A quick personal aside before we dig into the review – Jyocho‘s first mini album (the label of ‘EP’ isn’t as common on that side of the globe) was one of the first projects I took up when I began writing here, and it was one that really surprised me. My experience with this style of music is limited, but my time listening to A Prayer In Vain was almost universally positive, and it remains the example I compare against to when I hear similar bands. It was a nice surprise, then, to see their second mini album was so soon on the horizon.
Day In The Blue House follows less than a year behind Jyocho‘s freshman work, being released on September 13th, and shares much of the same vision and overall sound as the first. If we were to compare the two directly, you’d immediately notice that the tone and feel is a bit more relaxed in this effort, with a focus on maintaining a calm atmosphere and continued emphasis on soft melodies. The energy you found on “Family” or “太陽と暮らしてきた” (the lead single of their last record) is much less pronounced here, and in its place we have a more reflective and almost melancholic tinge to the sound. This helps give the mini album a strong identity in comparison to A Prayer In Vain, but there might be some out there who miss that aspect of their sound.
The intro track, “Lucky Mother” (which you can hear much of in the ‘trailer’ above), is a very short but invigorating taste of the music you can expect. At just under two minutes, the blend of driving piano, soft vocals, and precise drums do an effective job at setting the tone of the album and engaging the listener. At its core, Jyocho play math rock arrangements with a focus on the interplay between leading piano/acoustics with the calming vocals of the singer. What makes their sound so memorable and full of life are the additions of jazzy drum patterns and flute arrangements that add energy and breadth to the overall presentation. This opening track (and the subsequent ones that follow) all exemplify these elements without any real noticeable weak links.
The quieter moments of the record that make up the bulk of the listening experience are great for an unobtrusive listen when relaxing or in the background of a lazy Sunday afternoon. Tracks like “ほんとうのかたち” and “Hills” show a deliberate patience in their performance, and while the technical abilities of the musicians are still clearly there, they exist in a much more thoughtfully restrained way. This is helped by the minute-long “Tree Stone”, which offers a well-placed reprieve that helps the overall pacing of the album. The true highlight of the record is the final track though. “グラスの底は、夜” is perhaps one of the strongest tracks the band has made thus far, with a memorable melody, and the strongest representation of the aforementioned restraint. Partially within the intro, and much more pronounced in the outro, is this beautiful hesitation from the flute arrangement and drums that is so pinpoint precise that it feels as if the music is breathing after absentmindedly holding its breath in awe (listen to 4:55 and on in the video below to see what I mean). It’s definitely not the kind of moment that will appeal to everyone, but the beauty is present and very powerful.
Japanese math rock in general still sits in a strange place within the western market. It’s likely that many of you who frequent this site will gloss over a band like this, and even those who enjoy math rock stylings might be put off by the vocals. It’s a shame though, because with this album, Jyocho have proven themselves to be one of the most consistent and unique efforts of its kind. The musicianship is mesmerizing, the songwriting is thoughtfully executed, and the melodies are beautiful. I highly recommend this to people who enjoy melodic or calm music, as it is very much worth your time. Moreover, this is a great set of tracks to rein in the end of summer.
Notable Tracks: “グラスの底は、夜”; ” 碧い家”; “Lucky Mother”
FFO: Uchu Conbini, Toe, Mouse On The Keys