Music

Ogre You Asshole's 'Papercraft' marks end of a conceptual trilogy

by Shawn Despres

Special To The Japan Times

When it came time to make a fourth full-length, 2011’s “Homely,” Nagano rock act Ogre You Asshole was ready for a change.

The quartet’s first three albums were filled with punchy guitar-driven indie rock influenced by the likes of American act Modest Mouse. While those offerings were well received, the members looked to expand the band’s collective sonic palette before beginning work on what would become “Homely.”

“We started to explore different kinds of music such as krautrock and psychedelic music,” says guitarist and vocalist Manabu Deto. “That drastically changed not only the kind of music that we listen to but also the kind of music we wanted to create.”

Crafting a batch of mellower, trippier tracks, Ogre You Asshole decided that along with showcasing this new stylistic change, “Homely” would also be its first stab at creating a concept album. To make this happen, all the songs were shaped to fit the record’s theme of being someplace very cozy and comfortable, yet miserable. Excited with how things were coming together in the studio, producer You Ishihara (formerly of local psych legends White Heaven and The Stars) challenged the band to take things even further.

“He suggested creating three conceptual albums in a row,” Deto explains. “He said that if we wanted to gain a thorough understanding of making a conceptual album, we had to learn from our experiences. And if we wanted listeners to recognize the new direction we were going in, we had to be prepared to dedicate a long period of time toward developing it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be convincing enough.”

The band agreed with Ishihara’s idea and followed “Homely” with the 2012 concept album, “100 Nengo” (“100 Years Passed”). The final installment in their concept album trilogy, “Papercraft,” came out on Oct.15. Deto feels that the process of creating the trio of theme-based discs has strengthened the members of Ogre You Asshole as songwriters and as a band.

“These albums have given us a much better understanding about making albums,” Deto says. “We used to just go into a studio and jam together to write songs. When we had several songs ready, we’d start making an album. Now we come up with a blueprint for the whole album first and then create the songs necessary to materialize our vision.

“There were many challenges to making the albums. One of them was writing lyrics. Having a unifying theme throughout an album and having to create lyrics that reflect views from different angles of that theme was hard but interesting work.”

“Papercraft” was written between winter 2013 and this past summer and recorded in Tokyo. Its seven songs all revolve around the concept of superficial things. Like “100 Nengo” and “Homely,” it sees the group delving into retro-flavored psychedelic sounds. The hypnotic, funky electro-rock cut “Rule Invisible” and “Paradise Lost,” an acid-folk number accented with synthesizer and flute, are among the standouts on “Papercraft.”

The same looped noises that open “Homely” close out “Papercraft” bringing a sense of closure to Ogre You Asshole’s trilogy.

Deto feels a strength of “Papercraft” is that the songs can easily be appreciated by casual listeners but there is more to discover for ardent fans wanting to dig deeper.

“Something I really like about ‘Papercraft’ is that although the album is filled with lots of strange and odd elements, if you just listen to it once it sounds normal.”

There is both a regular and a “deluxe limited edition” version of the album. The latter includes extra material from the “Papercraft” recordings on a cassette — a format that fits well with the album’s vintage vibe. Side A of the cassette has a cool collage of different outtakes pieced together into one song and side B boasts a band jam session.

“We thought the unique sound quality of cassettes would best suit this alternative side of Ogre You Asshole,” Deto says. “We like cassette tapes as objects, too. We’d like to release more music on cassette again in the future.”

Ogre You Asshole will spend the last few weeks of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 gigging across Japan to promote “Papercraft.” The set list for the shows will focus mainly on songs from the last three records. But not having to fit the tracks into the confines of concept albums should result in the group getting to be more creative with how they are performed live.

“We add various arrangements to make the songs from the albums work when played live,” Deto says. “It gives us a chance to compose more freely again and allows us to show audiences a side of the band that is different from how we sound on the albums.”

Ogre You Asshole’s 13-gig tour in support of “Papercraft” starts Dec. 13 at Club Quattro in Osaka (7 p.m.; ¥3,600 in advance; 06-6311-8111) and finishes on Feb. 8 at Alecx in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture (6 p.m.; ¥3,600 in advance; 0263-38-0050). For more information, visit www.ogreyouasshole.com.

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