Math rock has seen a surge in popularity in the West in recent years, but is still relatively obscure among most English music fans. Enter Jyocho, the newest effort from guitarist Daijiro Nakagawa, who saw moderate success in his previous Japanese math rock outfit, Uchu Conbini. Daijiro brings his distinct playing style to this 32-minute debut record, A Prayer in Vain, along with a handful of highly enjoyable and relaxing songs.
From the first few moment’s on the album’s opening track, “Family”, the dazzling level of talent and striking musicianship is fully on display. Make no mistake, this is most definitely a melodic album, but one with jazzy drum patterns, interesting complementary compositions, and detailed guitar work. In those moments in which the instrumentation gets to shine, the music begins to show more elements of complexity, adding a layer of depth to the more traditional song structure.
This is readily apparent within the band’s single, “A Life with the Sun”. It begins with a progression that is oddly reminiscent of Jon Gomm‘s “Passionflower” before immediately throwing you head first into every thing that makes this band unique. Within the first sixty seconds, you get a feel for the types of sounds you can expect from most of the album. Taken as a whole, it’s a great example of how to blend technical musicianship and endearing refrains.
What helps keep the sounds consistent and approachable are the soft melodies of the singer. The timbre of the vocals combine well with the tone of the instruments to create a truly soothing, yet stimulating, atmosphere. This is further embellished by the addition of flute work throughout the album. The result is something that is equally relaxing and technically impressive.
Diversity comes in the form of an acoustic piece titled “In That Tree, Not In Me” and the piano led ballad “365” that closes off the album. These help give the album a little variety, and, while not the most striking or memorable, they are still enjoyable and emotional in their own right. Unfortunately, the loss of complexity in musicianship takes away a bit of the earlier charm that might be a draw to some listeners. Consequently, it’s worth noting that the album’s short run-time also means that you’re getting a smaller amount of content altogether.
I came away from A Prayer In Vain very impressed. The only real knock against it is how short it is, but the level of musicianship and beauty of the music here is undeniable. It’s unlikely that this effort will create a surge of popularity within the genre, despite containing a quality set of tracks that can easily be appreciated for its unique mix of sounds. Overall, this is an album that will likely be ignored by many, while becoming a gem for those who can appreciate this style of music.
Notable Tracks: “A Life with the Sun”; “Family”; “Life Was Cheap”
FFO: Uchu Conbini, Toe, Mouse On The Keys
You can learn more about Jyocho through their official website, and get updates through their Facebook and Twitter.