When I discovered Japanese music seven years ago, one of the things that impressed me the most was the experimental approach of certain artists, mixing different genres together with incredible efficiency, taking risks and pushing the boundaries in an attempt to create a strong identity and unique compositions. Due to its nature, there’s no halfway in the output of this mindset: it’s either gonna be a failure or a winner.
world’s end girlfriend, the instrumental solo project of musician and composer Katsuhiko Maeda, is one of those outfits that sucessfully exposed this way of creating music. With ten records and countless EPs under their belts, spanning over almost two decades of career, the project is one of the most relevant in its niche, and is now back on the scene with LAST WALTZ, a ten-track long journey constantly highlighting Maeda’s blend of electronic, classical and post-rock.
The record successfully showcases this winning formula in several tracks, exposing the project’s ability in summoning evocative atmospheres and an array of emotions. The single Plein Soleil is the track that best represents this personality, creating atmoshperic moments framed by deep percussions and distant violin notes, leading the listener to a final explosion of sounds marked by distorted guitar riffs and wonderful melancholic vocals. Since the very beginning, the heavy influence of electronic elements in this record is immediately clear, with some passages distantly reminding of styles like drum ‘n’ bass and industrial, that fit in delicately in imperceptible doses that add texture while avoiding the typical punchiness of these sounds. This is noticeable in several moments throughout the record: in Silence / in Siren, the only track with actual lyrics, makes its contrast between classical elements and noise riffs its strong point, while Girl mixes them up perfectly, adding a great leading melody on top that gives even more pathos to a strong soundscape. Numbers such as Void, Christal Chrysalis and LAST BLINK set aside the post-rock influences to focus on the electronic/classical dualism, and while they don’t shine for anything in particular, their calm and soothing nature is still widely enjoyable.
Sadly, LAST WALTZ also suffers from different flaws, that stain the record in several parts. Maeda’s trademark sound is the last thing to blame here, whereas the structure of certain tracks and the patterns they try to follow are the main issues. This is particularly felt with longer numbers, such as the thirteen-minutes long Flowers of Romance, featuring an overly long and tedious build-up, victim of a sloppy progression that fails to engage the listener enough to enjoy the charm of a great and surprising ending section- a real shame, considering some of the best passages of the record lie here. Angel Ache and Radioactive Spell Wave suffer from similar issues, lacking continuity in their flow and hardly following a logical progression, to the point of sounding like an overly looped collage of electronic snippets put together. This is an issue that pops up more than once during the course of this record, and makes some moments incredibly tiresome, ruining the overall flow and experience.
LAST WALTZ is undoubtedly a controversial record. The tracks that shine the most do a wonderful job at exposing the project’s trademark sound and identity, but most of the remaining part damages the overall enjoyment of a record that, more than once, dares a bit too much and fails in the attempt of creating certain patterns. It’s a real shame, especially with so many valid moments shattered throughout the eleven tracks present here, and the feeling that this could have been a much better album is strong. Fans will undoubtedly find several things to enjoy here, but newcomers may want to set their aim at some of the project’s previous records, in order to get a complete and more compact portrait of world’s end girlfriend’s distinctly unique music.
world’s end girlfriend