If by chance you remember reading the prior, forum-based incarnation of this liveblog (hi Zudak!), you may recall that I promised to RAEG against a particularly stupid review of this album. Spoiler: It was Pitchfork's review, written by Marc Hogan. They gave the album 2.7 out of 10 and called Anathallo the Emerson Lake And Palmer of Baroque Pop. No, I'm not going to link to it. :P
Well, something happened between then and now. I actually find myself agreeing with Mr. Hogan's overall thesis. This album, taken as a whole, is weak; not really up to the standards set by the prior EP's. However, this being Pitchfork, Hulk Hogan managed to take a thesis I agree with, yet completely foul up the rest of the review by using Bat Deductions to get there. He mocks them for their Christianity (because this album is so overt, and we all know Christians are incapable of writing music that non-believers can appreciate), he mocks the long song titles (because the title "Hanasakajijii IV: A Great Wind, More Ash" single-handedly ruins the song, obviously) (I wonder how he would have reacted to the ridiculous song titles on the prior EP's?), he sneers at the Japanese iconography... In short, he devotes more space to completely irrelevant BS than he does to the music itself. And when Hollywood Hogan does address the music, or rather the lyrics, his disparagement depends on quote-mining or just completely missing the context. And anyone who says the opening drums from "A Great Wind, More Ash" are ripping off 'Chicago' is either trying to be an ass, or shouldn't be allowed near music journalism.
Oh, bloody hell, why did I write all that? Anyway, this is not Anathallo's best work, but not for any of the reasons that Terry Gene Bollea groused about.
"Ame": Drones and clicky-clacky sticks. Great mood-setting. Ends before it gets annoying.
"Genessaret (Going Out Over 30000 Fathoms of Water)": Segues seamlessly from the last track. (Expect a lot of that on this album.) Continues building up the tension; near the end ("For a minute short there was wonder...") you're set up for a climax, but it never comes.
I recall hearing that the line "Someday they will build monuments for us" was taken from a quotation by some Nazi.
"By Number": I recall learning in elementary school that the month of April comes "in like a lion and out like a lamb". Well so does this track. It opens with thunder! crashing!, falls and rises in the middle, and then ends with happy-clappy group vocals (the Japanese translation of Psalm 139:5) over acoustic guitar.
"Dokkoise House (with Face Covered)": Flutes! Okay, the first verse here is kinda weak and tuneless. But then the whole thing picks up once he starts singing in Japanese.
"Hanasakajijii IV: A Great Wind, More Ash": Hanasakajijii is an Asian folk tale, translated either as "Old man cherry-blossom" or "The old man who made cherry trees bloom". The liner notes of the album feature this story. 'thallo decided, for their musical adaptation, to start at the end of the story and then tell How We Got Here.
But even knowing the story, I can't tell how the lyrics relate.
"Hanasakajijii I: The Angry Neighbor": This, I think, is where the album starts losing it. This song is all over the place.
"Inu (Howling):" Inu is Japanese for dog.
"Hanasakajijii II: Floating World":
And yes, the resemblance of the instrumental freakouts to Tom Waits was intentional.
"A Bruised Reed": I only noticed now, but the "Hansakajijii" tracks are actually separated from the rest of the album by distinct moments of silence, whereas the normal album tracks fade into each other, and Hanasakajijii tracks fade into each other. (Which means that "Inu" and "Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!" are actually part of Hanasakajijii, which makes sense.)
Really, for this song they apparently took a bunch of cool ideas and just threw them together. It only works on the strength of the individual parts because it does not flow at all.
"Yuki! Yuki! Yuki!": Yuki means snow.
This song was used in a Vick's commercial. Good for them. This money made it possible for them to stay independent of record labels and still eat.
"Hanasakajijii III: The Man Who Made Dead Trees Bloom": This is nice, but I think I would like it better if the songs before it weren't so weak.
"Cuckoo Spitting Blood": Hey, what happened to the rest of the band? Seriously, if Pitchfork's review had criticized this track, I might have thought they had a clue.
"Kasa No Hone (The Umbrella's Bones)": Okay, this is more like it. Lovely.
In conclusion, Anathallo mixed up their style a little bit while simultaneously expanding it to album-length. As is all but inevitable when expanding, we end up with a few weak spots. A decent album for someone who already likes prog- or post-rock, but I doubt it would make converts of anyone who doesn't.
If you only listen to one track, listen to: "Hoodwink".