Thursday, August 18, 2005

Spangle call Lilli line's For Installation

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Spangle call Lilli line, one of Japan’s most exciting bands, recently released two new albums: the nine-song Trace and the seven-song For Installation. I wrote earlier that Trace, the first to be released, would probably turn out to be one of the best Japanese CDs of 2005. For Installation, on the other hand, I bought right after it was released but didn’t listen to it very carefully for a few weeks. I’d read that the mini-album consisted of Spangle songs that didn’t fit into Trace, and I thought it wouldn’t be as good as the earlier release and I could take my time getting acquainted with it.

How wrong I was.

For Installation, if anything, is the album that would probably appeal more to fans of old Spangle albums like Or and Nanae. Trace, for all its brilliance, was an album that showed a new, more pop Spangle that left some of the old fans cold. Missing were those huge and gorgeous songs (some lasting ten minutes) that ever so gradually worked out themes and took listeners to unexpected places. I’m a fan of Trace, but I have to admit that none of the songs in it quite equals in intensity old Spangle songs like “E” or “Nano”.

With For Installation, however, Spangle seems to be revisiting familiar ground, their old sound that has been described as post-rock, minimalist, and so on. Listening to their earlier stuff is a bit like riding Space Mountain rollercoaster: the song slowly build up in intensity until, like a plunge in the dark, an unexpected chord change takes the listener to a new emotional level. You find some of that again in For Installation.

The third song, "ff wave length gg", is a good example of what I mean. It starts somewhat bleakly, with repeated guitar and bass notes, a light ringing bell sound, and Kana Otsubo's singing. Bit by bit, though, more sounds enter the picture, until, about three minutes into the song, it climbs to a climax. It's an emotionally powerful peak that in afterthought you can see coming but on first listen feels like it appeared out of the blue.

Vocalist Otsubo's soft, ethereal voice is key to creating the Spangle sound. She is like a gentle-voiced tour guide through an Escher world of music. Someone once described her singing style as being like a lullaby, and I think that's a good description. When she chants "te-le-phone" in the song of that name in the album, I can barely restrain myself from turning into one those fools who sing aloud with iPod headphones on; I want to sing along, even though I know I would sound terrible.

Immersed in a Spangle song, I've wondered: if Otsubo one day has a kid, would she sing like this to the child at bedtime? And would that child, after growing up, realize mom is the singer of Spangle call Lilli line, a band that brought much beautiful music to the world?

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