Monday, 4 October 2010

Envy - Recitation (Rock Action)

Tonight I lit a strawberry shortcake scented candle, laid back and listened to Recitation by Envy. I was fooled by the early ambience and transported to a place of calm, a sonic haven if you will. However, by the second track, my haven [and speakers] were destroyed by a howl, a screech and a roaring assault of the senses. Envy is perfectly schizophrenic- ambient one minute, manic the next.

Going into this record, I knew nothing about the band. Our good friends at Rock Action describe them as “one of the foremost hardcore/screamo bands in Japan”; I cannot argue with this. These days however, they have infused a post rock sound, whilst retaining a hardcore aesthetic- creating a soundscape of raw, emotional brilliance. Unsurprisingly, the band has ties with Jesu and Mogwai; the latter have even had Fukagawa [Tetsuya- Envy vocalist] guest on I chose Horses from the superb Mr Beast album [thanks again Rock Action]. Despite the language barrier, Envy have a solid following outside of their native land, much like fellow genre-benders The Mad Capsule Markets [do I lose cool points for mentioning this band?].

Recitation sits alongside other fantastically named albums, including A Dead Sinking Story and 2006’s Insomniac Daze, which was the bands last full LP release. However, since then, they have toured extensively [playing the Explosions in the Sky curated ATP], released a live DVD and released a split LP with the aforementioned Jesu. Together now for twelve years, has constant touring and recording taking its toll on the band? Is the title of their fifth album a statement about the torturous cycle of touring, or even music in general? With no understanding of the Japanese language [I really should make an effort], lyrically, I am not sure. Musically however, Recitation is innovative and eclectic- blending punk rock chords with a music which takes the listener to a much higher place. Surely they can’t be bored?!

Like the best examples of the genre [Happy Songs for Happy People, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone]; Recitation is emotive and rewarding. Tracks like Piece of the Moon I Weaved and Worn Heels and the Hands We Hold are epic and ferocious, without seeming overly long. In stark contrast to a band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Envy resist long intros, which in terms of the genre, is risky business. To let a track slowly grow over eight [or in Godspeed’s case twenty] minutes before letting rip into a wall of sound is like great storytelling; using pace and structure to further the text [in this case song] to a satisfying climax. However, tracks like A Breath Clad in Happiness take less than two minutes before they let rip into the heavy ‘sweet spot’, which is exactly what makes Envy and in particular Recitation, so interesting. As a rookie listener, I honestly didn’t know where the album was going to take me next. I enjoyed the screamo vocals, the soft breakdowns and the integrity of the music- Recitation has balls and is easily the best thing I have listened to for quite some time.

Words : David Campion

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