Despite the looming threat of police crackdowns on nightclubs in Osaka, the music scene continues to thrive. Some of the most promising sounds are coming from that city’s Innit collective and their imprint Day Tripper Records.
Day Tripper’s third release comes from one of Innit’s founders, Masayuki Kubo, aka And Vice Versa. “E.Tender” is his second album and it offers up 12 tracks that hop and skip between established genres and templates in a fascinating manner.
Kubo’s approach sounds like a slightly refined take on “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks,” a fairly common approach in this age of digital culture when artists can often find themselves lost in endless possibilities and details. To be fair, Kubo manages to sidestep some of the more obvious pitfalls, though his tunes are sometimes overloaded with ideas and the album can feel erratic in how it unfolds. This might have been avoided by arranging the tracks in a different order — putting the hip-hop together and having them lead into the more upbeat sounds — Kuno could then guide the listener through his sonic explorations more logically, instead of having the tempo jolt up and down.
Highlights come when Kubo is at his most focused. “My Concrete Dance” channels disco’s enduring spirit to great effect with distorted melodies and samples that build into a beautifully released climax as the groove regains its hold half way through. “Before Saying Goodbye” meanwhile makes great use of an acoustic guitar and a recorded metronome to create a soothing electronic lullaby that gently builds and unfolds, acting as a nice halfway mark for “E.Tender.” “Cowbell War” is Kubo’s best take on current popular dance-music tropes thanks to a solid rhythm coupled with dreamy and playful melodies — and just the right amount of manipulation and distortion to keep things interesting.
Despite any downsides, “E.Tender” grows on you with repeated listens if you allow yourself to get lost in Kubo’s music. There’s potential here for some seriously interesting interpretations of modern hip-hop and electronic music, it just needs a little more time to mature. The growing community that Innit are fostering in Osaka could be the best place for that to happen.