic, hushed and airy, Lem's debut is an elegant affair that leaves great hopes for this musician for future releases.
Apartment is one very young [21 year old] Tatsuya Namai. Influenced as much by The Velvet Underground as he is by someone like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, this guy just wants to rock out, while maintaining his pop sensibilities in tact. Texturally, the songs are very rich. Tatsuya's vocals are vibrant [recalling Lennon circa "Help!"] while his guitar work is jingle-jangle all the way through. My only beef is I'm not sure what exactly it is that he's singing about - love? depression? politics? The production is so rough in fact, that all of your attention stays with the instruments, instead of vocals that seem to buried deep beneath the surface. Some of the tracks recall an earlier era, as in the 50's. Who can honestly say that "Lost My Youth" doesn't recall the surf sounds of The Shadows? All of the material seems to be bathed in a wall of dirty, jangly sound. The other drawback with the record is its brevity. Is 25 minutes really enough to put across everything Apartment wanted to say on their debut? Regardless, "Apantgarde" is a strong debut from someone I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot from in the next few years.
Finally, we move to Kiwako Kaneda's debut effort "Mountainbook". Psychedelia was definitely at the front of her mind when she was producing this record [make that an EP]. I don't know what sort of acid she was on during the recording, but this stuff really messes with your head. The last track, for instance, features a child-like voice that is sung on top of a cheap beat-box. The title track once again has Kiwako vocalizing in the midst of some organ that seams to be spun backwards. Can you say, we're trying to find the voice of satan here? Much of this music is naďve, childish and even sweet. When she plays guitar, the notes come out soft and caressing. The mood is mixed between a dark, tender notes and those that just seen to float away and disappear into thin air. There's nothing better in the morning than "Mountainbook" to cure the hangover blues.

- Tom Sekowski

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