posted on December 14, 2007 10:49
Back in 2003 I stumbled across an internet-based radio station called Accuradio. As can often be the case with internet radio 'stations', to call it radio was a bit of a stretch - there were no DJs and with a click of your mouse you could move onto the next track they had lined up. Anyways, back then over a period of about a week I tuned in regularly to their American indie channel and discovered a whole bunch of acts that up to then I had been oblivious too such as The Shins, Modest Mouse, Blonde Redhead, Death Cab for Cutie, Built to Spill and Daniel Johnston. One other act that caught my ear that week on Accuradio was Japancakes. More ...
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Japancakes - on paper - sound like they’d be your worst sonic nightmare: at their outset they were performing full 45 minute gigs using only a D chord. As you do, like. Once they got over such flights of pretence they settled into a country laced, post-rock, instrumental ambient groove and between 1999 and 2004 released 5 albums. Central to their sound was their use of cello and pedal steel guitar. Once you’d heard them once you’d recognise their stuff a mile off. Not for everyone but I immediately fell for their charms.
Over the years I managed to get all their albums but there was always precious little up to date info about them to be found on the interweb. Certainly they had no website or MySpace page that I could find. I just assumed they had split up and the only electronic trail they left behind was a few reviews on the likes of Pitchfork, the (very occasional) album that would crop up for sale on eBay. The last thing I expected was a brand new album from them.
So it came as a bit of a surprise to me earlier this week when I heard that Japancakes were still in existence and they had released, back in October, not one but two albums. But the real jaw dropper was to read that one of these albums was a complete cover, from head to glorious toe, of what CLUAS readers voted to be the second greatest Irish album of all time: My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’. We're talking a cover of the entire album. I was floored (and also gutted at my latent inability to keep up with the cool'n'happening, it taking two whole months for it to appear on my radar?) I quickly made up for lost time and, like a good disciple, within 10 minutes of the news getting to me I was listening to the tracks on their MySpace page and had duly ordered the CD.
As their take on Loveless has yet to arrive in the post I’ve so far been exposed only to a handful of tracks from it that are knocking around the internet. It was never going to eclipse the original but, rest assured, this record is no gimmick, certainly not a case of The-Mike-Flowers-Pops-Orchestra-does-MBV. It's an intriguing, painstakingly arranged record with moments of occasional brilliance. Faithful to the original it also manages to tease new sides out of Kevin Shields' labour of love. One of the most interesting things was to see how well Japancakes version of 'Loomer' (check it out on the Japancakes MySpace page) would fit alongside Kevin Shields' tracks on the Lost in Translation soundtrack.
If you're holding your breath waiting for the recently reunited MBV to announce a few Irish dates in 2008 you could do worse than kill a bit of time checking out a few tracks from this record. You will either love it or loathe it. And my bet is on the former.