The human body is, comparatively speaking, very fragile. It can take many beatings on the surface, yet it takes very little deep within to bring us very close to death; it is a pain few of us ever come back from. The percussive mastermind behind math rock-meets-post rock trio mouse on the keys, Akira Kawasaki, is one such person. Having suffered terribly as the result of asymptomatic brain infarction, he rightfully draws from his experience and translates it into sonic sojourns beyond the physical plane. The result is a rather sombre affair: Out of Body, the group’s third mini album, is an atmospheric voyage through near-death experiences whilst almost compromising the lush soundscapes the band are known for.
A complete contrast to their previous effort, 2016’s sublime The Flowers of Romance, Out of Body seems to works as a standalone piece and naturally offers a far darker energy to engulf the listener. Having more in common with neoclassical electronica and bands like Kiasmos than anything they have done previously, mouse on the keys navigate through the channels of the near-dead with a combination of IDM-dissonance, otherworldly piano theatrics, and ethereal yet melancholic tones. The existing framework of two drum sets, two keyboards and two pianos gels rather well within this void and what the band (completed by Kawasaki’s co-member in 9dw, Atsushi Kiyota, and hip-hop drummer Daisuke Niitome) create is nothing short of beautiful. The funereal Dark Light contains so much raw emotion it is near impossible to evade being enveloped by those haunting textures; the closer Out of Body is built on a repeating drum beat, much like that of a fading human heart, becoming enclosed by a haunting ambience not unlike that of tomandandy until it simply flatlines. The whole experience is somewhat unsettling.
What is lacking however is the level of craftsmanship mouse on the keys are known for. Besides the dark ambience which breathes life to Earache, Kawasaki’s mathy drum technique is almost bereft of existence. The album is blessed with an outstanding piano minimalism that carves the emotions into the electronica-induced flesh, yet this simplicity undermines the talent these musicians wield. That being said, there is plenty to enjoy from the release; if the sorrow-stricken Dark Light isn’t for you – which, in all honesty, it should be – then their math-rock signature will engage in the first half of follow-up track Afterglow, seemingly bouncing off the walls until the inevitable sentimentality kicks in during the second half. It is enough to make you wonder what visual form this afterglow could possibly take.
The only other downside is the longevity. Even as a mini-album you are left wanting for these pieces to develop into something bigger: seventeen minutes does not seem enough time to be swallowed up by the intensity of what mouse on the keys are projecting here. Perhaps it is enough just to glimpse at the pain Kawasaki became all too familiar with…
mouse on the keys
Out of Body