Published Jan 25, 2017Tokyo's genre-defying trio Mouse on the Keys continue to experiment on their latest release, a five-song EP that's both innovative and gratifying, if not always at the same time. The band form a unique whole, based on both an unusual formation (comprising only a drummer and two pianists) and a nearly uncategorizable sound that blends equal parts minimalist neoclassical and heavy, frenetic math-rock, along with some ambient and jazz thrown into the mix.
The band's 2009 debut full-length, An Anxious Object, and its 2015 follow-up The Flowers of Romance, were each a wonderful mess of mesmerizing, jazzy piano measures, honking brass instruments, dramatic string sections and whirlwind drumming. With Out of Body, the band continue that tradition but with a greater nod to electronic ambience, worthy of comparison to an artist like the Album Leaf on tracks like "Dark Lights."
The group constantly toe the line between the melodic and the mathematical, from the discordant racket of "Earache" to the polyrhythmic piano groove of "Afterglow," into the trickling rain of the closing title track. Inspired by near-death experiences — drummer Akira Kawasaki cites close-to-home experiences as well as a book by Japanese journalist Takashi Tachibana as influences — the songs differ greatly in sound but are tied together by a sombre, macabre thread.
That said, Out of Body is not as elaborate and robust as the band's previous efforts, particularly the fantastic The Flowers of Romance. While this is not necessarily the strongest entry in Mouse on the Keys' catalogue, they are nonetheless among the most unique and proficient groups making music today. (Topshelf)