Review : Envy - Recitation
PopmattersHow many times have I found Envy categorized under “post-rock” or some more ambient derivative (should any truly exist)? When I was in college, I listened to post-hardcore. Not exclusively, but still quite a bit. I also listened to electronica: IDM, ambient; regular outfits like Future Sound of London, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and Venetian Snares. For harder, more guitar-based music, I listened to myriad bands, all of which screamed, chugged through power chords, cited lost loves as world-enders, and droned and whined on through chorus after bleary chorus. I loved it. It was what black metal is to some people today: somewhat hip in some circles (maybe not Pitchfork’s), and enjoyable, inaccessible to people who didn’t like Blue Velvet, soft-strummed-to-distorted-riffs, straight-edge melancholia, black eye-liner, gauged ears, and hoodies.
Who are Envy?
Envy are Japanese post-hardcore.
Are they Unwound?
Are they At the Drive-In?
Have they really eked from emo to post-rock like Appleseed Cast or Planes Mistaken For Stars?
What about post-metal—think Isis?
No, no, no.
Then what about Boris? Or Toe? Those guys are Japanese, and they dabble in instrumental epic rock…
Envy are, as they were on their 2003 Level Plane release, a simple, and I emphasize simple, amalgamation of two bereft genres: traditional screamo (called “skramz” in the underground) and post-rock (think strictly Explosions In The Sky, not Bark Psychosis). They’ve had two successfully diverse releases, and each has been on behalf of another artist’s contribution: First, we were given Envy / Jesu in the summer of 2008, which coupled the group’s dim “build-break-repeat a single note for bars-repeat” ethos with Justin Broadrick’s brilliant post-metal metallics. Paired together, this was good. It still is. Soon after, in late 2008, legendary post-hardcore purists Thursday met Envy for two sides, seven tracks of plodding Boss-pedal ambiance, climaxing through screams screamed in two languages, chanted sometimes in others, and broken down with effectively emotional drum work. All the while, it was a joint effort—it took the pairs to make the whole, to give the listener an honest split with enough heartfelt diversity so that neither artist became mired. But this point, sometimes drastically, is ruined on Envy’s solo work. On Recitation, it becomes clear, the same as it ever was—formulaic....full text
ThenewreviewIn spite of what The Vapors will have you believe, I cannot turn Japanese. I really think so. I’ve tried, but I don’t speak the language and as I found out last week, I can’t even play one on TV. But that’s never stopped me from loving Japanese rock and metal ever since my old Napster days. Some of my favorite Japanese rockers I follow are Sigh, J, Galneryus, Blood Stain Child, and Envy.
Envy is an influential band who play the most disturbingly beautiful metal you’ll ever hear. Their music usually consists of slow, carefully craft music mixed with ambient sounds and spoken words. This music is influenced by classical, jazz, and folk. At some point the hardcore side of Envy smashes through and the mixture is breathtaking.
Recitation, Envy’s latest release continues building their legacy of musical art. In this release, Envy’s influence is none other than 80s new wave. Wait, hear me out. Imagine Robert Smith from The Cure or The Edge (U2) providing those wonderful guitar riffs they are known for, but instead of electronics, the rest of the band played hardcore. That’s what Envy has achieved in Recitation. I hear familiar guitar work that only passively reminds me of early Ministry or The Fixx, but that is the common theme through this whole album.
“Guidance” starts the album off with a soft organ and female spoken words, almost whispering. When the slow guitar of “Last hours of Eternity” begins, you might think this actually new age music. It’s certainly relaxing. Then heavy guitars, powerhouse drums, and screaming hardcore vocals finish the last third of the song. Envy doesn’t do this to shock you. Their dual approach to music isn’t meant to contrast the music; it’s meant to blend, to build into two overlapping synergies....full text
HeavyblogisheavyDespite the vast distances than span their respective homelands, both physically and culturally, there is a strong tie between Japanese screamo afficionados Envy and Scotland’s own instrumental rock emperors Mogwai – and it’s not just the fact that they’re signed to the same label.
Despite their humble beginnings as a fairly straight-up hardcore band – all be it with their atmospheric leanings already formed – Envy have taken their softer side and run with it.
You see, they are no longer really a heavy band. 2006′s Insomniac Doze was a pre-cursor to this transition, I suppose, but I feel that it is never handled better than on this, their latest offering, and the comparisons to Mogwai must surely be in abundance.
Take the first track Guidance for example. It opens with a spanish guitar solo, flowing languidly into an ambient drone and a serene piano section, ending with a soothing, softly spoken female voice. This from the band that brought you A Chain Wandering Deeply and Color of Fetters.
The benchmark of quality that we have come to expect from Envy has definitely carried through. Recitation is lush; its production flawless. The guitar tone is a dream, and for all of its quiet sections, it still sounds grandiose – which is what you need from good post-rock.
Tetsuya Fukugawa’s throaty vocals have lost absolutely none of the punch they had back on Dead Sinking Story – but it’s essentially only these vocals (and Dairoku Seki’s expert drumming) that keep them in the realm of ‘heavy’. I’m okay with this though. It’s hard to talk about them lyrically too, without consulting a lyric book, but with Envy it has never mattered – Fukugawa has always menaged to convey his meaning through more than mere words.
To its slight detriment, I think the album is perhaps over-long. At more than an hour in length you have to have a lot of interesting material to keep the listener’s attention. This is not to say that it isn’t there at all, but for me the album lost focus towards the end and I lost my immersion.
It’s still a cracking album though, and as strong as anything they’ve ever made, which is praise indeed – and if you find yourself reading this review and going “Envy who?”, then get out of my office. Now....full text
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